Crackdown 2 is set to drop in a few days and as Crackdown is one of my favorite games for the Xbox 360 I knew I had to take a look at its sequel. What I was met with wasn’t the Crackdown I knew and loved, rather, it was something different. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just a little dismayed that it deviated so far from the original.
In Crackdown you were a super agent working for The Agency, a police force in Pacific City. Your job was to take down enemy strongholds, lieutenants in the gangs, and finally the gang boss. Along the way you became leveled up and were able to jump higher and further, shoot weapons with increased accuracy and damage, and the list goes on. There were 5 skills that you could master and each time you leveled up a skill you would be rewarded.
Athletics: Ability to jump higher & run faster (a fully leveled up Agent could jump ~40 feet high).
Driving: Vehicles would level up (the Agency Supercar would have mounted machine guns) and the vehicles would handle better.
Weapons: Accuracy and damage increased.
Explosives: Increased damage and explosive power.
Strength: Increased melee damage, throw objects further, and the ability to lift heavier objects (heavy objects like a semi with a trailer).
In sandbox game terms this had it all. Not only was the city very expansive with a lot of horizontal ground to cover, you also were able to cover an extreme amount of vertical ground. To make it even better, rather than forcing you to work through missions to unlock new areas of the map like certain Rockstar Games, you have access to everything at the beginning and can start knocking off whichever gang you want starting with whomever you want. If you wanted to you could kill the gang boss right off the bat and deal with lieutenants later.
On top of the missions you had street races (in a vehicle), rooftop races (on foot), and could collect vehicles and orbs as mini games on the side. I will be the first to admit that Crackdown has virtually no storyline to speak of. In fact, I don’t think you could count being told to wipe out the gangs as a storyline. But, Crackdown brought a new meaning to sandbox games and you have to give them credit for that.
In the three years since Crackdown was first launched, sandbox games have become a huge hit. You can thank Grand Theft Auto for the majority of that, but Crackdown certainly had its influence. You can see the influence of Crackdown in games like [prototype] and Just Cause 2. Both very open and free form games that make excellent use of both horizontal and vertical expansion. Now, after three years will Crackdown 2 be able to reclaim its throne of free form sandbox games? Maybe, just maybe.
Please understand that my opinions are based solely on the demo provided on Xbox Live. I realize that the demo may not be indicative of the final product but it is a reference point.
When you first boot up the demo you will be asked to pick an Agent skin. This is very similar to the first game except that instead of eight or so skins you have four. Well, ok I thought lets see where they go with it. Once in the actual game you are thrown into a fire fight. The enemies seem to be more formidable than I remember from the first, definitely a plus as I thought the difficulties were a bit off in the first. After you make quick work of the baddies around you it is time to call in an airstrike. Once you do this a new swarm of baddies come out of the doors in nearby buildings, apparently the hail of gunfire before didn’t warrant their attention. Once dispatched a supply point is opened up. In Crackdown 2, rather than open supply points in buildings you open helicopter drop points to receive and change equipment.
Once finished with that first bit, I decide to collect some agility orbs to increase my athletic skill. I immediately notice how close I have to get to these little buggers before I capture them. This is definitely going to slow down rooftop orb collecting. As soon as I level up my athletics a shield pops over my face covering up the appearance of my agent. WTF? What, my agent has no personality anymore? It may be a small issue, but I thought it was a nice touch to see the Agent age and change appearance in the first game. It was a nice touch that I thought really showed that the developers cared about the final product. I find myself wondering why they even offered a choice of agents. If you are going to cover them up, what does it matter?
As if that wasn’t a big enough change, Crackdown 2 doesn’t utilize vehicles that level up. Instead, as your driving skill increased the cars become easier to drive and you unlock additional cars. Another unique and interesting idea gone. So what do players get instead of dynamic vehicle leveling up? The ability to fly, in a helicopter and in a wingsuit. Ok, that eases the sting a bit, but it also causes a flashback to [prototype]. Alex the character from [prototype] could also glide through the air. In fact, using his abilities made the use of vehicles almost obsolete. Well, this definitely puts a focus on the player moving around on foot a whole lot more. If that much focus is being put on ground movement why utilize vehicles at all? So you can have street races to create a longer game? I think I could have given up the street races, or, just have an Agency car provided for the race and use the programming resources elsewhere.
In addition to the hidden and agility orbs like in the first game, Crackdown 2 has renegade orbs for both driving and agility. These orbs move away from you, forcing you to chase them. Let me tell you, the agility orbs are hard little buggers to catch. Luckily, you get a pretty big boost to your skills for obtaining them.
Do you remember when you infiltrated the science facility in the first game and some experiments were released? Well, they are taking over the world and it’s up to you to stop them. Essentially, during the day you battle the gangs throughout the city and during the night the mutants come out to play. This game is feeling less and less like Crackdown and more like [prototype]. I guess it is nice that they continued what thin and pathetic storyline they had from the first game into the second, but it just feels a little too familiar for my taste.
Visually Crackdown 2 is nice. They ditched the unique character models for something more generic and the city looks a bit better. I wouldn’t say it looks three years better, but better than the first. I was sad to see them abandon the comic book styled character for something more generic. Well, I guess that is kind of the theme of this game. A little bit of Crackdown, a dash of [prototype], a pinch of faceless nameless character, and Crackdown 2 is born. I wasn’t thrilled with the demo as you can see, but I can also understand some of the changes the developers made and I hope the actual release is just as much fun as the original. Maybe the wingsuit will be that awesome, or the weapons will be just that cool. I don’t know, but I will when Crackdown 2 arrives at my doorstep in a couple of weeks and I will be sure to let you know what I think.
In the mean time I have a gallery of photos taken while playing the demo. I apologize ahead of time for their poor quality and glare. I don’t have the equipment to record my television screen so I made due with taking pictures of the TV. I included screens from both Crackdown games so that you can compare and contrast the two.