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Crackdown

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
 
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8.5
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8.5
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Author:

Developer – Realtime Worlds
Publisher – Microsoft

Features:

Multiplayer: 1-2
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
HDTV Support: HDTV 480, 720p & 1080i
Game Rating: M (mature)

Crackdown arrives on the Xbox 360 with much anticipation as it comes equipped with access to the Halo 3 beta. I must admit, access to the Halo 3 beta was my primary reason for pre-ordering the game. Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to playing Crackdown as I enjoyed the demo which was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace approximately one month prior to the date. However, the Halo 3 beta for me, and likely many others, was the biggest reason for picking up the game. Once I started playing Crackdown I was unprepared for how much I enjoyed the game and this was a pleasant surprise for me. Crackdown is truly addictive and a game which is sure to be enjoyed by the majority of the gamers as a whole, including those who purchased the game for Halo 3 reasons alone.

Graphics

The graphics in Crackdown are very unique and it appears the developers were attempting to create somewhat of a “comic book” style game. Overall, the visuals are very good but I do have some concerns, which I will get to later. The following really stood out for me in this area:

1. The open environments and buildings are stunning;
2. The lighting effects are very realistic;
3. The draw distance is second to none;
4. Character models are smooth, unique and add to the gameplay.

Arguably the single best part of the game is the open environments. You truly get the sense you are in a huge crime infested urban area. The streets, buildings, water, mountains and virtually anything you would typically see in a large urban area is included in Crackdown’s massive Pacific City. For example, I thought the included fun park down by the beach with concession stands, boardwalk and Ferris wheel in was a nice touch and gave that huge urban feeling. Whether playing co-op with a friend, or hitting the streets single player style, you’ll find yourself on the top of the buildings looking around in amazement on repeated occasions at all of the scenery. The draw distance in Crackdown is impressive too. You can practically see all of Pacific City and its three sub-areas (Los Muertos, Volk, and Shai-Gen) in all directions from the top of some of the buildings. And along with the great draw distance comes some good use of lighting as well. During gameplay you go from dusk to dawn and back to dusk over and over as you play through the various areas. The night time effects are perfect and day time is equally impressive. None of the graphics are sacrificed when day turns into night and vice versa.

As indicated above, the character models are smooth and are unique but I do have some concerns with the look of the enemies. Overall, I felt they looked a little on the dull side and there was not much variance in them. For the most part they all looked the same with minor exceptions. I just feel a little more could have been done in this department. Nonetheless, the enemy character models do not distract from the gameplay as everything else is so well done.

As far as the overall graphics are concerned, there is no question this is a next-generation game even with the minor areas that could be improved (i.e. character models). You won’t get Gears of War type graphics but Crackdown is stylish, good looking and delivers the visual goods.

Sound

As far as the sound is concerned, Crackdown performs quite well. The game's sound is a satisfactory complement to the gameplay. The following really stood out for me in this area:

1. Weapons – very clean sounding and pack a punch;
2. The floor rattling explosions are well done;
3. The narrator’s voice is clean and crisp;
4. The soundtrack is deep and engaging.

The weapons all sound very good, including the rocket and grenade launchers which seem pack an extra punch. I guess the only problem with the weapons sound is that there is nothing which really stands out as over the top. Other shooter games for the Xbox 360 have essentially raised the bar in this area making Crackdown’s weapons sound somewhat average. Don’t get me wrong they sound good but you won’t run home to tell your mother about them. The explosions on the other hand are very effective and once you link a bunch of explosive items together the booms and bangs really seem to stand out on their own.

The narrator who gives you in-game advice while you play is very clear and has a sound that just seems to fit in as your Agency advisor. He can get annoying at times as the advice begins to repeat itself after awhile or he comments on something which in totally irrelevant. Nonetheless, he is very clear and helpful at many points during the game.

The soundtrack is very good but once again we have come to expect a wide variety of tunes when we hop into vehicles to explore the city areas in front of us. Similar to Saints Row, every time you jump into a vehicle a track plays. The music very much suits Crackdown’s gameplay and is a compliment to it. Some of the tunes are catchy but for the most part there is nothing that will get you running to your local music store searching for that artist and track. However, should you want to go and search for a particular track from the game the title, artist and even publisher will show up on screen to allow you to know what, who and even where (e.g. publisher) the music comes from.

Should you have a Dolby Digital sound system it will be put to good use. The game makes good use of directional and surround sound effects which are well implemented. And your subwoofer, should you have one in your Dolby setup will get a good workout throughout the game too.

Gameplay

Crackdown’s gameplay is extremely entertaining and the number one selling point of the game. The controls are relatively easy and the open environments allow for endless hours of searching and killing. As with the graphics and sound, I found certain things jumped out at me while playing and they are the following:

1. Levelling up your character is addictive;
2. Easy and understandable controls;
3. Co-op play is enjoyable and has lasting appeal;
4. Enemy AI’s are a challenge on the higher difficulties.

Crackdown has a great storyline but it is essentially irrelevant as all the Boss Missions are stand alone conquests. The basic premise here is that you are a super agent attempting to enforce justice by any means necessary. Your skills (agility, driving, strength, explosive weapons and aiming) all improve the more you play the game. You goal is to clean up the streets and take out the rival crime lords. In total, there are three gangs and each have seven bosses, including the kingpin. Do the math and you see that Crackdown has 21 bosses overall. In an open environment such as the one in Crackdown, you can go after any boss at any time. However, there is a progression to the game as I had to learn the hard way when I attempted to take on some of the tougher difficulty gang leaders with little skills. You need to kill the lower level bosses as each one you kill will increase your ability for success against the kingpin of the whole gang. I found it interesting that you could attack each boss from different ways (e.g. frontal assault or rear assault) and the game actually calculates and gives you a success rate as you start your assault. Seeing a 75% chance at success is truly a treat and it gives you a bit of satisfaction that your plan was well thought out. Should you get an indication of a low possibility of success you can always retreat and find another way to attack, or you can say “to the hell with it” and go forward with your assault. This is definitely a neat feature and something that I enjoyed.

Many will complete the game in a matter of 6-9 hours however the true enjoyment comes with searching for all the orbs and levelling up your character. In fact, this is where the addiction factor comes to play. I found myself lost in the game for hours on end searching for orbs and battling enemies in efforts to rank-up my agent. As indicated above, the environments are large and were intended for gamers who like to take their time and explore the levels. In my opinion, this game is not for the impatient ‘run and gun’ type of gamer.

The co-op gameplay is a first for this genre on the Xbox 360 and is simply a great time. Working together with a friend in an effort to improve your skills, search the maps and fight the various gang leaders is very enjoyable. You will find that you can just spend countless hours exploring each level jumping from building to building and throwing a two ton object is great fun. The game has a number of props and a deep physics engine so virtually anything you put your hands on can become a weapon, including dead gang members.

Although I really did enjoy the co-op aspect of this game I do have some concerns with it as well. There is occasional freezing does become an annoyance after awhile. This usually occurs when your friend dies or looks at his map and the screen can lock up pretty good. Perhaps an Xbox Live update will fix this problem. My other concern is the fact that you cannot just join a friend while he is in a game. Crackdown touts a “drop in anywhere” feature but this is not truly the case. Whenever you want to play co-op you both have to restart and begin from a designated area in the game, even if your friend tries to join while you are mid-game. This is can drive you a little mad as you may be in the middle of a roof or road race and the message that a friend wants to join your game comes up on screen. You do have the ability to turn them down, or only allow friends to be invited, but the whole “drop in anywhere” feature that Crackdown touts is really not what it says.

The achievements are also worth noting as they were quite well thought out. In addition to your usual beat all the bosses or rank up all your skills achievement there are some ones up for grabs here. You will find your self blasting an opponent in the air and keeping him airborne for 10 seconds and climbing to the top of the largest tower and base jump back down and surviving. Except for the straight forward achievements, the others can be completed with some ingenuity and are quite fun.


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