3/14/2007 12:00:21 AM
Crackdown Xbox 360 Review
By Rich Dixon
Let's get one thing straight: "Crackdown" isn't a "Grand Theft Auto" clone. Sure, it was built by the lead designer on the first two GTA titles (though of course that franchise didn't really take off until GTA3). And sure, it's a sandbox game, just like GTA. But if you hear anyone describing "Crackdown" as a GTA knockoff, or comparing the two games as if they're two versions of the same game, you know one thing right away: that reviewer is lazy and hasn't bothered to spend ten minutes to think about the game he's reviewing. "Crackdown" is a completely original title, and for my money, it's a hell of a lot more fun than GTA has ever been.
The premise of "Crackdown" is simplicity itself: you're a genetically engineered Agent charged with bringing a violent form of justice to the crime-riddled streets of Pacific City. The city is composed of three islands dominated by three gangs: the Spanish-speaking Los Muertos, the Eastern European paramilitary Volk, and the Asian Shai-Gen corporation. When you first start out you're stronger and heal faster than the gang members, but otherwise you're not that powerful. If you find yourself mobbed by too many adversaries, they'll take you out in short order (after which you "regenerate" back at headquarters -- cloning means never having to say goodbye for good). As you take gang members out, though, the style in which you do so increases the power of that skill: shoot a lot of bad guys and your marksmanship gets better; blow 'em up and the radius of your explosive blasts widens; run them over with your car and your driving skill gets better; kick them in the head and your strength is magnified. A final skill -- agility -- is boosted in a slightly different way, by collecting green "agility orbs" that are scattered throughout the city, usually on the tops of buildings or other structures.
So to the standard crime model we now have a RPG element, and leveling up your Agent is something you'll have a lot of fun doing. The first few hours in "Crackdown" might seem a little like work, but there's a mystical point where a switch gets thrown in your head, and after that your Agent feels like Superman. With two agility stars you start to feel powerful, and can leap to the top of most barriers you face. With three stars you can jump from rooftop to rooftop, and you feel like you never have to descend to street level again. With four stars, though, you feel like you can fly. And it's the same with the other abilities, too; I loved leveling up my explosives rating just so I could set off bigger and bigger bangs with the various explosive weapons -- grenade, grenade launcher, rocket launcher -- that I was able to collect in the game. For a while I didn't even try to take out bosses, I'd just stand on the top of buildings and blow up gang members down in the street or on rooftops around me.
There is no necessary order to the missions in "Crackdown," but Los Muertos are a lot easier to take out than the Shai-Gen so you'll probably start there. Every gang has a kingpin surrounded by six "generals," and every general is protected by tons and tons of low-level baddies. The bosses themselves aren't particularly difficult to kill (there are no real "boss battles" in this game), but there's a ton of challenge in fighting your way through their defenses to get at them. One of the really cool ideas behind this game is that each general in a gang controls one feature of its operations, and killing him weakens the overall gang in that respect. Take out the boss who runs recruitment, and you'll see fewer gang members on the street. Kill the guy who handles weapons, and soon they'll be shooting at you with hand guns rather than rocket launchers. Sure, you can go for the big boss right away, but that's awfully tough right away and this feature gives you an opportunity to cut him down to size before taking him on.
Once you're done with the bosses there are still things to do in this game world: 500 orbs to locate, lots of driving challenges to beat (such as a glowing purple ring that you have to drive through, except it's on top of a building; half of the challenge is figuring out how to get a car up there in the first place). Then there's a limited multiplayer option, in which you can play through any single-player scenario with a friend, bringing your single-player Agent online. You'll find that pretty soon this breaks down into PvP action; the game isn't set up explicitly so you can fight each other, but it does track "friendly" kills if that's what you'd like to do. Either way you'll have fun, if nothing else just heaping cars into a big pile on top of explosives and blowing them sky-high.
The operative word for "Crackdown" is "fun." It's just a really fun game, that gives you a world filled with enemies and objects you can destroy and lets you choose how to go about doing that. There are people out there who will insist on comparing it to GTA, because they see the word "sandbox" and can't imagine any sandbox game that isn't GTA; "Crackdown" is its own game and likely they'll beat it up for not being something completely different. If you play it, though, my bet is that "Crackdown" will win you over, for one reason: it's fun.
Graphics: 9. The cell shading works really well for an over-the-top game like this.
Sound: 8. One of the best things is the on-screen "Voice" that comments on your work and adds his own little pearls of wisdom.
Gameplay: 9. Fun, fun, fun. All fun all the time.
Story: 6. Not much story, but you probably won't miss it.
Replayability: 8. Before finishing the game the first time I was already thinking of new ways to play the opening.
Overall: 9. "Crackdown" is everything that's good about sandbox games: free, fun, and flexible.
Crackdown Xbox 360 Review