Written by Troy Benedict Wednesday, 28 December 2011 06:00
While I don't think about it proactively, the actions -- my gaming -- speak louder than the words: I am a Crackdown fan. I loved the first game, despite the allure of being able to take part in the Halo 3 beta.
Part of the appeal of the original Crackdown was that it was developed by Realtime Studios, a company founded by David Jones whose previous development studio, DMA Design, was responsible for the development of the original open-world sandbox series: Grand Theft Auto.
When Crackdown was released, it was very similar to Grand Theft Auto, only it was much more vertical. Instead of a "fuhged-about-eet" mafioso crime story, you played the good guys (spoiler: or so you are lead to believe): super-powered agents with the ability to handle impressive weaponry, jump high, scale buildings, and lift and toss cars with the greatest of ease. As you progressed through the game, you could power-up the various attributes of an agent, like their agility, guns and explosives and driving. The more you leveled up the tougher and more skilled your agent would become. They could run faster, jump higher, create more damage, and drive better (and benefit from instant transformer-style upgrades to agency vehicles).
Unlike the Grand Theft Auto games, Crackdown has a very minimal story. You have objectives to eliminate crime-lord threats around the city, but outside of that you could pretty much do what you want. One of the optional features of Crackdown are the agility orbs. These hidden glowing orbs are peppered throughout the various locations of Pacific City. Collecting them allows you to increase your agent's skill levels, and finding them becomes an obsession amongst Xbox enthusiasts.
When Crackdown 2 was released in 2010, I was first in line to pick up my copy. In fact, I remember playing enthusiastically with GoozerNation founder Mike Rohde and his brother days after it was released.
And while I enjoyed it then, and still enjoy it now, Crackdown 2 didn't come without a little controversy though. Developer Ruffian Games took the helm with this title (while Realtime Worlds collapsed because of troubles with the cops-n-robbers PC massively-multiplayer online title APB). Ironically, Ruffian Games is (or at least was) comprised of mostly Realtime Worlds employees. Having a different developer working on a title, to some gaming enthusiasts, is just about as horrible as calling in scab (replacement) workers when unions go on strike.
The design of Crackdown 2, while remaining closely to the original game's mechanics and design, was changed in some areas. The first thing to change was the appearance of "freaks" -- mutated zombies that fill the ruined Pacific City streets at night -- essentially giving you extra fodder without killing gang members and thugs.
The storyline and objectives are better streamlined, and the missions feel a little less redundant, but Crackdown 2 still follows a repetitive (but more varied) style.
And of course, there are the orbs. The orbs are better hidden than you could possibly imagine. There are agility orbs, "hidden orbs" (they're all hidden orbs to me), orbs that fly away when you try to collect them, orbs that you can only obtain with a vehicle (that also move away when you come near) and orbs that you can only collect with a friend over Xbox Live.
Perhaps one of the best updates to Crackdown 2 is the ability to "ping" your immediate area to reveal the location of the hidden orbs. No longer do you have to rely on your keen eagle-eye or the growing sound of a pulsing orb as you get closer to one's location. Pushing up on the directional pad will give out a ping, that takes a few seconds to recharge before using again. Seeing as there are tremendously more orbs this time around, having a little assistance in finding them is definitely a plus.
While Crackdown 2 feels a lot like the original Crackdown, that's not entirely a bad thing. I personally liked scouring the city for orbs, powering up my agent and just having fun in the sandboxy world of Pacific City. While others may require and demand more from their sequels, Crackdown 2 take the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, providing just enough variety to demonstrate to the gamer that feedback regarding the orignal game was addressed to some degree, but the overall look and feel is still very much the same.
Like I mentioned in the opening, I am a fan of the series. While it may not have been quite the next step that gamers were hoping it would have been back in mid-2010, it's still a fun game and worth checking out. Those who played the first game get to see a ruined verson of the original game, and there is some "charm" in revisiting old locations (or seeing the much-improved beefed-up agency tower). To me, exploring the city looking for orbs is the part I enjoyed the most. In fact, I'll fire it up with my 4-year-old, putting a lock on my itchy trigger finger, and just scour the roofs of Pacific City looking for those previous "treasures."
Crackdown 2 is available for cheap at most retailers and is available for 350 points on Goozex, but be forewared, you'll have a short wait, as of this publication.