Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
2-4 Players Cooperative Play
Online play supports up to 16 players
Online features include DLC & leaderboards
Released in 2007, the first Crackdown was known for including access to the online beta for Halo 3. Beta aside, the game was a big success both critically and financially. I was a huge fan and was excited to hear Crackdown 2 announced at the E3 2009. Fast forward to the present and Crackdown 2 makes it way to stores on July 6th. Handled by a new developer, Ruffian Games, who are made up of several people that worked on the original game, I was eager to find out how this sequel fared.
The original Crackdown wasn’t a stunner to look at, although the art style was pretty cool. Crackdown 2 offers an incremental improvement in graphics in terms of how pretty everything looks. Ruffian has done a very good job in recreating the look of the first game while adding a new level of detail to things. Most notable is the character models which sports a lot more detail and evolves as you level up. My character bears a striking resemblance to Iron Man actually. There are plenty of new environmental details and textures as well. Nice to see new details but they are repeated a lot throughout the game's environments. Technically speaking, the draw distance is excellent which is helpful for you orb hunters and the framerate is solid throughout the action. Crackdown 2 also markedly increases the number of characters onscreen at any one time. This is most evident at night with hundreds and hundreds of Freaks crowding the streets. This is impressive to see and even more impressive to wreak havoc and drive through.
The sound in Crackdown 2 is all about volume and impact. In other words, turn it up. In a game where explosions play such a big role, they are deep, bassy and very satisfying. The much-loved announcer is back as well and in fine form. He has plenty of dialogue and much of it is quite colourful. You even get a little light shed on just who the announcer is. Various audio-logs are scattered around the city (yet another collectible). These are reasonably well voice acted and mercifully short (long audio logs bother me). The audio clues can take a back seat to the action if you find one in the middle of a firefight but thankfully you can listen to them again and again in the menus. Surround sound separation is good and isn’t just for show. This is most evident not just in firefights where you might expect it, but when you are orb hunting as well. Being able to locate them through the audio clues they emit is critical. And one more thing, the buzz of a sniper rifle shot just missing you isn’t that bad either.
Following the conclusion of the first game, players revisit Pacific City only to find it degrading and falling apart. A new faction, the Cell, has risen into power in areas and is waging a war against the Agency. A new set of enemies, Freaks, which are the result of a virus unleashed on the city, are also present in the game and come out in droves at night. Your job as a newly cloned Agent is to restore peace to Pacific City by suppressing the Cell and eliminate the Freaks.
The Freaks and Cell enemies offer two different types of encounters. The Cell enemies offer a more traditional Crackdown experience as you fight gangs of weaponized enemies who often roll around town in vehicles. The Agency must take back various strongholds, but this time they are linked in groups. Once you take down the first in a group you must take down the others in that area/group in order to secure it properly. If you don’t the Cell eventually fights back and takes back the stronghold, forcing you to reclaim it. The Cell is also heavily armed depending on the area they are in. Freaks, on the other hand, are more of a horde variety and remind me of the zombies in Dead Rising as they simply attack en masse. There are a variety of Freak types that help to keep things fresh as you move throughout the city. This difference between enemy types is an improvement over the first game and adds to the gaming experience.
Like its predecessor, Crackdown 2 is an open-world, sandbox type of game which features a “verticalness” that few other sandbox games can claim, let alone match. The actual gameplay is extremely similar to the first game, almost too much. For those that might not have played the original game, your character levels up in a number of areas as you play. These are Agility, Strength, Firearms, Explosives and Driving. With six levels of each, you choose how you evolve your character through how you play the game. Use a lot of guns and your Firearms ability increases. Use a lot of bombs and the same thing goes for your Explosives ability. As you level up in each ability new items or capabilities are also unlocked such as new guns, cars, or fighting abilities to mention just a few.
Players can go anywhere right from the outset of the game including in the water and up the side of any buildings. Scattered throughout the game are several side things to do. These include road races (car races), rooftop races (on foot), stunt jumps and Crackdown’s trademark Orbs. Agility and hidden orbs return but there are now orbs that you must chase either on foot or by car. Completionists have plenty here that will keep them busy for many hours. I am a self-proclaimed Orb-whore myself and consistently I am finding myself diverted from the main story missions to hunt orbs and level up my favourite abilty: agility. This is what makes Crackdown 2 so much fun for me is that superhuman ability to leap 30 or 40 feet in the air and scale literally every building.
I have two main criticisms to make of this game. First, it is awfully similar to the first Crackdown. Yes it was a formula that worked very well, but I was hoping for more evolution of the gameplay. Fortunately this criticism of this game is somewhat softened as Crackdown 2 offers a more robust online experience which includes support for up to 16 players adversarial, 4 player cooperative, a party system (thank you!) and new game modes such as Rocket Tag. In terms of my online experience, I played some online cooperative and had a blast. I didn't notice any lag issues online and I had some genuine fun. In terms of the adversarial modes, I didn't get a chance to take this aspect online as much if any given I was playing the game prior to its street date. If I get any negative experiences I will write an update to this part of the review.
My second criticism has to do with the game's controls. They just aren’t as smooth as I hoped. Looking dead left, right, up or down is smooth and responsive, but when you try and adjust your view diagonally, looking up and right at the same time for example, things sort of bog down and are not nearly as responsive. This is even more drastic if you man a gun turret (another new element which features a Halo-like ability to take the gun off the turret). Forget any sort of responsiveness in these diagonal movements. This makes hitting moving targets near impossible so boo to that.
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