Platforms: Xbox 360
Developer: Ruffian Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Most people discovered Crackdown by accident, when they went out in search of Halo 3's multiplayer beta and found it attached to a relatively unknown game that turned out to be great fun to play, forming a loyal group of fans who waited patiently for a sequel to sink their teeth into. I myself discovered the original game on a random visit to a friends house and on looking through the multitude of Xbox cases that dominated one of his draws, I found Crackdown. When I asked what it was he stared at me in disbelief, threw a 360 pad into my hands, whacked the disc into the hungry tray, and I began to throw myself over buildings into enemy compounds obliterating anything that dared to stand in my way. The experience was great fun, so the announcement of the second instalment of the series grabbed my interest enough to mark down the release date, when I happily parted with my money in anticipation of the improvements that I thought would probably have been made to the gameplay.
The game's set 10 years after the original, most of the original agents have been killed, whilst a new terrorist organisation, Cell, have dug themselves into strongholds throughout Pacific City, and if that wasn't enough the inhabitants of the city are turning into rampaging mutants, labelled freaks, at night causing utter pandemonium. You take the role of a brand new genetically engineered agent, who starts off within a claustrophobic agency training ground. Once you've got through this tutorial section of the game you hop into a car, which is picked up by a helicopter to be carried to safety after Cell decide to send a welcoming committee to stop you before you can start your work. The sudden contrast in the environment when you're picked up by the helicopter is a great touch and really shows you just how big a playground Pacific City is.
Before you enter the game you'll have the opportunity to customise your agent by selecting one of four rather unfortunate looking faces, which is something that Felix noted in his preview, and taking your pick from a range of coloured suits (you'll have more options to choose from if you pre-ordered the game).
As you take your first steps in the familiar urban jungle, your tasked with several objectives, the first is to claw back the strongholds that are dominated by Cell troops, the second is to overcome the freak virus using the technology the agency has been developing known as Operation Sunburst, and finally you can choose to close any freak rifts that you come across.
These might seem like slightly ambitious goals for a single man, but luckily our agent has a bag of tricks built into his sleeves. Thanks to the wonderful genetic gifts that he's been given he's stronger, more agile, better with weapons and explosives, and a superior driver to the rest of his unaltered species and he knows how to exploit his gifts to the maximum. As you progress through the game your abilities evolve, which improves your skills and allows you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas or survive a battle, which would have been suicidal to attempt at the beginning of the game. Whilst you earn experience in some of your abilities, such as strength, firearms, and explosives, through interacting with enemies and the environment, others, for example driving and agility, can be upgraded by collecting the various orbs, which are scattered around the environment and in some cases are a real challenge to get hold and it's incredibly rewarding once you do. Also, if you're still finding clearing out an area of the city particularly hard despite evolving, then you can always invite up to three friends to help you out over the internet in co-op mode.
Sadly, whilst your objectives drive you to stay on target knowing that your riding the city of its undesirable elements, they're far too repetitive and you find yourself quickly becoming bored and frequently experiencing deja vu, although it's worth noting that the layout of the environments does change but its hardly noticeable because once you've started clearing out a freak layer or a cell stronghold you enter into somewhat of a daze.
Initially I thought the targeting system was pretty good as it allowed you to focus in an different areas of your enemies body, head shots are good for quick take downs, hammering bullets into your enemies torso is effective at close range, a shot in the arm'll cause them to stop firing, and leg shot'll make them drop to their knees, but then it fell flat on its face. In a situation when more than three or four foes are bearing down on you, the last thing you want is to worry about is whether or not you'll be able to effectively target them. Unfortunately, it can be a bit of guessing game as to who'll be selected when you hit the target lock button and even if you manually move the targeting reticule over a target and then push auto target, the computer'll develop a mind of its own and decide there's an enemy that's more worthy of your attention, which in most situations simply isn't the case.
The multiplayer is a chaotic, whirlwind of gunfire, as agent's leap through the sky whilst reigning down a hail of bullets on one another. There are three modes, rocket tag, deathmatch, and team deathmatch. Rocket tag has got to be one of the craziest online experiences I've taken part in, essentially you have to grab an orb which you earn points for holding and marks tags you for the other players to see, they then have to take it from you by ending your life, oh yeah and I forgot to mention that you're only allowed to use rocket launchers! As a result all you'll see is the yellow marker showing the orb or the player who currently has it, and the majority of the time it'll be surrounded by an explosion with a ridiculous blast radius, as multiple rockets descend upon its location. Deathmatch is pretty simple, you earn points for each kill that you make, and the only difference in team death match is that you'll be assisted by a number of other players as you battle it out against a rival company of agents.
The final thing that I couldn't believe, which started off with the demo and has stuck with me throughout the game, is just how similar Pacific city is to what we saw in the original. This is the big problem present in Crackdown 2, because in my opinion it feels like how I'd imagine the original to handle if it received a quick update and you grabbed a bit of DLC to increase its longevity, which has led to me conclude that it probably isn't different enough to justify forking out full price for. However, despite the fact that I felt disappointed by the lack of change from the first game, what you're given is so much fun that you'll quickly forget about the repetitiveness of the objective and get to work, clearing up the city using your fantastic super powers.
- Still a barrel of laughs
- The gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable despite its flaws
- Beating people with anything you can get your hands on is always fun
- Far too similar to the original
- Way too repetitive
- The targeting system is very annoying in difficult situations
The Short Version: Despite its flaws, wasted potential, and repetitive missions, you'll be hard pushed to find a game that's anywhere near as much fun in the short term.