What are you waiting for agent? Take down those freaks.
The original Crackdown was a bit of a surprise hit. It would seem that the majority of the people who bought it did so simply for the included access to the Halo 3 beta. It was almost an added bonus to find that the game was actually rather good as well. Not me though. I remember standing in the store, umming and arring over the game. The sales assistant tried to convince me to buy it solely on the inclusion of the Halo 3 beta. But I am not a Halo fan, so that was not of interest to me.
I ended up buying the game and was over the moon to find that it was good. Really good. Playing as an Agent, I was tasked with taking down various criminal gangs that had pretty much taken over Pacific City, the open world setting. This was really only a side quest to the much more interesting, fun and slightly compelling collecting of Orbs. These Orbs were hidden throughout the city and collecting them made me faster, stronger and able to jump higher, turning me into some kind of super soldier.
Now we have the recently released Crackdown 2 offering more of the same. Whilst I was excited at the prospect of returning to Pacific City, I was also a bit dubious. There were issues with the first game that were largely overshadowed by the shock of the game actually being rather good. I was hoping that these issues would be addresses and that the result would be a near perfect game. It seems that was not to be.
Everything that made the first game good has returned pretty much unchanged. The wonderful open world setting of Pacific City is back and still offers a playground in which to leap and climb. But the city looks a bit more worn now, as if it has been overrun by teenagers after dark. The collecting of the Orbs is still present and as compulsive as ever. The superpowers that are gradually gained through collecting the Orbs and allow the player to take advantage of the massive structures in the city, they are still there for the taking.
But it seems like the originals games faults have not only returned, but have been amplified. The little things, that were just niggles the first time around, are more evident and more irritating in this sequel.
Climbing buildings and collecting Orbs is all well and good, but the story, which should really be the focus of the game, was slightly lacking in Crackdown. This time around it is all but non-existent. The criminal gangs are gone, only to be replaced by the less imaginative terrorist organisation during the daylight hours, and the zombies at night. The missions consist quite simply of taking strategic points from the terrorists and then destroying nests of zombies. To say that there is a lack of variety would be like suggesting that there are a few video games with zombies in.
Another fault would be the difficulty. Whilst taking out the terrorists is relatively simple at any point in the game, the zombies are another story. Heading into one of their lairs and being charged with protecting a machine as it charges up to vaporise the freaks is incredibly hard to begin with. Then, once the player becomes more powerful, the zombies become nothing but a mere nuisance to be swatted away like flies. In fact the entire game becomes far too easy once the player has gained some power.
There are a myriad of other little things that can be frustrating in Crackdown 2. The auto aim never seems able to target the one enemy who is closest and about to pound you. The inability to recover after being knocked down, before being knocked down again. You can never be quite sure where you can grab hold in order to climb the side of a building. Renegade Orbs that run away when you try to get them! And the list goes on.
But for all of its faults, it still offers a damn good time. This is thanks mostly to the four player co-op which is now available. Crackdown offered the player a chance to team up with a friend in the playground of Pacific City, Crackdown 2 doubles the fun with four players. Although the majority of the faults are still evident in the co-op mode, the amount of fun to be had seriously overshadows them.
Crackdown 2 is not the game that I was hoping for. Rather than an evolution, it is more like a reskinning of the first game with a few tweaks, some successful, some not. It is still enjoyable and the ever present compulsion to collect Orbs will keep the player coming back for more. But it is not a game that will be as fondly thought of as the original.