Genre: Action Developer: Ruffian Games Publisher: Microsoft Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 8th Jul 2010 Platforms:
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Crackdown 2 is the sequel to the 2007 open world shooter... Crackdown. Set in the fictional Pacific City, Crackdown put you in the body of an Agent - a super-soldier tasked with taking out the three gangs terrorising the populace. Your agent started off with limited abilities, but as you killed enemies and collected the orbs around the city, you increased your skills in driving, firearms, explosives agility and strength, until you were jumping across the
city throwing cars at your enemies - and with friend if you played it in co-op.
As you might expect from a game about punching trucks at people and jumping over buildings, it was a lot of fun - both with a friend and by yourself. It might almost be considered a formula for success and impossible to screw up - if it werenít for Crackdown 2.
Crackdown 2 maintains and even expands on those elements in some ways, bringing the co-op up to four player, adding competitive multiplayer, increasing your maximum jump height and giving you new weapons, vehicles and the ability to glide. Unfortunately, these additions donít make up for what it takes it away.
Pacific City has seen hard times since the days of Crackdown. A virus has infected a large amount of the population turning them into zombie-like Freaks and a terrorist group known as Cell has risen up against The Agency. Pacific City has a grittier, more run down vibe in Crackdown 2, but apart from the grime and a few differences it is the same city it was in the first game. For any who have played Crackdown this will be a disappointment - the excellent exploration is what set Crackdown apart from most other open world games.
The collectible orbs are in different places however, this time accompanied by various rings presenting challenges for your vehicle and agility stunts. Crackdown 2 also features rogue orbs - agility and driving orbs which need to be chased over rooftops or through the streets to be collected. Rogue agility orbs are merely annoying, but rogue driving orbs really hammer home another incredibly flawed aspect of Crackdown 2 - the AI.
The AI in Crackdown was not particularly amazing, but it wasnít as bad as Crackdown 2. Peacekeepers still jump in the way of your vehicle and stand next to every object you want to blow up, but civilians now actively ignore you. You can tear after a driving orb only to hit half a dozen idiots milling about in the middle of the street, or launch your one man minigun assault against a Cell stronghold only to hit one of the ten city dwellers wandering around near the mounted rocket launchers and exploding barrels and cars. Since the crack down in Crackdown 2 apparently refers to The Agencies strict new policies on injuring civilians and Peacekeepers, this gets annoying very fast.
The enemy AI isnít much better, either completely pointless and ineffective (Most Freaks and basic Cell units) or trained at the CoD4 Academy of Grenade Spam. On anything higher than average difficulty getting hit by a guy with a grenade launcher or rocket launcher means death, as there is always at least one more enemy following his attack with another explosive - hitting you before you have time to recover. On the other end of the spectrum however, Freaks seem to primarily exist as a quick method of increasing your driving skills, as most of them do little more than civilians.
Freaks only present a challenge when you are setting off a beacon - one of the two mission types available in the game along with recapturing Cell strongholds. Beacons set off an explosive blast of UV light, which is apparently deadly to Freaks and harmless to humans (take that, Cancer Council!). They are set off in enclosed locations of high Freak density and your lack of manoeuvrability adds tension when you fight some of the deadlier freaks, including the giant ones that would probably be fun to fight more than the few times they appear.
Clearing areas of freaks is very repetitive - capture three points and then go underground. The stronghold missions involving Cell are no different - Cell have no kingpins to defeat and no generals to take down to make them weaker. Instead you simply capture the strongholds that make up an area and move on. The environments change, but its not enough to make missions anything more than a chore after a while. It might seem like a problem primarily for those who have played the first game - someone new to the series would still have a lot of fun exploring Pacific City. Itís not however, because of the changes to your agentís climbing and agility.
Crackdown advertised your characterís ability to grab onto any ledge as one of its biggest features. For some inexplicable reason this was removed from the sequel, leading any veteran of the first game to spend a considerable amount of time slamming into walls and dropping to the ground.
Even new players will be confused however, as itís not at all clear which ledges you can grab and which ones you canít. You can grab one ledge but you canít grab an almost identical one somewhere else. There are even some wires your superhuman agent just can not grab onto, not to mention the occasional alternating window frames. Iíd hope this is due to bugs, but considering the direction of the other features of the game, I wouldnít be surprised if it wasnít.
The graphics have had some significant technical upgrades, with all objects having dynamic shadows and volumetric lighting. Unfortunately, it is not noticeable if you arenít looking for it, as the art direction makes Crackdown 2 look almost identical to the first game. You can now only choose from one of four different agents, although your agent choice matters much less than it did in the first game. One of your first upgrades equips your agent with a helmet, negating any differences between the four agent types.
Finally, the gameís sound varies between forgettable and annoying, as the music is nothing special (with the exception of a bizarre techno remix of CCRís Bad Moon Rising) and the narrator and npcs have a very limited selection of phrases they like to say constantly. The voice work also has a lot of unnecessary swearing in it - presumably to add edginess, although it only really comes across as juvenile.
Crackdown 2 did impress me, there is no denying that. The game goes to so much trouble to replicate its predecessor it is downright amazing that it should fail so spectacularly. Multiplayer adds an extra dollop of playtime, but if youíve never played the first game you will have a much better time for a lot less money - and if you have played the original you will only end up hating both Crackdown 2 and yourself for wasting your time on this garbage.