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Crackdown 2 review

Crackdown 2 Screenshot - 866515

Back in 2007, Microsoft and Real Time Worlds offered up an interesting take on the sandbox genre with the original Crackdown. The game put you in the shoes of a cop in a futuristic city as he performed a variety of missions and hunted down criminals, all while upgrading superhuman abilities that allowed you to jump long distances across buildings, chuck cars at enemies and drive at ludicrously fast speeds. The game was a refreshing take on the sandbox genre, and earned itself a fine following of hardcore Xbox 360 fans.

Now, the sequel is upon us, courtesy of new developer Ruffian Games. Even though the franchise has changed hands from Real Time Worlds, you’d be hard pressed to notice, as the whole affair plays out much like the first game did, without any really huge additions or improvements over the original. The game does succeed in creating a fun mayhem-filled world with tons of enemies and great opportunities for co-op play. Unfortunately, it does little to add to the series and even takes a step back in areas like narrative and mission structure.

Crackdown 2 puts you in control of a new member of the PCPD as Pacific City is in the grip of even more chaos and hysteria thanks to a terrible disease that is ravaging the populace, turning citizens into mindless zombies (or Freaks) that roam the streets every night. Additionally, there are guerrilla terrorists called Cell who are shooting up the cityscape, requiring you to intervene and use your genetically enhanced abilities to break them up and restore some sense of order to Pacific City.

Outside of this basic premise, the game’s storyline is practically nonexistent. While there are audio logs peppered throughout the city for those who care to look for them in order to get some pieces of the story, the game lacks any sort of cohesive narrative, requiring you to simply schlep through the game’s missions until you reach the credits.

However, Crackdown has never been about weaving an interesting story, and instead relies on creating a fun world to explore and great abilities to earn, and in that regard, Crackdown 2 does its job for the most part. The city is sprawling and never short on action, as the Cell factions and Freaks are often out in full force, especially when it turns to night and things really get crazy. Additionally, it can be a blast to earn power upgrades in strength and agility, which you earn by finding orbs hidden throughout the environment.

Unfortunately, most of what works in Crackdown 2 is the same stuff that carried the first game’s experience. Not much has changed in Pacific City, and if you didn’t take a liking to the original’s premise, then Crackdown 2 won’t do anything to win you over.

Like other recent sequels (including Lost Planet 2) the game’s mission structure has definitely been geared towards a multiplayer co-op experience. You’ll find yourself primarily attacking enemy strongholds, capturing points on the map, and fending off zombie attacks for a set piece of time. These are fairly standard multiplayer modes at this point, and whether or not you choose to get someone else in on the action or go it alone, you’ll find yourself dealing with the same set of objectives. The game’s missions are fun when completing them with friends, and Crackdown 2 has a nice open platform allowing people to drop into your game easily and help you out. However, the lack of variety and repetitive nature of the game when compared to other open-world action games is very disappointing.

Graphically, Crackdown 2 looks good at some moments, but seems to lack the pop of other 360 games; even the original game looks better and boasts more polish. The character models lack the stylized feel that made the original Crackdown aesthetically unique, and the environments are bland and repetitive. There are some technical issues here as well, including dipping framerates and ill-fated bugs.

The game has a soundtrack (heard when you commandeer a vehicle other than a police car via a fixed radio station), but it's nothing short of disappointing. The song roster includes old-school drum n’ bass mixed with songs by artists like Bob Dylan and Credence Clearwater Revival, and the end result is just irritating. The narrator/commentator from the first game has returned, but seems to be equipped with even more snarky comments on your progress, turning into an annoyance far more quickly than he did in the past.

In the end, the most compelling elements in Crackdown 2 can be found in its predecessor as well, and the new features are disappointing overall. The new MP-focused mission structure isn’t as fun as it should be, especially when playing alone, and the story is practically non-existent and does little to make you want to stick with the experience through the whole game. Crackdown 2 is not a building-spanning leap from the original game, and instead takes a step back in places.

Above Average

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Steven Hopper
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