Game Rant's Rory Young reviews Crackdown 2
What 2007's surprise hit Crackdown did so well was empowerment. Rocket launchers, fast cars, the strength to lift a tank or leap over a building; the player became a toddler loose in a candy shop. Crackdown was fresh and exciting, contrasting dramatically with other sandbox style games such as Grand Theft Auto.
Now Crackdown 2 has to live up to expectations that the original never had. There's no Halo 3 multiplayer beta packaged on the disc this time around. No, this sequel has a lot to prove, especially coming from new studio Ruffian Games.
Will the addition of four player cooperative play, sixteen player deathmatches, "Rocket Tag", and a slew of new game mechanics make Crackdown 2 as popular and critically acclaimed as the original? Keep reading for my full analysis.
The events of the original Crackdown have led to "The Agency" being in full control of Pacific City. Unfortunately, a new terrorist organization calling themselves "The Cell" stands against The Agency at all costs. And now, when a Shai-Gen created virus begins to spread, turning a large portion of the population into "Freak" mutants, The Agency and The Cell vie for control in the midst of all the destruction.
Your goal as a new Agent is to regain control of a number of Sunburst transmitters from The Cell. These Sunburst transmitters will then create a UV bomb that destroys the local Freak population. Along the way, if you're lucky, you'll find a number of audio logs that help flesh out the story.
Keep your expectations low though, because what Crackdown 2 tries to pass off as plot is hardly so. The story is amazingly shallow, a thin premise used to give context to the game's sandbox nature and plethora of collectibles. Whether The Cell spread the virus or The Agency did hardly seems relevant when you're mowing down anything that moves, in an effort to upgrade your weapon skill.
If you're a story buff, and you're excited to see how the game's story concludes, it does have an ending of sorts. Let me reiterate though, if you're interested in Crackdown for the plot, you're playing it for the wrong reasons. In what could have been a dramatic evolution from the original, Crackdown 2 really let the ball drop here. What Crackdown 2 tries to pass off as a story is borderline insulting.
At its heart, Crackdown 2 stayed true to what make the original such a popular game. The goal is to make you feel like you could fight and defeat anything. You're The Agent and nothing can stand in your way. Crackdown 2 is played entirely in third person, so you'll see every brutal second of gameplay.
The majority of your playtime will be spent adventuring through the sprawling cityscape searching for green Agility Orbs, which will improve your leaping and running prowess. Your other skills improve in a similar manner, killing enemies with gunfire, explosives, melee attacks or your vehicles will improve each respective skill's destructive abilities.
You'll use these powers for various inane tasks. You can capture points from either of factions, The Cell or the Freaks; you can search for collectibles: agility orbs, hidden orbs, or the new renegade orbs which run from you when you approach them; or various types of races and stunt maneuvers: rooftop races are a favorite of mine, but there's also car races, vehicle air stunts, or gliding stunts that require you to glide through a number of airborne rings.
All of these tasks will be shown to you in the first hour of a game, and it will be very exciting. After that first hour though, Crackdown 2 becomes mind-numbingly repetitive. If you've ran one race, you've run them all; if you've capture one Cell stronghold, don't expect something new from the next one.
I completed a majority of these tasks with the expectation that there would, at some point, be a burst of creativity and originality, but Crackdown 2 has no surprises. The game sets you up to be overly strong and capable, but it goes too far. Only hours into the game, Crackdown 2 loses its edge.
Some of that edge can be regained with cooperative play. Playing Crackdown 2 with three of your friends adds back some danger to the game. It's great fun racing to the top of The Agency's tower, and then kicking each other off when you've finished. If you're feeling more casual, you can simply start playing single player and leave your 360 open to random drops-ins from the internet. You run the risk of entertaining some rocket throwing maniacs, but it distracts you from the monotony of some of the missions.
I wish I could say the same about Crackdown 2's multiplayer, but on each occasion that I was able to join a game I'd either suffer a bug and be unable to respawn, or intermittently be disconnected from the host. The brief time I did spend in-game was disastrous. I'd find myself as a rag-doll hovering over the tops of thousands of rocket explosions. I have enough problems with three coop friends, instead of 15 other rocket toting Live randoms.
From a technical standpoint, Crackdown 2 is frustratingly unimpressive. The graphics are unchanged from the original, from what I could tell. Years behind what is typically expected from an Xbox 360 game for sure. Then, in addition, there are a number of texture glitches and viewing distance limitations.
I'd often sit on top of a sky scraper and look down to see a number of random sparkling textures that would disappear if I turned slightly. Then, on another building two blocks away I'd clearly see a billboard and the writing upon it, but only upon approaching it would I see the agility orb sitting directly in front of it. Bodies disappearing through the ground, and rag-doll physics that might leave you bouncing off uneven ground for multiple minutes trying to recover.
Sound in Crackdown 2 suffers similar calamity. A number of (what I considered important) audio logs would cut in and out due to surrounding traffic noise. Or similarly, important in-game cues and actions would be untriggerable until the random voice-over finished telling me not to kill my own team. Thousands of Freaks would be characterized by a single zombie voice, and then all scream the same death cry upon dying in an explosion.
Crackdown 2 had all the potential to take the greatest aspects of its predecessor and build on them. Instead, Crackdown 2 improves nothing, and expects that all players wanted was another 500 Agility Orbs and a new rocket launcher. Crackdown 2's refusal to take any risks ultimately makes the experience entirely unrewarding.
Cooperative play is still an enjoyable experience, but that hardly excuses the game's multiple faults. It's impossible to say Crackdown 2 is a terrible game when its sandbox nature is so obviously popular. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to enjoying collecting a majority of the Agility Orbs. Crackdown 2 has done nothing more than run everything great about Crackdown into the ground.