IT FROM AMAZON:
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
DEVELOPER: Ruffian Games
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios
When creating video game sequels most developers make a conscious effort to listen to the criticisms from the first title, seeking to make their newest effort bigger and better, using the knowledge they’ve gained from the first game to improve the next.
And then there’s Crackdown 2, a game that adds a couple useless gimmicks and gives you an experience that’s inferior to the original in almost every way. Of course, it has a different developer (Ruffian Games taking over for Realtime Worlds) but considering that Ruffian is comprised of a bunch of Crackdown developers, they really should have known better.
You’re another genetically enhanced agent for the scary Agency that controls the police state of Pacific City. You receive orders by the director of the Agency, who only appears as a voice in your ear with a penchant for repeating himself over and over and making statements that have nothing to do with what you’re currently doing. (Yes, just like in the original.) You’re in the same city again but rather than fighting off various and colorful gang members and their bosses (with unique names, backgrounds and incentives for taking them out), you’re fighting zombies.
Ok, they’re not technically zombies but creatures that are creatively called “Freaks”, that group en mass and swarm the streets. They come out of the ground at night to annoy you but fortunately you have a few new UV weapons that makes them burn and crumble into dust like the vampires in Blade. Your task is to set off gigantic beacons of UV light to eradicate them from the city once and for all, never once questioning the Agency’s involvement in this mess.
Certainly, they couldn’t be lying to you again, right? While in the original Crackdown you play an agent who’s fooled by the Agency into doing their dirty work, this time you’re a new agent fooled by the Agency into doing their dirty work.
What’s that old line about fooling me twice…?
Once again you start off as a weakling and have to build up your agent’s agility, strength, and proficiency with weapons and vehicles by using all your skills and collecting the orbs that have been mysteriously placed in the city’s skyline.
The game plays much like Crackdown, with the list of new features reading thus-
- 4-player co-op (up from 2)
- Creatures to fight.
- A handful of new weapons.
- A wing suit, that allows you to glide but will never be used.
- Orbs that are afraid of being collected and run away from you.
That’s pretty much it. You’re even in the same city, with the same familiar locations. Once again you’ll find yourself jumping from building to building superhero-style as your preferred method of transportation, but you’ll also notice how much more finicky the controls are. You’ll experience plenty of fun moments where your nameless, voiceless character slides down the side of a building without grabbing onto anything, passing plenty of handholds on the way. The aiming system seems worse as well- while you can use the left trigger to lock onto an enemy you’re just as likely to lock onto a car driving innocently by, giving you GTA:3 flashbacks.
The new Freak baddies swarm in massive numbers but don’t chase after you when you jump away to the top of a building, so if it gets too hectic you’re never further than one jump away from safety. They definitely don’t make up for the missing gangs here, even if there are a few different “infected” creatures that rear their heads later on in the game, some bigger than others.
But the majority of the game revolves around collecting x number of some meaningless collectible and completing x number of mundane tasks. For example, you’ve got agility orbs to collect, hidden orbs, antisocial orbs that run away from you on sight, orbs you can only pick up by driving, races, beacons to deploy, hives of infected to destroy- even friggin’ audio logs to pick up. Why audio logs? Because every other game is doing it, and it’s a cheap and easy gimmick to relate the story to the player. Never mind that it makes no sense to find them abandoned on the top of skyscrapers.
This is all a shame, because the core gameplay is still solid, jumping around and exploring the world still incredibly fun. 4-player co-op allows you to have a blast with your friends as you can tackle multiple objectives at once, but maddeningly enough you can only save the mission progress if you’re hosting the game.
It all adds up to a game that just doesn’t offer anything substantial over the original, everything that should have been an improvement actually working against it..
The graphics only seem marginally improved but there are many more enemies on screen at once, plus three of your friends at once, of course, with only a minimum of slowdown. Once again there’s a minimum of music, so the majority of things you’ll be listening to are explosions and the Agency director’s stupid voice.
The game gives you a couple of new handy tools, like a pulse that highlights any nearby orbs, but makes it harder to get around the city. When you respawn at a save point for example, you can’t check out your current objectives and go close to where you need to go.
The only reason I could see going back to this is to collect more stuff in the game and try to get more achievements, which is actually more annoying than it’s worth because each goddamn time you complete one your boss says “That is quite an achievement!” in a smart-ass tone, and makes you want to rip the disc out of your system and break it in half.
Despite all this negativity, Crackdown 2 is mostly a fun game… it’s just a horrible sequel. Die hard fans of the original will certainly enjoy it, even if it isn’t half as good as it should have been. For those new to the series- a new copy of the original Crackdown will run you 10-15 bucks. Pick that up instead.