Crackdown 2 Review

   21/07/2010 at 18:34       Tom       4 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Crackdown 2, Ruffian Games, Realtime World, Agility Orbs, Sandbox Gaming

If games grew old and died, that should be inscribed on Crackdown 2's gravestone. They just don't "get it".

There is a group of people who have played Crackdown 2. They've seen the simple campaign structure, the game mechanics and the less-than-cutting edge graphics and they have said "is this it?"

Well, yes it is. But they're still wrong. Perhaps they don't realise this is not a GTAalike. Crackdown 2 may have fleshed out it's story compared to the original game but it's still less about the characters and their motives than it is about just going out and have fun.

But let's talk about that story for a moment. Set several years after the original, the Agency was in total control of Pacific City and it's citizens. But the emergence of "freaks", mutated humans infected by a virus has ruined all this. Killed by UV light they come out at night looking for victims. Not that the days are safe either - a terrorist organisation known as Cell have taken control and have set up strongholds around the city. The original agents have disappeared and Agency tower has been destroyed (although partially rebuilt by the beginning of the game). As a new breed of the genetically engineered Agents you're sent by the faceless Voice of the Agency to clean up and take the city, and control of the civilians back.

After an introduction that involves reacquiring a UV beacon (read: a bomb that would make Blade weep with joy) from Cell, you're free to tackle the objectives as you see fit. Across the city there are "absorption units" built by the Agency but under Cell control. Recapture three within the same area to power the UV beacon. Then it's a matter of jumping in to an underground Freak lair, guarding the bomb from attack while it charges. Once it blows it kills all of the Freaks in that area. Rinse and repeat 9 times.

Also you're tasked with recapturing the Cell strongholds which just boils down to killing all Cell operatives near by. Do these during the day while Cell are mostly out in the city to make things easier for yourself. Likewise lairs are easier at night while the Freaks are out killing. That's the campaign.

Things are fleshed out a bit by audio logs scattered around the city. There are news reports, freak watcher logs along with messages from the Cell leader Catalina Thorne and a whistle-blower within the Agency. With the Agency tower growing in size and complexity with every beacon there's a feeling that something isn't quite right.

But to concentrate on the campaign would be like giving a set of action figures and a play-set to a child and expecting them to just act out a prescribed scenario with them. Along with rooftop and driving races, the obsessive orb hunt returns with each of the 500 agility orbs and the 300 hidden orbs giving out that satisfying ping when collected. Renegade agility and driving orbs have been placed as well, providing a larger boost in your skills should you catch them. Also stunt markers make a return, some of which have multiple rings to sail through, either in a vehicle or the new wingsuit. Again those magical skill granting orbs are awarded for successful completion.

“Skills for kills agent!”

Ah yes, skills. As in the first Crackdown it's skills for kills. Shoot an enemy for firearms skills, blow him up for explosives, run them over for driving skills and beat them up for strength. Each of the 5 levels for each skill bring extra benefits and equipment.

Therein lies the fun. Powered up your Agent is a tank-driving, truck-throwing, building-jumping powerhouse. The enemies AI is basic, relying on larger numbers and bigger damage to challenge you. It soon becomes obvious this doesn't matter as you leap around, firing rockets and swatting Freaks with a nearby lamp post. At night a drive in any of the vehicles will end in a shower of green blood and gibs. Egged along by the ever-present Voice of the Agency who praises and scolds you as appropriate, it's mayhem in the best possible way.

Sorry, make that the second best possible way. Everything is more fun with friends. Up to 4 player co-op is available and with that comes the understanding that working together is much better if you're also acting like the Three Stooges. Whoops I accidentally shot you with the UV shotgun and sent you flying. I meant to hit those freaks. Honest.

Quick anecdote. After climbing the Agency tower, something that can take upwards of 10 minutes, a friend was readying to try for a certain achievement. I decided it would be much funnier to do a "ground pound" next to him, the resulting shock-wave throwing him off the edge, way down to the water below. The resulting cry of "you bastard" only encouraging me to destroy the nearby helicopters so he was unable to fly up. Oh how I laughed.

“Why don't you try again once you've grown a pair?”

The biggest complaint most people will have is that Pacific City remains unchanged in terms of layout and size. It can be fun seeing the old landmarks in their ruined state but beyond the new Hope Tower, which is even taller than the Agency tower there's little new to see. A helicopter and a wingsuit which allows access to the skies enable you to explore the city from above, but they are introduced at a later stage when it doesn't feel as much of a cop-out to be soaring through the skies rather than jumping between buildings.

Ruffian Games should also be applauded for their use of achievements. Along with the standard achievements that unlock for completing certain missions and so forth some nudge you into interesting methods of play. A particular stand-out requiring 4 agents to glide around the entire map within 30 seconds of each other. Tricky but oh so satisfying.

So what you get out of Crackdown 2 depends on what you are willing to put in to it. If you're one of these wrong in the head people then go ahead and dismiss the game for it's familiarity and seemingly shallow mechanics. The rest of us who are willing to subscribe to the Agency's own brand of insanity are too busy giggling to care.

Stars
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