5th July 2010 - The first Crackdown was a well received yet underappreciated game. Only gathering the sales it deserved because of the inclusion of the Halo 3 Beta, Crackdown was a great game and one that completely redefined what was possible in an open-world game. It’s been over three years now since we were first introduced to the wonderful world of Pacific City, so now with a new developer with a new take on things, how will the sequel to one of the Xbox 360’s most iconic games hold up to the original masterpiece and even to recent competitors in the popular genre? The answer may shock you, but it’s time you recognized the mammoth that is Crackdown for what it is; a force to be reckoned with.
With an unfortunate fate befalling the original batch of Pacific City Agents, it’s up to a new batch of super-powered super-soldiers to again bring justice to the sprawling metropolis. With the city in ruins from the Freak virus, and the terrorist organisation Cell causing a ruckus, only the Agents of the Agency can settle the score. So strap in and get ready to have your world turned upside down as you tear up the streets with powers that put Super Man to shame. Okay, maybe not that powerful, but at least these guys look the part of the forceful badass and leave their capes at home.
After a short training mission to get you used to the control scheme and a feel for the freedom at hand, you are thrust straight into the action. This may seem like a ‘first mission’ kind of objective, but what you will soon realize that what you are now doing is pretty much the whole game. You aren’t really free to do missions or whatever you may be expecting, but rather are given one main objective to rid the city of Freaks, while a few ‘secondary’ objectives of killing Cell and doing some Skill-boosting races. This is quite possibly the worst thing about the game, but given how Crackdown 2 plays itself out, it’s actually the only game that I could foresee being so enjoyable with this mission structure.
The cityscape is similar to that found in the original. In fact, it’s the same city in most ways, just updated to suit new gameplay additions. In a similar way to how Saints Row 2 improved the setting, Pacific City has been updated enough for players familiar with the original game’s city to be familiar with the surroundings while still feeling like a change of scenery occurred. As for newcomers to the game, Pacific City feels like a massive expanse and one they will soon know and love, on par with the best open-world games cities like those in Saints Row and even GTA games.
Playing with powers
As I said before, the agents you control are very powerful. When you start the game you are a weak and slow soldier who, while still being able to teach the rest of the world a thing or two, you’re only a shadow of your future self. As you progress through the so-called story and complete your objectives, you will be constantly gaining new and improved abilities in all fields of your super-soldiers fighting and manoeuvring abilities. From Strength and Firearms, to Agility and Driving, the way skills progress is very solid. You get object-sensitive experience for completing certain objectives and using what you have in your armoury. For example, you get Firearm experience from shooting people, get Agility experience from finding Agility Orbs (I will get to this a little later) and completing Rooftop Races, Driving Experience from doing Driving Stunts and completing Races, and so forth. It’s a very solid experience system and adds a ton of the games enjoyment to the mix, but unfortunately you gain a lot of experience a bit too quickly, as you complete certain levels of the skills overly fast. It only takes an hour or two of punching every enemy you come into contact with to get a full Strength Skill, but never the less, it’s still an overall great skill building system.
As I mentioned before, you gain experience from collecting Agility Orbs. Any of you who played the original Crackdown will know what these little babies are, and since the release of the original, the Agility Orbs have become one of the Xbox’s most iconic gameplay objects, resulting in hours upon hours of scouring in order to find them all. The same is going on with the Sequel, only a little more extreme this time. There is upwards of 1000 Orbs and Collectables to be found in the game, from Agility Orbs, Hidden Orbs, Multilayer only Orbs and even Driving Orbs. In most games with similar collectables, it’s more of a chore to find them, while in Crackdown 2 it’s actually one of the most fun things to do in the game. It’s addictive, its entertaining and its one hell of a challenge. To quote the games developer; “Orbs are the Crack in Crackdown”.
While Crackdown 2 is fun to be play alone; the true experience can only be had with a friend, or three friends to be more specific. The game features one of the most enjoyable, if not downright greatest co-op experiences of the current generation, with complete menu-free drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to 4 agents. You carry over your skill sets and abilities and take back any experience you earn yourself. Any Orbs you collect are also brought back to your own game whenever you decide to go it alone again, or host your own chaotic justice party.
But co-op isn’t the only multiplayer mode Crackdown 2 is packing. No, the game also features a few competitive game modes that are surprisingly very, very enjoyable! The main game here is Rocket Tag, whose name speaks for itself. It’s a free-for-all game mode, similar to Deathmatch. The only team-based mode here is Team Deathmatch, and when playing with a full roster of 16 high-powered super soldiers, any of these game modes is a completely chaotic experience on par with the biggest action games out there. It’s amazingly enthralling to be playing in such a large-scale battle with so many other Agents, and has to be experienced to be appreciated. But one thing for sure, is that Crackdown 2’s multiplayer modes, both competitive and cooperative are going to be gracing your consoles for months to come.
In a nod to the original Crackdown game, Crackdown 2’s graphical style is that of the concept-art style, a few years ago dubbed ‘cell-shading’. It isn’t completely graphitized the way it is in games like Borderlands and XIII, but instead is a mix of this style and more realistic Graphics. It suits the game’s theme of super-powers and mutants, and really makes the extreme nature of the games violence look a lot better.
There are only two cut-scenes in the game, one for the intro and one when you beat the game, so everything is done using the in-game engine. And given it’s all done using the in-game engine, it’s good to see that Ruffian Games have successfully managed to animate everything very well, especially the agents. As you run, jump and fight your way around the huge city map, your Agent not only grows in accordance to your skills, but is animated very smoothly.
Throughout the game, you are commented on and guided by an unseen voice, aptly calling himself ‘The Voice of the Agency’. He gives you tips, hints and also yells at you as you inevitably ground pound and run-down innocents and allies. He is voiced by the same actor of the original game; legendary voice worker Michael McConnohie.
Apart from the top-quality and well-scripted voice work of the Agency’s Spokesman; Crackdown 2 features some great sound effects. Everything from the guns, grenades and vehicles sound great. And one more thing in the sound department you are sure to notice is the sounds of the Freaks; they grunt, growl and sneer in such a frightening and sometimes believable way it makes you want to kill them even more (yes, even more than when they spit acid and explode on you).
The main game will give you a good 8-10 hours of gameplay alone or with some friends helping out, but there is so much more to the game than those 8-10 hours will give you. Once you play through the game, you will no doubt want to experience the goings on in someone else’s Pacific City, as well as the copious amount of hours that trying to find all of the games hidden collectables provides. And whenever you get tired of the main game mode, you can always find solace in the chaotic and competitive multiplayer modes. All this fun in one package is a rare find, and makes Crackdown 2 one game you don’t want to miss out on!
Up and coming developers Ruffian Games have really proven themselves on this one. Crackdown 2 not only outdoes the original game in every aspect, but outdoes the competition and even sets a new bar for any who hope to take the open-world crown. With many hours of great single, co-op and competitive game modes and a massive city to conquer and discover, Crackdown 2 is a sturdy example of how a sequel should be done and definitely one of 2010's best games.
AAG SCORE: 9.2/10
+ Power-riddled and skill-building gameplay is a blast
+ The best co-operative experience available
+ Orb and collectable hunting is highly enjoyable; alone or with friends
- Lack of engaging story and character study
- Lame mission structure and objectives abound
- Skills are built too easily and quickly
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott