Crackdown 2 Review
See PixlBit's Review Policies
On 07/14/2010 at 06:58 PM by Nick DiMola
The return to Pacific City is bittersweet.
Those who enjoyed Crackdown will likely enjoy Crackdown 2, but they'll be disappointed by the minimal upgrades and frustrated by the new issues.
Spawned from the Grand Theft Auto design, Crackdown was an interesting twist on the traditional third person sandbox title. Instead of having a strong set of missions and side missions to complete, players were tasked with simply conquering the city by eliminating all rival gangs. Doing so would've been impossible had players occupied the body of a normal human being, rather players are super human agents who can jump to extraordinary heights, kill a man in a single punch, and run as fast as a moving car. Furthermore, the agent can scale buildings and use their rooftops as transportation around the world.
The concept and game were a hit, but the team responsible for the title, Realtime Worlds, were more interested in pursuing a brand new title, APB, rather than continuing the Crackdown story. Ruffian Games, founded by ex-Realtime Worlds employees, took the wheel with Crackdown 2 and created a brand new story with a list of new challenges for players to conquer. The result of their efforts are a mix of both good and bad, but ultimately a title that doesn't live up to its namesake.
Crackdown 2 features a return to Pacific City, but things look quite a bit different from the last time players saw it. The freaks revealed at the end of the first game have now overrun the city and by night they are out in droves. During the day, an agency resistant group called Cell occupies the streets and occupies strongholds all around the city.
As an agency member, it's your job to once again regain control of Pacific City. In order to achieve this, players must gain control of every Cell tactical location in the city, and activate a variety of beacons for what's called, Project Sunburst. Similar to overtaking tactical locations, players must take over beacons which triangulate the location of a Freak lair. From there, the agency will drop a bomb-like object into the lair and you must see fit that it detonates properly and isn't destroyed before it has done so.
These two tasks comprise the entire story portion of the game; upon regaining control of all tactical locations and clearing all freak layers, a final fight is unlocked and the game concludes thereafter. Sadly, overtaking the various locations scattered throughout the game doesn't take very long, nor is the process varied enough to be very interesting.
While going through the quest to take back the city, it didn't take long to notice that the shooting mechanics of the game were also starting to show their age. In most modern third person shooters, switching from one target to the next is as easy as pushing the right analog stick in the direction of the enemy. In Crackdown 2 it can be very hard to properly target the right NPC which makes it quite frustrating when you can't quickly and easily target the character next to them.
This issue reaches the pinnacle of frustration in the later tactical battles when many enemies tout homing rocket launchers. In this case, targeting the proper enemy is crucial and missing them often leads to death.
While the original Crackdown managed to make both the story and the sidequests interesting, this time around, most players will find themselves enjoying orb collecting and races throughout the city quite a bit more. Additionally, players will be spending much more time on this task as the main quest is extremely short.
Crackdown 2 offers more than just the standard Agility and Hidden Orbs. Driving orbs, Online orbs, and Renegade orbs all provide further challenge and tasks for players to complete. All together, there are around 1000 orbs in the game to collect, all scattered across the vast landscape of Pacific City.
Of the new orbs, the online orbs are my personal favorites as they require at least a second player to collect. This means that players must communicate and work together, which is what makes an online mode enjoyable in the first place. The renegade and driving orbs are both similar and equally unenjoyable to collect. Both orbs are moving, requiring players to chase them down to collect them. They have a set path, but can change course to go forward or backward on a dime. This means that players must outrun them to collect them, a task that can be quite hard whether you're driving or running and jumping.
Thankfully, collecting the standard Agility and Hidden orbs is just as enjoyable as it once was. Jumping from building to building never seems to get old and grabbing all sorts of orbs along the way is blissful. While the actual task is an enjoyable one, the process of doing so can occasionally be quite frustrating. Ruffian Games seems to have tweaked the original jumping mechanics and world construction, as not everything that was once grabbable is still so, and grabbing doesn't always work as it seems it should. Furthermore, an annoying momentum slide seems have been put into place, which can make small platforms tough to navigate.
Similar to the the first Crackdown, and other RPGs in general, players will likely take much interest in fully leveling up their character. In the case of Crackdown, a leveled up agent means higher jumps, faster running, better driving, stronger punches, bigger explosions and a more accurate shot. Crackdown 2 takes things one step further and associates specific new abilities, weapons, and vehicles with each step up in level for a given skill. For instance, players will now earn things like the ground slam, the shoulder ram, and a gliding ability when they level up their agility.
Earning new cars with each level brings the ability to the forefront, while in the last game it took a backseat. Rather than making driving near impossible at first, the ability feels correct from the beginning, but the cars at your disposal are simply slower and less able than the ones introduced at higher levels. It feels as if now I can navigate the world without needing to run and jump everywhere, which can be nice at times. Players are also treated to helicopters this time around, which are a joy to pilot and can be quite helpful in some of the missions in the game.
Though not a necessary piece in enjoying the game, players will find that online sessions this time around are far more enjoyable and interesting. With four people in an XBLA room together taking on quests, it's a blast. Given the abilities at each players disposal, there are plenty of opportunites for hilarity, as well as the ability to assist friends in leveling up and gaining newer and better weapons quicker. Completing tasks as a team is very rewarding and clearly Ruffian put most of their efforts into making a smooth online experience. In this they have clearly succeeded. Additionally, players can still collect their own orbs while playing online even though they are helping their friends complete objectives in their quests.
Aside from the co-operative online functionality, players can participate in a PvP mode that pits players against one another. This mode can be entertaining, but is a throwaway feature because it doesn't focus on the true competencies of the game.
In many ways Crackdown 2 is a letdown for me. The platforming isn't quite as good as it once was, the missions are bland, short, and completely uninspired when compared to the first game, and having to explore the same city once again is frustrating. On the other hand, the game is still fun to play because at its core, it's still Crackdown. The orb collecting is every bit as addictive as it once was, and the main mechanics of the game are sound. The upgrades to the leveling system and the repair of the driving system are welcome changes and the four player online mode is a huge success.
Mixed bag is typically a horrible way to describe a game, but that's what Crackdown 2 is. For everything it does right, it does something wrong. Aside from the online mode, it feels very phoned in, but thankfully, it retains the Crackdown spirit which makes it interesting regardless. When it comes down to it, Crackdown 2 is not as good as its predecessor, but it's still an enjoyable romp while it lasts.