You can only access that information online if pictures have been taken of the inside of the property. And, as Denton said, some are pretty trashed. On the other hand, I've seen some that are in fine condition. When they're REOs, it's standard for them to be sold in "as is" condition. That doesn't mean the bank knows something's wrong with them, simply that the bank isn't interested in the hassle of "that outlet isn't grounded properly" or "the faucet leaks" or even "the chimney needs repointing." So, as with any property, you should have a home inspection.
Now, to answer your specific question, if the information isn't available online then, yes, make an appointment to see them yourself. Or, if it's a short sale, you could contact the owner directly. If it's listed, the protocol is to go through an agent. On the other hand, if someone's several months behind and a short sale candidate, their house may not be listed. In that case, your best option is to contact the owner.