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Jeremy Jastrzab
19 Jul, 2010

Crackdown 2 Review

360 Review | Orbs! Where!?!?
Despite the added luxury of HD graphics and added processing power, there haven’t been that many prominent titles utilising the ‘open world superhero game’ concept as you may have expected. That was until the fierce fan boy battle between Prototype and infamous erupted in the middle of last year’s gaming drought. However, their precursor was a title that took a lot of players by surprise when it was released back in 2007, exclusively for the Xbox 360. And not just because it gave you access to the Halo 3 beta. In Crackdown, a cybernetically-enhanced ‘Agent’ was tasked with single-handedly eradicating the three gangs that had taken up residence within the fictional Pacific City.

The brain child of David Jones, the creator of Lemmings and the original Grand Theft Auto, it was an interesting hook involving orbs and ability enhancement as well as the super powers and scope for performing the ridiculous that kept players coming back for more. Unfortunately, Jones’ current development studio, Realtime Worlds, was too busy with APB (which will not get released here) to answer Microsoft’s request for a sequel. Microsoft then turned to Ruffian Studios, who are incidentally made up of ex-Realtime Worlds staff, for the sequel, Crackdown 2. Despite being playable at this year’s E3, Microsoft was surprisingly quiet about the game at their press conference. Maybe they realised that the title just wasn’t going to get the same amount of attention as the original?

As such Crackdown 2 is here, and it has some incremental improvements and additions, and even it still has a lot of the elements that made the original so successful, so much fun and above all, fiendishly addictive. And you still play as the ‘Agent’ with crazy powers and potential for the ludicrous. So just where did the sequel to the surprise packet of 2007 go wrong? The trouble starts right at the beginning of the game. Foregoing the simplistic charm the original, the entire front-end menu seems blatantly built to cater for jump-in multiplayer. As you start, you’re presented with the most basic set of character customisation options in at least ten years. Four ugly agents, who (thankfully) get a helmet once you hit the first agility level, hence defeating the purpose of having one that looks different, as well as a selection of four colours, which are each a different shade of grey. Apparently if you preordered, you would have had a choice of eight of each. As Tak Fujii would say, “Wooooooooow!”

ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS. My orbs...

ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS ORBS. My orbs...
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Crackdown 2 tries its hand at this thing known as a story, but only quite loosely. For those who cleaned out the gangs in the original, they found the Agency (your creators) had machinated the whole crime eruption to assert their power. A decade or so later, and a virus outbreak has caused many the inhabitants of Pacific City to become a horde of mindless puss-oozing UV sensitive ‘freaks’. Essentially, the town has been over-run by zombies, similar to the ones in I am Legend. Because you can’t make a game without zombies any more it seems. Also opposing the Agency and the local law enforcement, the Peacekeepers, is a terrorist organisation known as Cell. They are ‘lobbying’ for the Agency to release a cure for the freak virus.

Since the freaks are killed upon exposure to sunlight/UV (as well as head trauma), the Agency has devised ‘Project Sunburst’, which requires you as the Agent to activate a whole bunch of Absorption Points and deploy a set of beacons within freak-infested lairs. In the interim, many of these points are blocked off by Cell Tactical Locations. When you liberate a set of Tactical Locations, this will open up the Agency supply points for you. And that’s the essential gist of that. Rather than progressing through each of the gangs, one-by-one and then taking out the leader, you juggle fighting the freaks and Cell insurgents while traversing the Pacific City playground for Absorption Points and Tactical Locations at your leisure. Of course, the omnipresent announcer who gives you directions, hints and insults is here too.

Returning players will notice that this is the exact same Pacific City from the original game. The main difference is that instead of the brighter and warmer locale, you now have one that is darker, down-trodden and smashed down by freaks and Cell. Quite often, you’ll find familiar buildings and structures. Only now it’s more likely to have lost the roof, be boarded up with corrugated iron, have a horde of zomb… sorry, freaks occupying the front yard or Cell insurgents singing kumbaya around a camp fire. The good part about this is that it gives you a familiar but different environment and opens up new paths to explore. Aside from the stench of laziness, the bad part is that Pacific City has lost a lot of its charm somewhere within the ruins.

Oi! You dinged my ride.

Oi! You dinged my ride.
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An interesting twist for the game is the application of the day/night cycle. During the day time, Cell Tactical Locations are meant to be less occupied and easier to liberate. At night time, all the freaks spill out onto the streets, so the freak lairs are less occupied at this time. Does it work? With one player, it’s very difficult to tell a major difference, but more on this soon. Other additions to the game are fairly small and mainly concern some of the extra-curriculars that you can get up to in Pacific City.

The big hook with Crackdown was the enhancement of your Agent’s abilities. As a cybernetically enhanced dealer of justice, you can run faster, jump higher, hit harder, pick up and throw cars, shoot more accurately, take more damage and drive better than your average law enforcer. While shooting enemies, hitting enemies, blowing up enemies, driving skilfully and completing challenges will yield skill orbs that essentially level up your shooting, strength, explosive and driving skills. This was all good and well, but the clincher was the agility orbs. Generously littered on the roof tops of Pacific City, these green globes of goodness infected the player’s collective desires, as the more you go, the higher your agility skill and the higher and further your Agent could jump.

The best part about Crackdown 2 is that the collecting spirit of the original title remains intact. And not only do you notice a distinct improvement with each skill level, but some are even more effective than the original game. You’ve got further additions such as the Wingsuit, which will allow you to glide down as you fall, in order to avoid leaving a wet stain on impact, as well as the renegade orbs, which will run away as you attempt to chase them down. Coming in both agility and driving varieties, you need a lot of patience to track them down. Otherwise, you’ve still got the familiar distractions of street racing, roof top races which exhilarate and infuriate in equal measure, stunt rings, air stunt rings and freak breaches. While the game has co-op for up four Agents, Crackdown 2 has a competitive multiplayer aspect now as well. Up to 16 players can participate in Rocket Tag, Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch modes.

The game has zombies. It HAS to be good.

The game has zombies. It HAS to be good.
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Given that you're essentially playing the same game, some will complain about the lack of variance and evolution from the original. However, there is a much more pertinent issue. In a disturbing trend that seems to have taken over a lot of games, Crackdown 2 almost mandates multiplayer play. Simply, the structures of the Tactical Locations and Freak lairs are all a built with multiplayer in mind. And this is at the expense of single player, rather than as a complement. As a single player, you’ll get through them, but often with a lot of trouble. On your own, it’s too easy to get peppered and sliced up by the enemy, leading to many a respawn. With anywhere between two to four players, these once difficult scenarios become cakewalks. It has been reported that one of the Tactical Locations is impossible to complete on your own. While it’s difficult and a poor design choice, we did manage to complete it. It’s all good and well to have multiplayer and co-op enabled gameplay, but it’s yet to be established that most people play multiplayer as commonly as a lot of modern games tend to imply, and it’s not excusable to let the single player game suffer as a consequence.

The other explicitly noticeable flaw is the lack of refinement in the controls. Later on, when your Agent is insanely agile, he’s great for tackling enemies but terrible at some of the climbing precision that is required later on. Not to mention, the mechanics and physics become very erratic, as it’s hard to tell which ledges can be grabbed and your Agent will randomly pick or miss legitimate edges or run off the side of a narrow ledge. As enjoyable it is to jump across three skyscrapers, doing something precise is very difficult. The lock-on is terrible. In theory, it’s meant to lock onto the nearest enemy on your reticule, but the developer for some reason made every car and combustible object your enemy as well. As such, you will tend lock onto everything except those firing rockets or hurling acid at you. Surprisingly, it’s not a game breaker, but one that’s rather lackadaisically implemented. Finally, the announcer really could have used more lines.

With all these issues, Crackdown 2 sounds like a dud, especially since you can ‘finish’ it in a handful of hours on the easiest difficulty, and even quicker if you have a posse. However, since it has managed to retain the spirit of collection and challenging the laws of physics, it can still be a riot of a time. With friends, it is definitely a lot of fun. And if you allow it to, it will suck you in with the agility orbs and random challenges, even on your own. Aside from nailing itself to the coat tails of its three year old predecessor, the one aspect that brings Crackdown 2 down is that shows you can’t sacrifice single player experience just to enhance the multiplayer one.
The Score
Crackdown 2 is just as fiendishly addictive and recklessly enjoyable as the original, but the single player game has been unwisely compromised for multiplayer and a lack of evolution. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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13 Comments
3 years ago
Nice review Jeremy, you pretty much describe the same game everyone else has been playing; a lacklustre disappointing sequel. Maybe Jones should've stuck with making Crackdown 2 rather than ABP?
3 years ago
Cyph wrote
Maybe Jones should've stuck with making Crackdown 2 rather than ABP?
So far it seems that APB is even worse than Crackdown 2 (not that it is bad, just disappointing). I had planned on pre-ordering APB over Steam so it's a bit of good luck that it was pre-banned or however Realtime Worlds explained it.
It is damn good to be collecting orbs again, even my father-in-law is hooked on it which was a surprise.
3 years ago
7 is probably a bit generous, with the advent of the parkour type of play and having had it done so well by prototype and infamous, it is just clunky and painfully unintuitive in crackdown 2.
The amount of times he should have just put his arms out and grabbed a ledge, but chose to fall all the way back to the ground instead was quite annoying.
Between bumping his super head on a super ledge, using his super genetic abilities to avoid catching the ledges and using his super targeting ability to lock onto barrels 50ft away rather than the mutant 2ft away....it leaves me thinking that my super mutant is more of a super wanker.
I also find i have no idea why they made these vast lairs when you only need to see about 60 square feet of one to finish it off.
When i put it in i was like alright here we go, and found myself swearing at it pretty much from the moment it started.
I ended up turning off the announcer as his inane chatter was starting to wear very thin after about 30 minutes.

Very disappointing game i thought even though it is so similar to the first, the first has a charm about it that this one flushed down the toilet somehow.
3 years ago
el_rezzo wrote
So far it seems that APB is even worse than Crackdown 2 (not that it is bad, just disappointing). I had planned on pre-ordering APB over Steam so it's a bit of good luck that it was pre-banned or however Realtime Worlds explained it.
Like many other MMOs (if you can call APB that), it may begin to shine after a while. Age of Conan was a bit like that.
3 years ago
PALGN wrote
Apparently if you preordered, you would have had a choice of eight of each. As Tak Fujii would say, “Wooooooooow!”
I cracked up at that icon_lol.gif Nice "e3 Fail" reference.
3 years ago
^Glad you noticed icon_smile.gif Better yet, I was actually there when he did that! so I'll be riding that train for a while icon_razz.gif

I got totally hooked by the rooftop races and collecting agility orbs... again. However, the last rooftop race is a total bitch. I gave up on that one...
3 years ago
The game becomes fun once you 5 start most things, but early on it can best be described as a chore.

Still worth it for fucking about value though - managed to blow a car 60ft in the air off a freeway and right into my helicopter last night. Didn't see that comin'!
3 years ago
I think there needs to be two different ratings when it comes to sequels. One rating for the game a stand-alone title that has nothing to do with the original, and another to rate it against the original. This should make it more clear as to how the game stands up by itself without having played the first one.. and conversely how it stacks up to its precursor.

Even before the review I had my doubts about this title, I enjoyed the simplistic, open-ended gameplay of the original though it lacked a lot of depth (rent not buy quality).. CD2 seems to be just more of the same with zombies added.. more like a DLC than a true game by itself. Even the city is essentialy the same..

Meh, meh and more meh..
3 years ago
light487 wrote
I think there needs to be two different ratings when it comes to sequels. One rating for the game a stand-alone title that has nothing to do with the original, and another to rate it against the original. This should make it more clear as to how the game stands up by itself without having played the first one.. and conversely how it stacks up to its precursor
Or you could... you know... read the body text
3 years ago
Quote
Or you could... you know... read the body text
Yup. Did. :p

Just saying.. for future reviews of sequels.. it was a suggestion, not a criticism. icon_biggrin.gif
3 years ago
And it's a terrible suggestion. Arbitrary numerical scores are a necessary evil at best. We really don't need to stir the cauldron some more.
3 years ago
GooberMan wrote
And it's a terrible suggestion. Arbitrary numerical scores are a necessary evil at best. We really don't need to stir the cauldron some more.
It's not so much the arbitrary numerical score as the summary. I read these reviews in full but every review needs a summary to pull it all together at the end, that's the point of those.

Anyway, whatever.. terrible suggestion or not, that's all it was.. a suggestion.
3 years ago
please i'm only paying $55 for an import copy of this... lol
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  08/07/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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