Welcome back Agent, we’ve been waiting. It has been a long three years since Crackdown first graced our hearts, allowing us to jump clear over buildings, drive up walls and spend countless hours collecting small green orbs that give off a heavenly pulsing noise. Like many others I would likely have missed the opportunity to experience the first if it wasn’t for the Halo 3 beta key contained within the game’s box, and now with no such enticing bonus can the second achieve similar success? Sure it can, and so it should, as Crackdown 2 takes the blueprints of the original, tweaks it a little and adds a few new speed lines.
As anyone who has played the original will understand, Crackdown 2 is a sandbox open world game. The common misconception is to compare the game to the GTA series, which would be a great mistake. There is no room for realism, no time for storytelling and definitely no desire for collectable pigeons. Crackdown falls in-between the seriousness of GTA and the stupidity of Saints Row, providing an open invitation to wreak havoc in the world of Pacific City, but only to the criminals and the freaks! Being an ‘Agent’ of the law in Pacific City (the Agency) you are expected to maintain peace, rid the world of corruption and cleanse the streets of a new disease that has spread and caused the entire city to be plagued with ‘freaks’ at night (think zombies, everyone loves zombies right? *over saturate*). That’s about it! Apart from short audio logs littered around the world and an extremely poor attempt at injecting story into the game during the closing moments, Crackdown 2 is very much a gameplay experience with little desire to answer the what, why, where and how’s the player might be asking as they perform the Agency’s every desire.
In order to rid the streets of the freaks you must activate three generators that will then allow you to power up a final bomb of direct sunlight in one of the freak’s lairs. This needs to be repeated for 29 generators and 9 bombs to rid the entire city of the freaks, and finally a last bomb to ensure success. Outside of this you can take over 27 tactical locations (a capture point surrounded by enemies), 25 freak breaches (a capture point surrounded by enemies) or... actually never mind you get the point by now. When not killing enemies around a point, many times, you can also take part in the game’s finer points (in my personal opinion) in the form of roof top races, vehicle races, vehicle and Wingsuit stunt jumps and collectables... many, MANY, collectables. Alternatively you can simply blow stuff up!
As you run around the city you may be lucky enough to stumble among the game’s many collectables, from the 52 audio logs, 300 hidden orbs and 500 agility orbs. These will be everywhere such as sitting in the middle of the road, on the side of a tall building or inside a gigantic chimney. Along with the new audio logs are LIVE orbs that can only be obtained by playing with another player over Xbox LIVE, and renegade agility and vehicle orbs that will run away whilst you try to pursue them. It is particularly entertaining to watch a friend over LIVE run around in a circle falling off every building and jumping into walls whilst yelling down the headphone in frustration, clearly unable to outsmart a dodging tiny orb of AI.
The bonus of working your way through the list of tasks at hand comes in the game’s levelling system, which will grant you additional power and abilities for the actions you use most. For example, each agility orb you collect that has you climbing buildings will reward you will agility experience. Upon levelling up your agility you will be able to run faster, jump higher and in the later levels, even be able to glide through the sky. The skills on offer are agility, strength, explosives, firearms and driving. Each offering unique benefits for investing time in performing their actions, from additional weapons unlocked each level for firearms along with increased accuracy, to the ability to pick up larger and larger objects upon levelling strength right from a pole to a truck.
The biggest criticism of Crackdown 2 will no doubt be made for its glaring similarities to the original, taking place in the same city (admittedly without the large scale destruction the freaks have caused). It is best described as Crackdown 1.5, as anyone that has spent considerable time with the original may find that there are not enough significant changes to warrant a purchase.
Graphically the game keeps with the same style but with a different and darker tone. The vibrant colourful city of the first title has been replaced with decay and destruction this time around, fondly making use of the despicable brown tones that even Crackdown couldn’t hide from. The vibrancy of the original was a beautiful change of pace in the HD era, and it is a shame to see it go. There are some tweaks here and there, particularly in the particle system that is more detailed and yet even under heavy load never affects the frame rate, but overall the game falls short, even in comparison to the original. Low quality textures plague every city wall and your own characters face is comparable to a mosaic (not that it matters as this is covered up with a helmet within no time at all, oddly enough). As for the audio, this is sourced heavily from the original (in the case of the orb pulsing this can be a beautiful thing) and the Agency voice, highly praised in the original, remains in all its glory. Audio tracks boast a far better song lists than the first had on offer, giving even more reason to spend a good chunk of time riding around the city instead of running along rooftops.
Another minor change comes with the game’s new user interfaces, providing more detail than the first in all potential activities from the game’s critical missions to the side achievements. Being a sandbox game, achievements mean a lot in Crackdown 2 as they provide the stepping stones for those that lack imagination. Fantastic cheevos such as “Party Bus” that requires four agents, on a battle bus, to jump through a stunt ring or “Yippee-Kai-Yay” that has you needing to drive an Agency SUV into an airborne helicopter aim to push you in the right direction. Lovers of achievements will feel at home as the majority are fantastic, providing a challenge but rarely to the level of frustration and usually in having you pull off crazed feats.
Thankfully unleashing your imagination and causing general mayhem is a lot easier when you get the opportunity to do so with friends, and thank god Crackdown 2 has that covered. Boasting the entire game from a two player co-op experience to four players, you and three friends can tour the city as a single unit completing everything on offer as a team. This single addition to Crackdown 2 is the life line it desperately needs as when playing with three friends you can almost ignore the missed opportunities. Additionally if you want more general multiplayer mayhem you can take your agent into the arena, where you will find three multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Rocket Tag. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, and the third (more interesting) choice has you chasing a sole agent holding an orb, all equipped with rocket launchers.
As with most sequels, the room for enjoyment can generally be balanced upon on how much you enjoyed the first, and in this circumstance this couldn’t be more fitting. Fans that loved the original and cherish the idea of being able to relive the experiences with more friends will find everything they could have hoped for, but for those excited for the next step in the series will find that Crackdown 2 hasn’t moved very far at all. As for me agent, I’ve got some orbs to collect.