CRACKDOWN 2 ISN'T A BAD GAME, I want to make that clear from the outset. It's just not a very good game either. It falls somewhere in that purgatory specially assigned for "mediocre" to "OK, I suppose" video games. It's not gonna blow your socks off, but it won't bore you senseless either. I think a more honest title would have been something like Letdown 2.
Did you play the original Crackdown? If so, feel free to skip over this paragraph. At its heart Crackdown 2 is a third-person shooter wrapped up in a bright and colourful sandbox environment. You play an agent for the Agency called… Agent. Agents are super-dupa police offi cers who, thanks to some dodgy cybernetic engineering and a sweet suit of constantly modifying armour, can jump around like a maniac dishing out sweet justice and pain. The game's arena, as with the original Crackdown (I'll be saying that a lot) is Pacific City, a sprawling seaside metropolis filled to the brim with bad guys and moronic citizens. The story is simple as: the Agency is charged once more with cleaning up the streets, but instead of various rival gangs and syndicates, it's terrorists and (sigh) zombies. Depending on time of day, one group of baddies is more prevalent than the other; the terrorists or 'Cell' rock the daylight hours while the zombies, aka 'Freaks', pull the graveyard shift.
The game's protagonist, the Agent character, achieves increased kick-ass-ability by leveling up in fi ve key skill sets: The Firearms skill is increased by blasting away with any of the multitude of weapons available to you (excluding rocket launchers, grenades and melee weapons); the Strength skill is gained by bashing up enemies mano-a-mano style; your Driving skill is leveled up by… never mind; the Explosives skill is upped by letting loose with rocket launchers, grenades and satchel bombs; and, last, but by no means least, is the Agility skill, which is increased by collecting agility orbs.
As with its predecessor, a crucial component of the game is collecting agility orbs, and damn if it's still not as insanely addictive as ever. What is it with the innate need to collect shiny things? What are we, magpies? Leaping around the city picking up what looks like a breath freshener and a bath oil never gets old, and the constant carrot-stick of those orbs just out of reach ensures that you keep coming back to this fundamental cornerstone of Crackdown's gameplay.
Missions are simple and somewhat repetitive but still fun. They involve clearing out Cell strongholds, Freak nests and activating coollooking laser beams. The method of attack and execution is up to you. If you have the wrong weapons for the job, then you can request an airdrop for additional ordinance.
Driving is a fair portion of the gameplay but, to be honest, the fi rst few cars are pretty naff. You'll probably just fi nd yourself leaping from one objective to the next for a good portion of the game, to save the hassle of driving the stock standard Agency vehicles you're provided. You can pinch other vehicles from various NPCs and enemies, but these are worse than what you've already been lumped with, so their availability is somewhat of a moot point. It's only later that you'll get choppered in anything decent, so the checkpoint challenges are best left until then.
Graphically, the game is a mess. When I fi rst jumped on I felt transported back to 2001! I swear, if I saw this on a PlayStation 2 I'd probably say something like: "These graphics are a little subpar, aren't they?" I know what you're thinking, but let me say that the cartoon style isn't the issue here; one only needs to look at recent efforts such as SSFIV or the beautiful-to-look-at-but-abysmalto- play Prince of Persia (2008), to appreciate that this style can still be both well executed and stylistically relevant. Crackdown 2 has no such luck and is just lacklustre all around, save perhaps the explosions, which are pretty choice.
I'm not going to talk about the 'voice of God'/in-game narrator save for the following statement: If anyone says to you that it's either tongue-in-cheek or endearing or charming, they are a moron. The Narrator is irritating as all hell, end of.
So, not a glowing review, but not a bad one either. Crackdown 2 does have some good things going for it: there's an addictive collecting and leveling-up element, a fun and varied amount of weapons to play with, and a large, 'go anywhere' environment. It's just a shame then, that the execution and polish are sorely lacking and left me wanting.
There's an old adage: "If it ain't boke, don't fi x it." Wise words to be sure, but not when applied to video games. Developers need to keep pushing themselves in new and interesting directions. As soon as they don't, things start sucking.