Crackdown 2 • Page 2


(Of course, this being Crackdown, you can ignore all of this and simply head to the nearest highway to juggle cars, or spend your free time throwing friends off the tops of tall buildings.)

The new missions are smart, if repetitive. Reclaiming strongholds often requires you to take control of a handful of different locations first, meaning the tougher areas of the game can turn into tactical tennis matches as the balance of power shifts back and forth, while the addition of the Freaks leads to nail-biting moments as you protect charging light beacons in subterranean caves while waves of monsters turn up to knock you around.

And although the Freaks do a decent enough job of providing a range of herd-style enemies to take on alongside the smarter, more ballistically-inclined Cell, their main value is as a clever means of easing the game's grind. When dusk falls and the mutants come out to flood the streets, you know you'll always have a ready supply of things to shoot, punch, or drive over in order to boost your skills. New weapons let you take them on in droves, too, with the UV shotgun blasting dozens of them into the sky with a single squeeze of the trigger, while the item-based melee system lets you pick up giant Q-Tips of reinforced concrete with which to cave their heads in.

But it's the game waiting for you after the end credits that provides the most fun. Crackdown 2, like the original, reminds its players that "open world" is a device rather than a genre, and that setting your shooter within a sprawl of real estate is no more a guarantee of fun than buying a ring is a guarantee of getting married.

Absorption towers send out bisecting laser-beams that arc through the sky, meaning that if you lose your way, you generally only have to look up.

Realtime Worlds used its spaces elegantly, as a jungle gym in which to stage the greatest treasure hunt ever conceived as players raced around for those green dots of light. Crackdown 2 stays true to that conceit, and ensures that all of its new quirks tie into that same central mechanic. Whether it's the missions themselves, an expansion of the Orb ecology that throws in Renegade Orbs (modelled on Harry Potter's Golden Snitch) and Live Orbs which can only be collected with online company, or a range of new audio logs to pick up, everything's built around tracking things down and ticking things off.

Along the way, irritations have been purged and ideas have been refined. You can now get a new vehicle air-lifted to you at regular spots throughout the city - meaning you won't have to stomp back to the Agency Tower when you ditch your SUV in the ocean - and new powers and weapon unlocks have been spread out more evenly across the levelling curve of your main skills.

Speaking of which, although I miss the original trio of vehicles that morphed with each level-up, they're replaced with a system that is probably more satisfying, as every rung on the driving skills ladder provides you with an entirely new car to muck about with, ranging from a zippy little buggy to something approaching a tank. Elsewhere, new additions the Wingsuit and the Agency Chopper (both of which may sound like heresy in a game that's all about taking to the skies by stoically picking your way up buildings) earn their respective places in your heart because they're brilliant fun to use, and are given to you late in proceedings when you could do with a nice shot of gimmickry anyway.

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