Crackdown 2 Xbox 360 Review

After about three hours of Crackdown 2 I hit upon the realisation that this was a game trying to imitate the original, instead of expanding on its solid foundations to build something great. Even though there is nothing innately wrong with that approach it ends up being one the game’s greatest flaws, resulting in the long-desired title feeling somewhat of a retread of what most played three years ago – you’re even playing in the same city for crying out loud!

I suppose that won’t be a problem for everyone, as even though gamers have ended up getting more of the same from Ruffian, this is still a brand new Crackdown game to sink your teeth into – not at all a bad thing, as the original found a highly appreciative niche for itself.

Those who do jump aboard will be greeted with another attempt to cleverly let players do what they want, when they want. They’ll see more of the game trying to funnel them in a particular direction, usually with the best interests of their still low-level agent at heart, but not hesitating to turn a blind eye if said players do a 180 and go completely against that recommendation. More so, they’ll see another round of true sandbox gameplay, letting players go anywhere at any time – spending hours just grabbing those green orbs or just choosing to blow up random stuff; because blowing stuff up randomly is great fun. You can’t help but want more than that though – it’s been three years after all!

I finished the original, found most of the orbs (refusing to search for the last few scattered citywide in an effort to keep my sanity), so to be asked to go back and find another five hundred in a near like-for-like fashion is not exactly what I hoped for when Crackdown 2 was first announced. There are of course changes on show, but they are more variations on a theme instead of anything new. You can fly now – but that is after hours of play (last agility unlock), and to be honest the flying/gliding mechanic has been done better in other games. There are new kinds of orbs too, ones that move away from you when you run after them – fun but maddening at the same time. Then there is the city, much the same as last time although it is now somewhat dishevelled. I might as well try to be nice and count that as a change too.

But that also leads to one of the biggest disappointments of the game. The environment itself seems flawed in many areas, with many locations seemingly built with the sole reasoning of looking pretty. This would not be a problem in most open world games, but when you add in the verticality of the Crackdown series, combined with the necessity to near constantly make your agent bound from rooftop to rooftop, many flaws in the layout become highly apparent. The most prevalent is when on the search for agility orbs, and you see one placed way up high calling out to you. Of course, you want to go get it, and there are times you will have fun doing so, but more often than not you’ll hit upon instances where the game refuses to make it clear how and where you should climb to retrieve the prize.

“Should I make this jump?” “Will I make this jump?” “Will this ledge hold me?” “Will I grab this ledge if I jump?” There are far too many moments where these questions pop into your head and drastically take the thrill away from moments in which you should be instinctively moving from one point to the next, having fun with an exhilarating climb to the top of a skyscraper.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it should be a challenge to climb to the highest room of the tallest tower, but to fall through no fault of your own and have to start again (and again) is a strain even for the most patient of players. Even The Saboteur – a game with its physics rooted in realism – had a more satisfactory rooftop bounding experience. In fact, if you continue to compare bits and pieces of Crackdown 2 to other fairly similar sandbox games – Just Cause 2, inFamous, and Prototype – each of them, for the most part, end up feeling superior.

I should highlight that shooting things isn’t much fun either – which is quite the problem considering you partake in the action for large portions of the game. This is mostly due to the game’s poor targeting system, which supposedly auto aims on the biggest threat near to you. Regretfully this is not the case, as the game will seemingly target random people in the vicinity. It doesn’t help that there is no way to scroll between targets either, so you go into almost every chaotic battle the game asks of you with the unwelcome chaos of the controls being the forefront issue in your mind.

Then there’s the co-op which hopes to make the game a bit more fun – and it does (although just about every game is helped with cooperative additions). Thankfully co-op play is pretty decent, and although it doesn’t fix any of the problems the game has, it does help mask them as you mess around with a few friends, trying to create your own entertainment. Ultimately, co-op play is probably your best bet for some solid fun in Crackdown 2.

Of course, there does have to be another niggle with even the best part of the game – the co-op is quite unbalanced. If two people join to play together, the game ups the ante from single-player – adding more things to shoot at, and also upping the difficulty a bit. Regretfully, should one or two more additional players come in, the games seems to keep things at the same level, turning into a bit of a cakewalk.

Another annoyance is that missions are highly repetitive. I guess the same could be said about the original, but at least the aspect of battling certain elements of gangs to weaken security around the main gang-boss was entertaining. You always felt like you were putting a dent in the objectives the game asked of you, while at the same time creating your own little story.

Crackdown 2 is nothing like this. It instead has you finding, turning on, and then defending multiple beacons to advance the story.This continues all the way to the final credits, having you perform the same task multiple times in different locations throughout the city. Some are a tad more entertaining, simply due to the exotic looking locale – but for the most part they all – disappointingly – feel like carbon copies of one another. Sure, you’ll be getting more powerful as you go (on pretty much the same upgrade path as the original I should add – that hasn’t changed much either!), but seeing as the task at hand is always the same, it’s hard to stay excited as the hours pass by.

Crackdown was fun back in 2007, and Crackdown 2 offers a slight update to the core ideas brought to air in the original. Whilst those ideas still may be good however, they no longer feel all that special. If the original stood head and shoulders above its peers as a shining example of how entertaining the genre could be, then Crackdown 2 is a much more down to earth effort – rarely excelling above others in its genre, and regularly sinking beneath the weight of the competition.

The games industry just moves far too quickly for a company to rest on its laurels, and when you stand still, like Ruffian has seemingly done, others will simply pass you by.

5/10

by

Version tested: Xbox 360

Developer: Ruffian

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: Platformer With Guns