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Trevor Wagner

Crackdown 2 Review

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Crackdown 2 is the sequel to the 2007 action game that did fairly well, helped along by the fact that the Halo 3 beta was accessible through the disk as a promotional tool. This time around, there aren’t any gimmicks to help sell the game, so it’s forced to stand on it’s own two legs. Sadly, it seems that Crackdown 2’s legs break under the weight of its own ideas.

Graphically, the game has the same problem that most of the game has - it comes close to working well, but falls short. The game is cel-shaded, which seems like it would make the game look nicer, and in some respects it does. Your Agent's models, and certain things, such as Agency helicopters, and explosions looks fantastic, with highly detailed models and effects that feel well designed. On the other hand, buildings and terrain are bland and without much detail, and many of the NPCs seem lazily designed. The day/night cycle works well, and does give the illusion of a living city, with people hiding and running indoors around sundown, Freaks crawling out of sewer grates at roughly the same time. However, a few exceptions aside, the world tends to have a very gray and brown color scheme, which, when mixed with a bland environment, creates a dull, drab world. The Cell have put graffiti on the walls of buildings, but they tend to only spray paint the concrete walls surrounding their strongholds, so it feels like a wasted effort. There are a few graphical oddities, such as fires that randomly spark and burn random items in the world, and your weapons randomly turning an odd shape of orange for no discernible reason. Another odd thing about the graphics is that the default Gamma for the game is so low that it’s nigh-unplayable. I had to turn the gamma to almost max to be able to see what I was doing, even in the daylight. To put it simply, the game just doesn't look all that impressive; the entire city is just a more run down city from the first game, and as such, the graphics seem to have been ripped from the first game, without any real improvements.

The controls work decently, being pretty standard shooter fare. The only thing that stands out is that clicking the right stick causes you to jump, which is a nice touch considering all of the climbing that you'll be doing. The controls are intuitive enough, and feel fine to use. However, some of the controls feel sluggish and unresponsive; notably the switch weapon and melee/pick up buttons. It’s nothing that a patch couldn’t fix, but for now it does present an issue when you need to switch, or pick up a weapon in the heat of a battle. There’s not much to say about the controls, because they’re really pretty standard. They don’t leave anything to really be desired, aside from more responsiveness.

The story is there, but only really exists before you start playing, and the ending. There’s no real plot progression, though the audio logs you can find scattered through the city give you a bit more insight into what happened to Pacific City after the first time you took control of it. The game, however, seems to know that the story is nebulous at best, and never really gives you a reason to care, but it does make sure to leave itself open for the option of a third game. The mission structure is such that you have 9 Freak hideouts to clear, each or which require you to activate 3 Absorption Units to power a UV light beacon. There are 27 optional Tactical Locations that you can claim, but they are completely optional. Unfortunately, the game takes these tasks and seems to be an exercise in making the exciting, mundane, and the cool, dull. It's as if they looked to make a game that was the most average thing possible. Well, in that respect, they succeeded. The missions (if you could call them that) are uninspired chores. There is little to no semblance in scaling of difficulty outside of a few spikes of difficulty (unless the difficulty is ramped up to the highest level, in which case it's overly difficult), with nearly the same foes throughout the game; only becoming more difficult when the enemy's lock on rocket launchers and massive swarms of enemies come down upon you in waves that would make Dynasty Warriors feel inspired in it's variety. Whatever challenge the enemies present is eliminated when you have a second player with you. Without any form of penalty for dying, on top of the ability for players to revive each other in co-op, there's no reason at all not to be reckless, and in fact rewards it. That may not be a bad thing, but after a few minutes, you have no trouble flying through the game on autopilot, making you wonder if you’re even really playing a game, or just watching it play itself, ala the cel-shaded Prince of Persia. Looking at it from a base level, they streamlined an open world game so you only touch the very basic idea, and managed to cut out a lot of the fun that playing through the missions should be had. Nearly every objective in the game consists of running from Point A to Point B, killing a swarm or two of baddies, waiting for the next group and killing them before repeating the cycle ad nauseum.

Another thing that needs to be touched on is the fact that more than half of your abilities in the game are never explained to you; you’re expected to know them already. We found them out by trying to do things that we knew we could do, and then things we didn't try to do, such as charging forward by holding B while running after a certain strength level, happened. To it’s credit, Crackdown 2 does introduce a few new abilities that weren’t present in the original (notably charging forward and the wingsuit), and they are fun to use, but it’s a shame to see such little change in the gameplay. It's also incredibly easy to “break,” or cheat, the game, and you are almost required to do so at some points given the spikes in difficulty for single player. In one situation, I couldn’t climb a building I needed to in order to get to one of the Absorption Units, so I had to go and find boxes to stack to get to the roof. All things considered, there's no reason to not go through the game in co-op if you have the option, though it also brings up one of the most annoying things in the game - friendly fire. In a game where you’re expecting to constantly be shooting rockets, throwing trucks and grenades, as well as swinging around light poles, why is there friendly fire? Being careful is not the easiest thing to do in the game, and if seems that more often than not you’re hitting one of your partners instead of the swarms of enemies.

That’s not to say that the game can’t be fun, because it can, just not when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be. Just running around blowing things up can be fun, and with foot and vehicle races, stunt markers for vehicles and the Wingsuit, Agility Orbs, Hidden Orbs, two types of Renegade Orbs, and Co-Op orbs, there’s a lot of side things to do to keep yourself entertained, but the game just runs out of steam fairly quickly. We beat the campaign in under 5 hours, and only spent another hour or two on the multiplayer, which consists of death matches and a mode where the goal is to hold onto an orb the longest, and you drop it upon death. The multiplayer is alright, but after playing through the campaign, there wasn’t much incentive to play online, even with the fact that you level up your abilities just like you did in the campaign.

All in all, Crackdown 2 isn’t a bad game, but it’s not great either. It’s very middle of the road with everything – it’s very average in pretty much every respect. It can hold your attention for a while, but after beating the campaign once, and maybe a bit of multiplayer, you’ll probably put it down, and never pick it back up.

Trevor Wagner & Anthony Wastella Writers

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Updated 13-08-10 at 08:59 by SteveSawyer



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