Crackdown 2 is pure and un-adulterated fun. From start to finish the game is all about creating your own experience. Whether you want to spend hours roaming rooftops for agility orbs, or pound the pavement to clean up the streets with up to three friends, there's a little something for everyone that makes this a must-have for any Xbox owner.
Plenty of fun to be had. Multiple options of gameplay/style. One of the best multiplayer experiences to date. A focus on gameplay rather then trying to make an amazing story, or re-inviting competitive multiplayer.
Cars no longer transform when you level up. The graphics don't seem to have improved all that much. The campaign is rather short, especially if you have help.
The original Crackdown is a game that not a lot of people got to appreciate, until the end of the Halo 3 beta. While the title received plenty of attention, and garnered plenty of purchases, the main draw originally was to Halo fans looking to obtain copies of the Beta key for early entry into the world of Halo 3 multiplayer. To people that actually played the game; this was a bit of a disappointment, considering that Crackdown turned out to be a whole lot of fun. So with the Crackdown series getting a second chance at fame, and standing on its own two legs this time, would it be an improvement on the fun-filled formula of the first title, or would Ruffian change too much about the game to try and please a “wider audience.” This was the question that I set out to answer when I dove into Crackdown 2 on the Xbox 360.
Story-wise a lot has changed. It’s been years since your original Agent, or perhaps series of agent clones (depending on how often you died) cleaned up the streets of Pacific City. In the absence of the Agency cloning program, or rather evolution of it, a series of mutant “Freaks” have taken to the city streets and torn most of the city down to the ground. In order to combat the threat The Agency re-institutionalizes the Agent Cloning program to build the next generation of “super-cop” to help bring order back to the mean streets of PC. While you progress through the game though, you’ll have the option of picking of a series of 50+ audio logs left about the back-alleys and rooftops. If you spend a bit of time with these you may find out that there’s more than meets the eye with the Agency’s intentions and the origins of the Agency cloning programs…
As with the original Crackdown though, the focus is not on the story. Basically the story is a flimsy excuse to keep things moving. While I will give props to Ruffian for building a more robust and meaningful story as compared to the original title, it still is nothing compared to most other games’ narratives. Gameplay and pure, instant, continually streams of fun is where the game excels above most others in the market. The core of the gameplay revolves around the evolution of your Agent. As with the first title there are five stats to build up from nothing: Firearms, Explosives, Strength, Agility, and Driving. Each aptitude is improved through use of that particular trait, for example: to increase your strength ability you will need to use physical attacks, or throw objects at your enemies. Where the game does deviate from the original title though is what is unlocked as you progress. Instead of simply being able to punch harder and jump higher, you’ll now be able to collect new abilities as well. These include things like: being able to up-root turrets and use them as standard weaponry, dropping from the sky to create a powerful area-based attack with a slam of your fist into the pavement, or the use of a “wing-suit” that allows you to increase your jump-distance with a glide.
All of the gameplay elements come together to create a unique experience that is pretty much guaranteed to provide you with hours of mindless destruction. Add to that the multiplayer modes (both co-operative and competitive this time around) and you have yourself a pretty complete package. One of the more interesting things about the co-op modes in the game is that it feels more like a multiplayer game that can be played single player if necessary, rather than a single-player campaign where you could have friends jump in. What I mean by that is each section seems to be laid out to have four people working together to achieve a common goal. When you take over the relay points there are four pads to be stepped on to activate the device. Playing single player the charge-up can be painfully slow, which is a constant reminder that you’re playing Crackdown 2 incorrectly. Multiplayer is not only strongly encouraged, but in some section it almost feels like a requirement. During some of the later enemy strong-hold raids it felt near impossible to complete the task solo, even on the games second to lowest difficulty setting. With three more difficulty settings beyond the one I was playing, it’s very easy to see that the game his heavily weighted towards you playing with a group of friends (generally a full-set of three).
One of the biggest changes, which I touched on earlier but feel deserves further explanation, is the competitive multiplayer. Instead of just offering four-player free-roam, you can now go online to one of several “Arenas” to challenge others in 16-player modes that span through the whole of Pacific City. Modes in the online Arena include: Rocket Tag, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch. Rocket Tag is the only mode that deviates from the normal, and requires itself an explanation; though I suppose if you mediated on it for a short while you’ve be able to derive its rather complex premise. Everyone gets rockets, and you all chase for the person who is “it” (indicated by a coloured icon to show they are target for every other player). Kill the person who is “it” and take the rocket icon; then start a mad-dash to stay alive for as long as possible to accumulate points (at the rate of one point every 20 seconds with the “it” orb in tow).
Graphically it doesn’t feel like much has changed. The game has kept the original semi-cell-shaded art style that worked for it the first time around. While you can definitely see a new layer of polish, if you held the games side-by-side it certainly would not be a night-and-day comparison.
While it would be easy enough to start deducting points from the game for not having the most satisfying story, or because the campaign seems relatively short (about 8 hours with virtually every side-quest completed, save of course audio logs) it deserves its score based on the merit of picking one thing and sticking with it. Crackdown 2 is fun, pure and simple. It’s about insanely high leaps, seeing a spot at the top of a building and figuring your way towards it. Explosions that get bigger, and bigger and of course playing with a group of friends to multiply the insanity.
The bottom line of Crackdown 2 is this: if you have played the original title and enjoyed it, you will probably enjoy Crackdown 2. Actually, that’s not even fair, if you liked the original I would say you’ll probably like this one even better, especially if you get three friends to push through the game with you.
For those of you who have not played through Crackdown previously, don’t worry about having missed out on some kind of vital plot point of pivotal plot-point. This game is about running around with friends, blowing stuff up, and making your own fun. It is a sand-box in its truest form and a title that everyone should have in their collection to bust out on a rainy day.