While cynics initially credited the fact that the Halo 3 beta was included with the original Crackdown as the reason for the number of units it moved, no one could have predicted the levels of cult-classic fondness that gamers would later develop for it. It didn’t compete graphically or technically with any of its contemporaries in 2007, and yet the leaping traversal, over-the-top action, and sandbox playground mentality won over the hearts and minds of skeptics. More recent open-world superhero titles like Prototype and Infamous owe a huge debt of gratitude to Crackdown for paving the way to their success.
Fast forward to three years later, and much has changed. The majority of Realtime Worlds moved on to develop APB, while a few key players splintered off and formed Ruffian Games to keep Pacific City stocked with shiny, pulsating new orbs in Crackdown 2. It’s immediately obvious that the game doesn’t stray far from the formula that made the first so engaging, but whether you’ll find that to be great or disappointing will be largely a matter of personal taste. Read on to see how the game played for us at Gamer Limit!
Crackdown 2 places you right back in the shoes of an Agent, a genetically engineered super-cop working for an agency called… well, the Agency. Thanks to the powers of science and shaky moral values, you are gifted with superhuman strength, agility, accuracy and reflexes which you will use in the service of Pacific City. The short and the long of the matter is: bad, bad stuff is going down, and it’s up to you to make the streets safe again.
Crackdown 2 chronologically takes place 10 years after the events of the first Crackdown. Aficionados of the first game will probably wonder why anyone would choose to work for the Agency after the ending of original Crackdown revealed the evil secrets the organization held. From a story perspective, Ruffian explains this by making you a whole new Agent who is blissfully unaware of the maleficent intent of his superiors. It seems that they’re hoping that players will forget what happened in the first game as well, because Crackdown 2 is cut almost whole cloth from the original title.
In this game, the original gangs are completely gone, and the story centers around the virus that was created by the Shai-Gen corporation towards the end of Crackdown. The freak virus has spread, and at nights the streets are full of infected humans. The Agency is looking to activate a series of UV beacons to disintegrate the freaks (ala Blade), but a terrorist group called the Cell believes that the Agency has the cure to the virus. As a result, they are working to prevent the deployment of the beacons by any means necessary.
The enemies you face are tied in part to the day/night cycle; while the sun is up you’ll be battling more Cell soldiers, and when the sun goes down the freaks will be out in force for all your Dead Rising car-in-a-parking-garage needs. This brings a bit of strategy into when you choose to assault either Cell strongholds or freak breaches, as you’ll want to attack when the enemy’s strength is at a minimum.
The prime gameplay mechanics return in full force. You level up your strength by fighting, your firearms and explosives skills by shooting stuff, your driving skill by driving, and your agility by indulging in your your OCD tendencies, i.e. orb collecting. Ruffian really leaned heavily on the collect-a-thon aspects of the original, and for all but the most fixated completionists it ceases to be as compelling.
The addition of renegade orbs that run away from you seems like a fresh addition, but there aren’t very many, and many require you to be at a certain level of agility to catch. These inject as much frustration as they do novelty, and the other collectibles really don’t grab you either. Audio logs from different factions in the game are available to find and provide information on the events between Crackdown 1 and 2, but with such a paper-thin story, there’s not much reason to seek out more of it. Once you’ve gotten enough orbs to max out your agility, the desire to keep collecting drops off sharply.
This game suffered greatly from a rushed development cycle, meaning that many glaring concerns from the first Crackdown went unaddressed. A broken weapon lock-on system remains broken; even with the reticle aimed directly at an enemy, pulling the left trigger will often cause the game to target something much further in the background or to either side. Most buildings retain their original architecture, meaning that you can once again experience the joy of climbing a building for over a minute, only to be thwarted just before the roof by an overhanging ledge that you can’t get past.
Additionally, the driving that was purported to be much improved in Crackdown 2 is, in fact, not. Driving controls remain floaty and imprecise, vehicles can absorb very little damage before being destroyed, and with the exception of a few zones in the city it’s simply faster to jump from rooftop to rooftop. This is one of the same design flaws that plagued the first game. Driving defeats the very purpose of having superpowered leaping skills, and this title does nothing substantively different to make it fun.
The further you progress through Crackdown 2, the more the repetition and laziness pile up. Ruffian is using the same city map from the original with slightly more polished graphics, and as such, Pacific City is nearly identical. Some buildings have had structural damage, but otherwise the environment is exactly the same. The progression of the game is just as monotonous: power up three absorption units which then allows you to power up a beacon. Do this nine times along with a few final missions and it’s game over.
The truth of the matter is this: there’s not much point to playing through Crackdown 2 in single player mode. When the environment and gameplay are nearly identical, and the story has the depth of an ashtray, the only justification for shelling out $60 to play Crackdown 2 solo is achievement lust. That’s a low, low price of $1 for every 16.666666666 achievement points!
For Crackdown devotees, there’s still some fun to be wrung out of this game in co-op. The ability to play with three of your friends does play well into the original game’s forte: allowing players to make their own fun. Certain collectibles can only be picked up when two players are in proximity, and having four players searching makes finding hidden orbs much less of a chore. The difficulty is definitely balanced for multi-player, and since the challenge doesn’t scale with the number of friends in your game, co-op is the way to go for players looking to power through the main story and farm achievements.
Imaginative players will find ways to use the game engine and mechanics to pull off some fun tricks, and the game is still a griefer’s paradise. The UV shotgun in particular is fun. It creates a pulse wave that pushes people and objects back, so you can get to a hard-to-reach orb, call your buddy up to join you, and then blast them off the edge just before they reach the orb. Bonus points if you can convince them to try again and then blast them off the edge once more.
Crackdown 2 adds a few competitive multiplayer modes in an attempt to add value, but for the most part they fall flat. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are spastic and don’t offer much enjoyment, since they don’t leverage the traversal mechanics that make the main game so enjoyable. Taking a page from what many players did with the first game, Ruffian did include a Rocket Tag mode. In this mode a player attempts to hold onto a beacon for as long as possible to score points, while the remaining players attempt to blast him with rockets and grab the beacon for themselves. This mode was extremely fun at first, but the premise lacks depth and ultimately wears thin after an hour or two.
I was one of those few people who bought the original Crackdown for its own sake; I couldn’t have cared less about the Halo 3 beta. What I found back then delighted me and scratched a very special itch that very few games since have. It’s a massive shame to me that the sequel couldn’t rekindle the flames of that love – the difference between Crackdown 1 and 2 is the diffference between orbsession and orbstinance.
Those who have experienced Crackdown before will likely feel cheated at the lack of innovation and improvement here; I simply can’t recommend a purchase to them. However, for those who have never experienced Crackdown before, I can definitely recommend a purchase… of Crackdown.
Boasting slightly better graphics and handling more objects on screen successfully, the game still takes a step back by abandoning the bright color palettes that made the original so distinctive.
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The original Crackdown gameplay is still generally sound and fun here, but broken mechanics are still present, and there's nothing compelling in the few new additions to the franchise.
Copy pasta for the most part would sum up the sound. Michael McConnohie returns as the voice of the Agency, but due to forced humor and poorly written dialogue his repetitious interjections begin to grate.
If you did it in Crackdown, you're really not going to feel like doing it all over again here. Even the joy of compulsive orb collecting quickly wears off.
Crackdown 2 is Crackdown with 4 player co-op, a dull new color palette, and a glide suit that doesn't glide very well.