Crackdown 2 Review

Title   Crackdown 2
Developer  Ruffian Games
Publisher  Microsoft Game Studios
Platform  Xbox 360
Genre  Sandbox-style action third-person shooter
Release Date  July 9, 2010

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.

Last five articles by Richie



  1. Edward Edward says:

    Not only a great review, but utterly hilarious.
    Another great job! :D

  2. Rook says:

    A new city would have been nice as you say, even if the city had been enhanced instead of destroyed in a non exploted story about the freaks. Sure the first ame was repetitive with always taking out bosses, but some of them took some figuring out of how to get to. I like the agility orbs, it was this that I was looking forward to the most, that and jumping across the rooftops. The renegade orbs are a pain though and the ridiculous inclusion of online orbs is just a recycled idea.

    I loved the first game and like yourself Rich, I maxed it out, sadly, I find it hard to want to come back to the second game.

  3. Kat says:

    I didn’t play the first but got caught up in the enthusiasm of those that had. I found it enjoyable the first few times when there were lots of orbs to get plus bouncing about is always fun (excluding Halo :D ) but it got old, quickly. I still have my copy sitting there but not for much longer!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Great review as always :) I’ll be avoiding this one, though still have the original on my ‘maybe baby’ list for ‘one day’. Nice job.

  5. Mooby says:

    Crack-in review, I thought more or less the same after playing it for 2 hours.

    Dull, monotonous missions are not something that will bring me back to a game.. even with 20ft freaks beating me into a pulp.

  6. Ben Ben says:

    Was really hoping this would be a bit special like the first (which still remains one of my favourite 360 games to date) but sadly it just felt devoid of any character or life at all. Just didn’t have that same feeling about it that the first did that made it so special.

  7. Greg Greg says:

    Absolutely on the nail for me. We have chatted about this at great length anyways so I knew we were in agreement but very nice piece man.

    I have to say that I only played the demo of this and that was enough to destroy it for me. The first was casual throwaway fun, kinda like a quick shag with Karen Gillan. This one feels more like being married to Jordan.

    So to sum up – Crackdown 2 – the game that makes you feel like a shit aussie pop star.

  8. Lee says:

    i’m with you all the way on this one richie, I played it a fair bit with Kat and others online and kat nailed it when she said it was the most un co-op game ever. Personally i think it would of been perfect for microsoft to test some kind of day 1 digital download for £25, I’d of gone for that, but then I’d of been pissed that I couldnt trade it in making me dislike it more. It’s biggest problem was it had no soul, the first one did in an odd whats-this-game-on-my-halo-beta-disc kind of way, but this was just meh on a disc.

  9. Victor Victor says:

    Tears of geek sadness are dropping down my cheeks. I have been looking forward to this game for ages.

  10. Adam Adam says:

    I think it’s sad that the game didn’t amount to more than it has. Ruffian really didn’t have to do much here, they had the template, all they had to do was look at what was wrong and fix it. I can almost forgive the same city being re-used if they’d have done more with the game. The gliding suit was a joke despite the hype and where they could have just threw in some crazy wacky weponary to keep things fresh, they just didn’t :’(

    I’m still having great fun playing it because I loved the first one so much and I get a massive kick out of senseless games when I’m tired and such. I can stand in the middle of the street during the night cycle for hours just batting away at the infected with a Lampost. It’s simple but it entertains me :D

    I can’t see how Microsoft Game Studio’s let this one out the door mind, they’re normally so protective of their IP’s that you have to wonder just what they’d thrown at this game and how bad it was that they decided they just had to get it out there to re-coup the costs. When you consider the other open world games out their at the minute, the competition is so fierce between them but when you introduce Crackdown 2 into that same mix, you realise just how shockingly poor it is in comparrison.

    I feel sorry for Ruffian all the same. If the first Crackdown didn’t exist, this would be a great and novel game. I can only assume that someone forgot to tell them that it of course did exist and as such, massive let down.

    Good, Honest Review Richie :D

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