Version Played: Xbox 360
Current CEX Price: £1.50
Crackdown was a hugely popular game in its day; concerned about its reception when revealed, Microsoft took the unusual step of including access to the then-upcoming Halo 3 multiplayer beta with every copy of Crackdown – which no doubt played a part in how many Xbox 360 owners bought it (and, in all likelihood, how many gamers took that opportunity to upgrade from their OG Xbox). It’s odd that they felt it needed this massive push in hindsight, because Crackdown was – and is – an instantly appealing, tremendously fun game. It puts you in the role of a super-powered Agent and presents you with a big, open city to just go and have fun in. There are crime bosses to take down – all of which are accessible from the start, though you’re unlikely to survive an attempt to defeat them if you head straight there without upgrading and taking out their underlings first – but the real fun is in hunting down Agility orbs across the city, which is a wonderful playground of ledges, platforms and rooftops to work your way around.
The draw distance was hugely impressive, allowing you to spot the glowing green orbs from incredibly far away, allowing you to get there by any means possible. The visual style didn’t stop at the distance you could see; the cel-shaded visuals gave the game a really cool comic book feel too. For those of you that made it to the end, there was even a twist in the (somewhat threadbare) story.
There was some controversy with the sequel, however. Though the creators of the first game, Realtime Worlds, were eager to capitalise on the success of the first game – and built Crackdown with the intention of it becoming a series – a sequel was greenlit at a time when Real Time Worlds had shifted focus and were unable to work on the sequel. Consequently – and to the dismay of Realtime Worlds – development duties were handed over to fellow Scottish development studio Ruffian Games, which was composed of many former Realtime Worlds team members.
With organised crime cleaned up in the city following the events of the first game, Ruffian were stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of where they could take the story. Rather than taking on distinct gangs with hierarchies to work your way through, the second game in the Crackdown series instead sees you taking on a terrorist organisation – known as Cell – and zombie-esque hordes of creatures referred to in-game as Freaks.
Criticised at the time of release for simply being more of the same – and, despite the change in the enemies you’ll face, that’s definitely a valid criticism – it feels that enough time has passed to give Crackdown 2 a second look.
More of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing – especially given how long it’s probably been since you’ve played the first game – and collecting orbs across the city that just begs you to find creative means of traversal remains an absolute pleasure. What doesn’t work quite so well here is the general look of the game, which takes the series into rougher, darker territory. It’s nowhere near as pleasing to run around a city that’s so dark and broken; the clean, shiny and vibrant look of the first game (as well as, subsequently, Crackdown 3) really added to the appeal and it’s sorely missed here. The cel-shading remains, but for some reason Crackdown 2 looks rougher, from a technical perspective, than its predecessor.
The city feels more alive, thanks to an increase in the number of general inhabitants, but this also takes some of the fun away from leaping and driving around, as – at first, anyway – you’ll spend lots of time driving through crowds of Freaks (accidentally or otherwise!). Though the general mechanics of Crackdown 2 feel like more of the same, the addition of the Freaks in particular give the game a very different tone and it’s not a particularly appealing one. The addition of horror elements – particularly in the opening cutscenes – is a jarring shift from the bright, comic-book style joy of the original game.
Levelling up and improving your moveset with special abilities – beyond just higher, further, faster, as was the case in the first game – is well implemented here, however – and is a feature that was brought back for Crackdown 3 (which mostly ignores the events of Crackdown 2).
Is it worth playing at the current Bargain Bin price? I think so. I’d recommend the first game over the second – and it’s the same price right now – but if you’ve already played that, then do look into getting hold of Crackdown 2. It passed me by on release because of its critical reception, but I’m definitely glad that – having had fun with the similarly poorly received Crackdown 3 – I’ve given Crackdown 2 a chance, even with the jarring tonal shift. The weakest game in the series, for sure – but still, despite the issues mentioned, an enjoyable experience.
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