Available for: Xbox 360
Don’t be fooled. Despite what you may have already heard or read about “Crackdown,” the truth is the game isn’t as much of a “Grand Theft Auto” clone as might be expected. Yes, it’s a free roaming sandbox game, and yes, the hero gets around in vehicles or on foot, shooting and blowing things up where applicable. But the overall style and feel of Realtime Worlds’ production is different enough to make “Crackdown” fresh, and most importantly, fun. In fact, I’d say the fun factor here is greater than that of “Saint’s Row,” a more direct clone of the “GTA” series.
In “Crackdown” you play as an agent for The Agency of Pacific City, a place currently overrun by three rival gangs. Being an agent means you have superpowers allowing you to jump great heights, lift heavy objects, run like a crazy freak, and the like. Agents’ bodies are also regenerative, making them the modern-day superhero. While in the field, your agent will constantly be increasing his skills at shooting, driving, using explosives, jumping, etc., as he performs these tasks. The nice thing about this system is that players can focus on different skills to max out as they play. If you want to become a master marksman, all you have to do is use your firearm weaponry most of the time, and your skill level in that area goes up. As the often-hilarious narrator likes to say, “Skills for kills, agent!”
Because this is a sandbox type game, exploring Pacific City will reveal many “agility” and “hidden” orbs that players can collect to speed along their agent’s development. There are also rooftop race trials, vehicular race/time trials, and even stunt areas where your agent can hop in a vehicle and attempt to pull off some insane tricks. These elements give “Crackdown” a nice new twist on the familiar sandbox gameplay. Granted, rooftop racing was something that games like “Ultimate Spider-Man” attempted, but “Crackdown” gets it just right.
The look of the game also sets it apart from its peers. “Crackdown” is presented in a sort of stylized comic book world, where bright colors reign supreme and thick outlines define every object. It’s almost, but not quite, a cell-shaded look, appearing sharper than games that do employ that design. One of the nicest things about the game’s graphics is the infinite draw with zero things popping up into the visible gaming area as your agent gets closer to them.
There are a few play modes available: a solo campaign mode, a time trial mode and a co-op mode on Xbox Live. Co-op is interesting in that players can set who can join in with them, be it people on their friends’ list, or just anyone looking to pick up a game. One of the Achievements in “Crackdown” is to finish all the missions with a partner, so gamers hungry for extra points in that area are required to play with someone somewhere along the line. And speaking of Achievements, “Crackdown” is the first game to have its final 100 Achievement Points determined by the game creators as a future downloadable item. They’ll be watching how players play the game to determine what the tasks will be to achieve the final batch of points.
And yes, if you buy “Crackdown,” there is also a “Halo 3” beta invite in every box. As of this writing, that portion of the game is not activated, but apparently it will be by late spring of 2007. In essence, you’re getting a couple of games in one here, and really, “Crackdown” was worth the wait, unlike say, the semi-disaster that was “Fuzion Frenzy 2.”
If there’s anything negative to say about “Crackdown” its that it can feel a bit repetitive when your agent is going into certain battles. If you get killed, you have to return to a supply station and work your way back to the area of one of the bad guys (and sometimes even start the entire battle over from scratch, depending on how high up on the bad guy ladder they are). This can be a little infuriating at times, especially if you’ve just wiped out 98 percent of some dude’s henchmen, and suddenly find yourself exploded with no way to run for cover and regenerate your shields. Also, you’ll undoubtedly get tired of hearing the gang members shout the same things over and over. It’s almost a relief when you put them down just to shut them the hell up.
Other than those gripes, “Crackdown” is a fun and fresh sandbox game that is as humorous as it is action-packed. It’s interesting to finally see a game where the player is on the good guys’ side, and isn’t a corrupt junkie getting laid in the back alleys. When you’ve secured an area in the game formerly controlled by gangs, the Agency comes in and cleans up, and life returns to that portion of the city and it begins to thrive. It may sound corny, but I liked that good-natured aspect of the game. Sometimes it’s nice to see the good guys win.