The lights are on
Condemned: Criminal Origins is a creepy game from beginning to end. Between the atmosphere and sounds, the gritty close-quarters combat with deranged enemies, the supernatural storyline, and the possibility that something could be lurking around every dark corner; Condemned has plenty of ways to keep me on edge while trying to solve the game’s various mysteries.
While Condemned made me jump plenty of times throughout my time playing it, there is one frightening moment in particular that I remember more vividly than any other part of that game.
I had been making my way through an abandoned shopping mall. It was a dark and decrepit place, shopping carts were strewn everywhere, display cases had been shattered, and old Christmas decorations from the mall’s happier days still adorned the walls.
Many of the mannequins had been left behind as well, but I learned early on that some of the game’s manic enemies were disguising themselves as mannequins in order to get a jump on me. I was suspicious of every mannequin that I approached, trying to figure out whether it was an actual mannequin or some lunatic in a mask who wanted to cave my head in with a pipe.
At one point I walked past five mannequins positioned in front of a large hole in the floor, upon taking a closer look I reached the conclusion that these were actual mannequins and not people trying to kill me, they were on the other side of a railing that I couldn’t bypass anyway. I continued on, relieved that none of them were going to attack me.
I took about two steps when there was a sudden flash of white light followed by a sound that came from behind me. I turned around and audibly gasped when I saw that the mannequins were now standing face-to-face with me. Not only that, but there were more than five of them now. I tried to attack, thinking that perhaps I was mistaken about them not being human, but hitting them did nothing. I couldn’t hurt them and they weren’t attacking me, they were just standing there…. watching.
I wanted to get away from them, so I turned to leave only to be jolted again by a single mannequin that had somehow moved behind me when I initially turned around. I went around the surprise guest and kept pushing forward. Every time there was another flash of light, I would turn around to see more mannequins than before, inching their way towards me, although I never saw them physically move. Eventually I broke through a glass window and jumped through a hole in the floor to a lower level, and sure enough, when I looked up there they were, standing in a circle around the hole, looking down at me with eyes that didn’t exist. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The first time I experienced this part it felt like it took me forever to get away from them, when in reality it probably only took a couple minutes. I like this moment so much because it made me feel genuinely uncomfortable. Having enemies pop out from dark corners gives me a momentary scare on the surface, but this moment was able to make me feel frightened on a deeper level. I was completely on edge for the rest of that level because I feared that the mannequins would come back, and once again I would be powerless to stop them from following me.
No matter how many horror games I play in my lifetime, I’ll always remember my first time being stalked by the creepy mannequins from Condemned.