Crackdown 2 Review
Pacific City used to be a vibrant, colourful place. The three districts each had their own feel – the urban sprawl of ‘La Mugre’, the industrial docks and yards of ‘The Den’ and the extravagant wealth of ‘The Corridor’ – and each of the gangs that inhabited them had their own personalities that matched their territories. Also, beyond that, the city itself was a joy to navigate with sweeping roads and highways, and buildings that always had a handhold just within reach. This accessibility was the one thing that made Crackdown so special. It was a nice place to be, so nice in fact that you could easily forget the story and just while away hours playing with the city, flinging your buggy around the ramps on the beach, climbing the skyscrapers or luzzing grenades at your co-op buddy’s head.
This truly sandbox feel gave the game its cult appeal but, if you scratched beneath the surface a little, Crackdown was a remarkably thin game which was easily completed in just a few hours but then padded out with enough collectibles and repetition to make Altair feel bad for you. However, despite the sheer grind of it all, Crackdown never quite overstayed its welcome and once I had maxed out the achievements on it, I was quite happy to occasionally dip back into the game for a quick run up the Agency Tower or to help a friend out with a tricky boss.
Dev team Realtime Worlds went on to create the underwhelming MMO cop caper, APB, while sequel duties for Crackdown were handed to the newly-formed Ruffian studio. It didn’t take a genius to see what Ruffian had to do to improve the game. A better story campaign would be a start, maybe mixing up the missions rather than just having assaults on gang headquarters, instead of padding out the game with collectibles and races. A new game world to run around in would be nice, or at least an enhanced and expanded version of the first one. Also, do we really need that many orbs? It was a challenge in the first game, but it’s a challenge we’ve all experienced now. It’s not a trick you can pull off twice. If you need any more inspiration, just look to Saints Row 2’s wealth of side-mission types.
Unfortunately, Ruffian have created a sequel which has as much ambition as one of Karen Matthews’ kids. Firstly, we’re back in Pacific City. It has been neither expanded or enhanced but actually wrecked. Yep, it’s now a disaster zone and this serves absolutely no positive purpose but has several downsides. Every area now looks and feels the same (to the point that if you run around randomly for long enough you may not even be able to tell which area you are in), roads are trashed making cars even more irrelevant than before (the risible handling from the first game is still present as well), buildings are harder to climb with active handholds being indistinguishable from ungrippable markings on a lot of occasions and also it’s now just an excuse to hide hidden orbs in halfway up a crumbled skyscraper.
It’s quite saddening really. Everything is shit now. Wang’s tower is a chore, the ferris wheel is knackered, that big glass dome is broken and all the gang hideouts that you remember are just pointless shells now. The brightly coloured cartoon look has been replaced with enough dull greys to keep Gears of War fanboys in masturbation scars for weeks. Of course the worst thing about all this is that we’ve seen all of it before but nicer. There is no point to these changes – it looks worse, it plays worse.
The gangs from the first title have been replaced by a terrorist organisation called The Cell. These bland anti-Agency agitators control the entire city, stripping out yet more variation from the game. However, during the game’s night cycle the streets become filled with mutant zombie types. For the most part these freaks are happy to mill around the streets in large numbers, whereas any Agency agent worth his salt will be on the rooftops anyway, so you won’t need to engage them apart from during some of the missions.
What about these missions then? Well even the most ardent Crackdown fan will admit that the first game was pretty limited with the story mode consisting only of taking out gang strongholds. Crackdown 2 offers three types – don’t get excited – tactical locations (wipe out a certain number of enemies in a single location to take over a weapon drop-off point), freak breaches (wipe out a certain number of enemies in a single location to close the breach) and beacons (protect a beacon by wiping out enemies in single location). These all play exactly the same to the point where Crackdown’s one mission type ends up being more varied because taking out a boss in a tower at least felt different to taking out one in a dome.
The combat itself is as you remember with untargeted melee attacks and an aiming system that, more often than not, will unhelpfully lock onto the nearest barrel when you’ve got a bunch of Cell pricks shooting bits off of you. You can still throw objects around the place and you can also pick up road signs and posts to use as melee weapons. At no point is the combat that interesting though.
At this point there really isn’t much else to tell you about apart from the completely reinstated collectathon bullshit that none of us really wanted. Yep, there are another 500 agility orbs (although these are now trackable to some degree making them far less horrific than before) and 300 hidden orbs (also trackable) as well as renegade orbs (agility orbs that you have to chase – these are spherical cunts to be honest), driving orbs (nab ‘em in your piece of shit car) and Live orbs (only collectable if you have a co-op buddy stood next to you). So, more orbs but easier to track down. You feeling £40’s worth of enhancement there? If so, give EA and Activision a call, they’d love to speak to you.
The one welcome improvement is that co-op play is now available to four players. This leads to even more chaos than before which can only be a good thing and the game lets you play around with physics a little thanks to some fun, but not that useful, magnet grenades. It’s enjoyable for sure but also extremely limited. Put it this way, Just Cause 2 does the whole sandbox physics madness thing a hell of a lot better and that game was average and full of nothing.
So, given that the game repeats the same things over and over, it’s accurate to say that you’ll have seen everything this game has to offer after the first hour (and that’s being kind). A couple of surprises appear later on as you upgrade your powers, namely a not-that-useful gliding suit that you’ll never have any reason to use and a helicopter which might have been interesting on the PlayStation in the ‘90s but is hardly a revelation here.
To summarise, it’s Crackdown all over again but slightly worse. If you’re new to the series, get the first game. It’ll be a fiver in some places. If you’re a huge fan of Crackdown, wait for the inevitable price crash that’ll occur in a month when everyone gets bored to horrible tears of this and trades the game in for something else.
I give it 238 orbs out of 500 but on this form the inevitable Crackdown 3 can go fuck itself.
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