What do you get when you combine Grand Theft Auto with a cop who is endowed with godlike super powers? This is a question that Realtime Worlds has tried to answer by introducing us Crackdown. The result is a vast world that you can explore according to your whim, a city filled with life and criminals craving to be sent to their graves. The game can be played via Xbox Live in a co-op mode with a friend, which is a very promising asset. This all sounds wonderfully delightful, but can Microsofts newest publication live up to the expectations?
Clean up the City
Pacific City is on the brink of total chaos. Anarchy and bloodshed have taken over the streets, as three criminal gangs hold the city in an iron grasp of fear. The police is powerless, until a new experimental super soldier is introduced. It is the players job to make the city a safer place with the help of this superhuman Agent.
The three criminal gangs have quite conveniently divided the city into three districts. In the west, a group of latino thugs known as Los Muertos reign with deadly force. The east is ruled by Volk, a combination of East European mercenaries and the Russian mob. The northern section of Pacific city is controlled by a Japanese-American technology corporation Shai-Gen. As a former government defence contractor Shai-Gen has the most advanced weapons technology. Seven major criminal bosses control each organization. One of them is the leader of the pack and the other six are his generals. To dispose of a criminal gang, you must kill all the criminal bosses one by one. After disposing of the heavily guarded leaders, a Final Crime event kicks off. Unfortunately this means that the remaining gang members will terrorize a certain preordained area with no obvious goal. After you get through the Final Crime event, the story mode is finished.
Crackdown is thus an extremely short game but luckily, Pacific City isnt all about fighting crime. There are 12 car races and 12 races to be completed on foot. There are also 300 collectable orbs that help you improve your abilities.
When the City Became My Playground
When your job is to defeat the most powerful evil-doers of the entire city, youll need more than just your basic cop abilities. The Agent is the right man for the job with his unique ability to evolve into an almost indestructible battle machine. In Crackdown the Agent has six abilities: agility, explosives, body, driving skills and weapons. You can develop your skills by simply using them. For example, by punching criminals to death or crushing them with movable objects, the Agents body will increase. By using weapons to triumph over the gang members, youll increase your weapon skill. The shooting mechanism is extremely well-balanced: you can either go gung-ho and simply shoot around or you can use the left trigger to focus on certain body parts and, for example, cripple your enemy by shooting him on the leg. Driving skills are harder to develop since you have to run over criminals who can be quite elusive at times. Killing innocent bystanders will decrease your skills.
Why ride when you can jump? Its simply more fun to collect the 500 agility orbs scattered all around the city than it is to sit in a car and try to run over criminals. Collecting the agility orbs, and thus improving your agility skills, is great fun and its even rewarding. The city becomes your playground, as the Agents jumps over the rooftops and climbs the skyscrapers in a matter of seconds.
All in all, the gameplay and controls of Crackdown are excellent. You can really feel and see, as your Agent improves his skills. Hell be able to pull off amazing feats and hell even look tougher.
I Can See My House from Here!
Pacific City is a great place to have an adventure in. The city and its environments are versatile enough to keep you interested. The buildings, streets and rooftops are filled with detail, making the city feel alive. The citizens of Pacific City make an exception to the liveliness of the city. They walk around like zombies, but supposedly that can be expected since they live in constant fear of being brutally killed by an overzealous Agent or by marauding criminals. The vertical dimension of the city gives you more places to explore. The scenery from the rooftops is quite impressive. The city and its denizens are visually superb. Crackdown is a fusion of realism and comics and the result fits the nature of the game perfectly.
Too Much Freedom Can Kill
One of the biggest assets of Crackdown is the freedom it offers. You can complete the quests and kill the bosses in any order you wish. The game encourages you to kill the generals first, but basically you can just go after the leader at a time of your choosing. There is no linearity, the choice is yours. This is a major asset but it can turn into a flaw. You might accidentally ruin the gameplay experience by optimizing your skills and weaponry too early in the game. The game then becomes ridiculously easy and will be over pretty soon. Fortunately you can switch between difficulty levels whenever you begin a gaming session. The Live co-op mode is where Crackdown is at its best. You can easily play for hours when sharing the experience with a friend.
The final verdict? Crackdown induces somewhat conflicting feelings. The gameplay experience is superb but the storyline and the missions are too straightforward. But despite all its flaws, Crackdown has the most important quality of them all: its fun to play. The versatile ways with which to kill a criminal are just as fun as they should be. Crackdown can certainly be recommended to everyone who love fast-paced action in a free environment.
Oh, and youll get the Halo 3 beta on the side.