Crackdown is a funny beast and that’s no mistake. Coming from David Jones, who created the original GTA and Lemmings game, it was no wonder that Crackdown was a huge sandbox game with detail leaking from every pore. Taking a now heavily copied genre, Crackdown gives players the chance to do something different from the GTA clone series. Have Microsoft and Realtime Worlds made a cracker of a game or merely a cracked game?
“I have an idea for a game. It has a big city in it with loads of people and cars, and the player gets to run around. What do you think?” To me that sounds like GTA and at first glance Crackdown is pretty much the child of GTA and Police Academy. Plonking you in the genetically modified boots of an agent working for the Agency [Good business name -Ed] you use your skills to save the citizens of Pacific City, which happens to be huge and full of crime. This is handy since you are there to crack down on crime by giving the three main gangs, Los Muertos, the Volk and Shai-Gen Corp, a swift kicking. Or maybe run over in a bus, or a rocket to the crime covered face. I would say the possibilities are endless but shooting them seems to be the best course of action to get the job done. Each gang has a gang boss and a variety of sub-bosses which you have to take down. Each sub-boss is actually in charge of a part of the business, so if you kill the weaponry dealer the gang overall suffers by having shoddy weaponry. If you take out the transport officer they have less vehicles to play with and less weaponry with which to try and kill you will. The order does not matter but some make it easier in the long run, so picking and choosing your targets can be half the crime battle. So begins Crackdown and you journey into the game and your life as a genetic cop on the mean streets of Pacific City.
Most people will not be able to play Crackdown without mentioning the graphics, so it seems appropriate to mention them first. Realtime worlds went with a cell-shaded look, even if the developer does not like the word “Cell Shaded”, instead I will call it artistically cartoon rendered, which does suit the game to a certain extent. While playing the game you will see a fair amount of detail on the numerous cars, people and buildings that fill the city. Some of the objects you get to play with that litter the world are merely functional in their look, nothing overly amazing but nothing terrible either. Functional is a word that works very well for most of Crackdown and for the most part the graphics are functional. Even on a good sized HD-TV nothing really stands out as having the “Wow” factor. Except one thing and that is the scale of Crackdown, it’s massive! Standing on some of the tallest buildings the draw distance is staggering. You can see for miles and miles and you can even spot people and cars speeding around the city. Maybe because of the lack of graphical ’wow’ in Crackdown the chance to really push the draw distance and the amount of objects in the game could really shine through. Even on ground level wandering the streets you can see a huge amount of people walking around.
Even more amazing is the fantastic explosions you can create from a well placed rocket into badly placed cars. Lost Planet managed to do some pretty amazing explosions and Crackdown is not far away from matching it, but sometimes the cartoon styling comes through and makes things look a little rough. While the smoke looks amazing it looks a little odd when the heat-haze on the car pixelates the explosion which does ruin the splendour slightly. Again apart from the draw distances, there is nothing truly amazing graphically for Crackdown. That magical word is functional and Crackdown is truly that in the graphics department.
The question many people will ask is how does it feel to be a genetic cop kicking crime’s ass? It feels damn good! Realtime Worlds have really given players the feeling of power as you develop your character. Starting with Agility, Driving, Explosives, Strength and Weapons, each of these skills play an important role in how you play the game. Agility for example is gained primarily from hunting around the massive city hunting out agility orbs. The higher your skill goes the faster you can run and the higher you can jump. The fun in Crackdown is leveling up and then finding a new item to climb or an even taller building to jump off. Not many games can match the sheer excitement from scaling a building, looking over the edge and hurling yourself over onto a nearby rooftop. Nearly as much fun as maxing out your agility and scaling some of Crackdown’s tallest buildings and base-jumping off. The only slight disappointment is the lack of things to do. Apart from getting rid of crime, a few rooftop and ground races and hunting for those sneaky agility orbs [500 odd hidden around -Ed] there is not a vast amount to do once you have clocked the game. GTA had side quests and lots of random things to do, Crackdown is very linear in gameplay but it seems to be all concentrated fun. You are here to get rid of crime and that is pretty much all you do for the entire game. Sure you can go a bit mental and kill everything but the game does smack your wrists in the form of skill loss if you fancy a quick murder spree.
The fun comes from seeing where you can go next and this links in with Driving skill too. Around the city are a variety of street races which you can try to complete and gain driving skills. This comes in handy when you spawn at the Agency Tower where you can pick from one of three different Agency vehicles, the supercar, the SUV and the truck cab. As your driving skills increase so do the Agency vehicles. Take the supercar for instance. As your level up your driving the supercar gets sleeker, faster and you can send enemy and civilian cars flying as you drive under them. Max out your skill at four stars and the supercar resembles the Batmobile, complete with twin chain-guns on the side. I would have liked a little more variety from the Agency vehicles though. No sign of an Agency boat or even an Agency motorbike as I think these would have added a little more variety into the game. Again, the fun in maxing out your stats is seeing what happens next and in what way it will help you gain the other skills. With four star driving and you gunning things down increases your Weapons skills too.
The higher your Weaponry skills goes the more accurate and the more deadly you are with firearms. From your bog standard Agency weaponry, to the good selection of gang weaponry which you can rip from their dead hands and use against their comrades is all effected by your Weaponry skill. Crackdown does have pretty much all of the standard FPS style weapons hidden around. From pistols, sub-machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and even sniper rifles, pretty much every gun-fun is catered for. My only problem with this is that is all feels very generic, since this is the same set of weaponry that has been in hundreds of FPS game before Crackdown was ever invented. Standing on a building shooting heat-seeking rockets at pedestrians is great fun but sometimes it feels a little bit too samey. Maybe Realtime Worlds will introduce some more interesting weaponry as downloadable updates. Thoughts of flamethrowers, laser guns, BFG clones and particle cannons did wander through my mind, so you never know what Realtime Worlds and Microsoft maybe thinking of in the future.
Strength is useful for two things and that is picking up and throwing objects, if that happens to be bus, car or screaming person, strength dictates how heavy the object can be and how far you can hurl it. Like so many things in Crackdown such as the Agility and Driving aspects, the fun comes from leveling up and trying to find a bus to pickup and throw at people. Rip car doors off and smacking some street criminal in the head with it did make me laugh out load more than once. The second useful part of Strength is giving people a swift kicking. Finding a dirty criminal perched on a rooftop can be dispatched in many ways but none is more gratifying that kicking them in the ass and sending them flying through the air into traffic below. A little more variety on the kung-fu stakes may have been called for since you either kick them or just weapon-melle them. Some disarming moves may have been good or some crazy Jackie Chan object based combat, who knows, but the chance for improvement is there.
Hands up if you like blowing things up! People with your hands up will await the police for questioning, those that hid their love of making things go boom will love the Explosive skills in the game. Grenades are you staple weapon of explosive destruction and they work pretty well. Maybe some cluster grenades would be better but, just maybe, it would be better to increase your skill and increase your explosive power. Bigger, badder and funnier explosions could be yours just for the price of four stars. Find yourself a rocket launcher and a whole world of fire based hurt is out there just for you to unleash on your enemies. Try not to cackle too much as you fire rocket after rocket into criminals and unsuspecting civilians. Guns don’t kill people, four stars in Explosives do.
With all of these skills and things to do, people may wonder what it all sounds like. Well to be perfectly honest it is the magic word again. Functional. The music that kicks off when you enter a vehicle is usually based upon the type of car or previous owner of the car. Some interesting tracks are in there but most is easily bypassed for something in your own collection, such is the ease of custom soundtracks. Cars sound good, guns sounds good, explosions are great fun, both in look and sound but nothing really stands out because nothing really has to. Don’t expect a cinematic score from Crackdown or a heart-rending display of vocal talent because it is not needed in the game. The noises emanating from pretty much all of the weaponry on show is very gutsy and with the volume cranked up will start to worry neighbours.
As for Xbox Live ability Crackdown is pretty much showing the co-op side of things. You and a genetic friend can run around and batter the evil out of crime. The skills of each agent can come into play as you cannot make a new character for online play. If you have been playing a while and a friend starts you are still all skilled up while they suck. You can bound up a building, while your friend has to take the stairs. This can be very annoying as the game gives you no way of restarting again from the beginning. Once you have finished you can go back into the city and turn back on crimes but none of the bosses are there. This does degrade the re-playability of Crackdown but the Live side of the game does have many moments of fun as you experiment to see what you can manage to get away with. Car surfing is up there along with make-shift games of tennis with explosive barrels. All that makes Crackdown fun in singleplayer is the same in co-op mode. Maybe not as visceral and nerve wracking as co-op Gears of War say, but it does have its moments. Down-loadable content was out with the game in the shape of some new agent skins, but looking at the list of possible add-ons I have talked about such as new weaponry, cars, maybe even new gangs or bosses, Crackdown does have a good life ahead of it as long as it is supported.
Crackdown is great fun, a fun co-op game and is worth giving it a go. It may not be the best looking game, or have the most in-depth gameplay around but it does have one thing that many games tend to miss out and that is fun. Play the game, batter some crime lords and blow some stuff up. Good mindless fun.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers