Whenever I think of Crackdown, I have bitter sweet memories. The only reason most people payed it any attention was because the Halo 3 Beta was only accessible by going through the Crackdown menu. The problem was, there was an actual game attached to that Halo 3 Beta, and it was a bitter sweet one. Sure it was fun running around Pacific City as a nearly unstoppable machine of justice, but its lack of any kind of story besides “These gangs are bad. Stop them.” made the original Crackdown feel empty.
Ruffian Games has taken the reigns of Crackdown 2, which even though it’s the company’s first game, it was formed by two key members of Realtime Worlds, who were the original creators of Crackdown. Will Crackdown 2 improve where the original fell flat, or will the game be another bitter sweet memory?
Crackdown 2 has you playing as the “Agent”, who is yet another cybernetically enhanced enforcer and it takes place 10 years after the original game in Pacific City, which was where Crackdown took place. Instead of combating 3 rival gang to free the city of their oppression, you’re fighting a terrorist organization known as “The Cell” by day, and then fighting mutated creatures by night.
Crackdown 2’s mission structure feels lacking as there are barely any side-missions to perform, instead your main focus is to liberate terrorist strongholds to then activate beacons which will eradicate mutant spawning grounds in order to save Pacific City. That’s it! Sequels are usually meant to be progressive, but Crackdown 2’s mission structure certainly doesn’t feel like it’s progressed. I’d actually prefer duking it out with the same three gangs that were running rampant in Crackdown as that game’s mission structure felt like it made more sense than Crackdown 2’s, and that’s saying a lot.
As with the original Crackdown, upgrading your agent’s abilities is made possible by collecting orbs. A number of orbs can be collected by simply using the attribute of the corresponding orb (i.e. defeating enemies with melee attacks, firearms, explosives, etc.). The only orb that needs to be collected are agility orbs, which are sprinkled throughout Pacific City. As your abilities reach new levels, new firearms, explosives, and other attributes are unlocked. New to the series are Renegade Orbs. These orbs are similar to agility orbs in that they need to be collected, but they move away from the player in a predetermined route, which makes collecting them a bit easier since they’re not just wandering around aimlessly. Since Crackdown 2’s main storyline will probably be completed within 5-10 hours, most players won’t even experience a fully upgraded Agent unless they specifically set out to fully upgrade themselves.
For the most part, the weapons and vehicles in Crackdown 2 feel no different than those in the original Crackdown. Weapons still rely heavily on the auto-target mechanic and is completely useless if you attempt to shoot anything farther than 10 feet away from you without the auto-target. Melee combat feels repetitive and sloppy as your agent is only capable of a small number of combos and focusing on one enemy to attack is close to impossible when you’re surrounded by more than 5 enemies at a time. The vehicles are especially disappointing as one of the things I enjoyed from Crackdown was how your vehicle would morph around your Agent depending on the level of your driving ability. Crackdown 2 completely removes this unique aspect and instead gives you new vehicles to drive around in as your driving ability rises, making the previously unlocked vehicles feel obsolete.
The one thing that still felt fun was aimlessly wandering around Pacific City and creating your own fun, especially when you’re in a co-op game with up to 4 players. The only problem is a game shouldn’t have to rely on how you and your friends can goof off in its world in order to enjoy it. Crackdown 2 also offers and online PVP multiplayer experience across multiple game modes, and although they offer some fun moments, their inclusion still doesn’t justify a full $60 price tag.
FINAL THOUGHT: As much as I wanted to enjoy Crackdown 2, this sequel doesn’t hold a candle to its original source. It actually feels like its taken a step backwards as many things that drew people to the original are missing. If you’re the type of person who chooses goofing around in a game over completing missions, you’ll probably enjoy Crackdown 2, but I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for this experience as the final package feels like it could have been done in a $15-$20 DLC.