PopTards Games: Crackdown 2

Greetings agent and welcome to this week’s review of Crackdown 2 for the Xbox 360.  The first official release from Scotland based Ruffian Games, although members of their team did work on the original Crackdown.  Some of you may remember Crackdown as being the game you bought to get access to the Halo 3 multiplayer beta.  The real surprise was that Crackdown turned out to be a good game.

Crackdown 2’s story begins 10 years after the events of the original Crackdown.  Everything in Pacific City has gone to hell.  The city is under siege from two groups, Cell and the mutants.  Cell is a violent protest group fighting against the agency and control large chunks of the city.  When night falls, the streets are overrun with people who have been infected by a disease that essential turns them into zombies.  You once again take on the roll of the super-human, orb addicted, nameless agent and receive your marching orders from the man behind the curtain.

The game begins with a well done intro movie.  It very quickly brings you up to speed on the events of the past 10 years.  Ruffian also leverages YouTube to bridge the gap between games and created 5 short animated features that introduce players to the game’s villain and how everything transpired.  You begin with agent training, which is the tutorial on how to control the agent and use various weapons and abilities.  Once you’ve completed that, you are let loose into the city.

The graphics of the game are in no way mind blowing, an upgrade from the first game but that is to be expected.  It does do an excellent job of drawing the environments though, which is obvious when you start getting up to the taller buildings and objects at the furthest point are cleanly visible.  The game does struggle a bit when there’s heavy action on the screen.  On a few occasions I ran into some nasty lag when taking on hordes of mutants and using explosives in rapid succession, but nothing bad enough to ruin the experience.

The audio in the game is very standard.  The dialog is delivered well, but there is no variety in the tips you get from the agency head.  He well repeatedly bombard with the same little tidbit of information regardless of how many times you may have been told.  It leaves one to assume that the agent clones have the mental capacity of goldfish.  There are a few samples of music sprinkled throughout the game that were rather enjoyable with  heavy industrial edge reminiscent of the music from doom as well as a few songs from the like of Atari Teenage Riot.  The sounds effects are well done and sync up seamlessly.

There’s a good variety of weapons, most of which must be unlocked by finding them in the game world and checking them in through weapon drop locations.  Some weapons are outfitted to deal specifically with the mutants but will at least knock humans down.  The rubber ducky has made its way back as well and is deadlier than ever.  No longer just a projectile weapon, the rubber ducky is now an incredibly powerful, yet adorable, grenade.  Targeting is back and is as playful as ever.  In most cases it works rather well and will often jump to the next target once the original target is dead.  There were several times when I would be faced with a horde of mutants or Cell members and rather than targeting any one of the 18 foes trying to kill me, it would decide it REALLY wanted me to shoot the explosive barrel WAAAAAYYY off in the distance.  Turrets are removable, once the appropriate skill level has been reached, but do not have the joy of targeting and lining up the crosshairs can sometimes be an exercise in futility.

Once your agility is high enough, you are given access to the wing suit.  This upgrade turns you into a very lethal flying squirrel.  The head of the agency will inform you, repeatedly of course, that the wing suit is easy to learn and difficult to master.  Once you get it down, it’s a fairly decent way to get around, but is really only effective when jumping from the roof of a tall building.

As I stated before, the enemies come in two varieties.  Cell is a group of humans you face off against for control of strategic parts of the city, supposedly a terrorist group that is preventing the agency from enacting its plans to get rid of the mutants.  When night falls, or you venture into an underground cave, you are faced with a swarm of mutants, also referred to as freaks or creatures, which come in several shapes and sizes.  Most of the mutants are easily dealt with, especially when in a vehicle and running them down transforms them into a green mist, some require lots of heavy firepower.

Travel around the city, more so at lower levels, is mostly done by car.  You start with the standard police cruiser but gain more as you level up your driving skills.  The stunt rings have returned and are joined by rouge orbs.  These little bastards take off when you get near them forcing you to chase them about.  Along with the agency cars you can store any Cell (as long as it does not have a turret) and civilian car in the game.  The supercar, SUV and buggy are all back; the truck and armored car have given away to a tank.  Along with cars, eventually you can get your hands on a helicopter, which makes reaching some of the higher orbs much easier and less tedious.

The most addictive aspect of the Crackdown is back for the sequel.  Orbs once again blanket Pacific City.  Along with the standard agility and hidden orbs, Crackdown 2 introduces rogue orbs.  Both varieties of the rogue orbs, agility and driving, both take off as you approach them.  The time spent chasing them was some of the most frustrating of the game, yet the joy of finally catching them nearly made it worth it.  The agility orbs buzz around from rooftop to rooftop while the driving orbs race around the streets.  Along with the orbs, audio logs are scattered about the city.  They give good insight into the story and fill in some plot holes.

The city is basically the same layout from the first game.  The only difference now is that most of the city is in shambles.  A few of the objects in the world are destructible, but most of the world appears to all be made from trees taken from the GTA series, and therefore unbreakable.

The biggest disappointment of Crackdown 2 is the lack of variety in the actual gameplay.  In the first mission of the game you are tasked with taking back a strategic locations and recovering a module for the agency’s master plan.  After that you have to go to three locations and activate the weapon.  You then repeat that process for the remaining beacons which leads to the main task of bringing the agency tower beacon online. The game consists entirely of defending a location from mutants or capturing one back from the Cell with little variety in between.

Overall the game feels a little rushed and lacking some polish work.  There’s been a lot of talk about the Toy Box and Deluge DLC.  The concern with the DLC will be cost and features added.  Crackdown 2 on its own has very little to offer in replay once all the orbs have been collected and missions completed.  The multiplayer is nice, but not too expansive. However, being able to have four agents working on four separate tasks at the same time is slightly impressive and the party bus is a fun little way to tear things up, they hardly make up for lack of depth.

Fans of the original Crackdown will be disappointed with the second installment as it retails now, but will still enjoy playing it, if for no other reason than to feed a never ending hunger for orbs.  If you are new to the series, it may be best to wait for the DLC to drop and gauge the response then or play the original which will only set you back $15.

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