Crackdown Reader Review
Someone once said that "fun" was the holy grail of video games. Or at least I think they did. Regardless, they were surely right. All you need to know in that case is that Crackdown IS the Holy Grail of video games. "Fun" and Crackdown are synonymous. I honestly can't remember ever having so much sustained fun with a game.
The best analogy I can come up with to hint at the greatness of this game is to say that, for me, playing Crackdown is like being 8 years old again. 8 years old and with every single toy I ever wanted. And not the Taiwanese plastic reality of the toys either - oh no, these toys are how they looked in the adverts on TV and in Mum's catalogue. How I hoped they would be in my fertile imagination. These are toys on steroids, made real and thrown together into an imaginary world where anything is possible. Crackdown is me as an adult visiting my childhood heaven. Pure joy.
Having said all of that it isn't necessarily for everyone. If you like your gaming on rails, if you like pure linearity, if you like being led by the hand through set-piece after set-piece then you'll possibly flounder on the rocks of gaming freedom because one thing Crackdown isn't going to do is tell you how to have fun. It gives you hints and gentle prods in the right direction but this is a game where you can turn around and say "@@@@ OFF! I'll play how I want to play" and the game will calmly say "Sure - you're the boss".
The back plot of Crackdown is that you're a genetically engineered super cop tasked with ridding Pacific City of 3 crime bosses and their numerous generals. Each of the generals has a role in their over-lord's empire. Some are weapons experts, others vehicle specialists and some, like our own prime-minister, are simply super slimy scheming spin masters who exert mind-control over the masses. There are numerous other examples but you get the idea. These generals act as foundations below the kingpins and each one you take out weakens the kingpin. Topple the vehicle specialist and the gang's vehicle expertise tails off. Hoist the weapons guru on a petard of his own making and the gang's weapons expertise drops off. Rid the city of the bosses and peace will prevail... or will it?
If you want to, you can just wade on into the kingpin's stronghold and take him out without worrying about the generals. Or just ignore them all completely and concentrate on increasing your agent's RPG-lite skills - divided amongst Agility, Strength, Driving, Explosives and Firearms. Each of these skills increases as you use them, gradually levelling up your agent until he is some kind of obscene offspring of The Incredible Hulk and Robocop. The great thing is, there is no real grind to do this. If you like driving for example you can embark upon various races around the city, or jumping through a selection of stunt rings or simply mowing down gang-members in the car of your choice. Do this and your driving stats increase � improving your driving skills and leaving more routes open to you. Similarly with explosives, roam the city attaching limpet mines to gang cars or firing rockets into groups of gang members hunting you down and your explosives skills increase - again opening up more explosive possibilities as you progress. You can see the pattern; do the things you enjoy and you get better at them - making them all the more enjoyable. Like all great ideas, simple and effective.
So... open plot... open character development... what else? How about great physics? This is definitely the most impressive use of a physics engine (Havok in this case) I've seen so far in a game. I don't mean "realistic" BTW - this is realism super-hero style. Hollywood-esque explosions, comic book physical strength and Burnout style driving. Pick up a stack of iron pipes conveniently found on the top of a 50 storey building and throw them at a car below and then watch them wreck the car, kill the occupants and then bounce merrily down the road causing chaos as they go. Drive the Agency Supercar down the highway at 200mph and watch it flip buses and trucks into the air like shopping trolleys at Sainsburys. Stand on a parapet above a bend on the highway and shoot out the tyres of cars (with the excellent lock on targeting system) and watch them lose control, roll and drop into the sea below. It�s just a huge playground for you to have fun in and for unscripted hilarity to ensue. Sometimes you�re just roaming around and you see and hear stuff happening that just makes you laugh out loud at its unpredictability.
Speaking of roaming around, Pacific city is huge AND very heavily populated. Within a few hundred metres you�ll see literally hundreds of people and cars and during the daytime it's literally teeming with civilians as well as gang members. When analysed closely the AI isn�t spectacular but that�s completely irrelevant because you�re having too much fun to notice � what you do notice is that the sheer volume of �ambient AI� gives a great sense of a living city and not your typical sterile gaming environment. Returning to the question of size, some will no doubt argue that the city is smaller than certain deliberately un-named distant cousins but they�re missing a crucial detail. Crackdown is huge vertically as well as horizontally and you�re not just restricted to specific limited vertical corridors, you can literally scale any building and go more or less where you like - in fact, you are positively encouraged to do so. When you do explore, you notice there is a lot of detail too, not just simple rooftops � gangways, corridors, balconies, tunnels and towers are all present and correct. Granted, there are few buildings you can actually enter but that ability would detract from the overall experience in my opinion; indoor arenas are infrequent but interesting when you do encounter them. Exploration is of course entirely optional but encouraged (in every direction) by the placement of hidden orbs, 300 in total, which if collected nets you an achievement and some gamerpoints.
Achievements are something that I believe Crackdown has done better than any 360 game so far, integrating freeform gameplay and a core platform requirement / feature in a way which encourages you to explore and pursue various activities. For the most part they are essentially missions, puzzles and mini-games. These are not lazy �played 1000 online matches� or �played for 100 hours�, these are �puzzles� that encourage you to experiment in the game. For example �Hazardous Hangtime� specifies you have to make a jump in a car which lasts for 6 seconds or more. There�s no single way of doing this, just use your imagination to �solve� the problem as you see fit and have fun in the process.
One point I feel I must address from other reviews I�ve read is longevity and difficulty. People have said the game is too easy and too short. If you�re a seasoned gamer and play the game on the default difficulty level (�Tough�), then you�ll breeze through it without a doubt. Do that though and you�ll be cheating yourself � if you can breeze through this game on �Ruthless� or (my own choice) �Psychotic� then you�re doing well. I�ve probably put in somewhere in the region of 20-25 hours on psychotic and I�m probably only halfway through the city cleansing exercise. Some of that is simply because I�m pursuing achievements or simply having fun and have no desire to �finish� the game but IMO it is plenty hard enough on psychotic and I�ve easily had my money�s worth in any case. I�ve seen my kids �finish� the game in about 15-20 hours on �Tough� which is perfect for them IMO. You might think letting kids play an "M for Mature" title is somewhat irresponsible, but to my mind there is no harm in an older �minor� playing Crackdown. Yes there is violence but it isn�t that in-your-face-criminal-smashing-heads-with-a-baseball-bat violence and nor is it littered with constant swearing. YMMV of course depending on your sensibilities and sensitivities but personally I�m happy for my kids to play this for the fun it provides. For comparison, I wouldn�t let them play San Andreas for example.
There�s so much to say about Crackdown that I feel like I could write pages and pages about it and all its details but that would waste time I could be spending playing the game! I�ve barely mentioned the amazing chain explosions that are possible, the vehicle dynamics, rooftop races, stunt rings, draw distance� the list goes on. Then there�s co-op play over Xbox Live, potential downloadable content and more. However, the purpose of this review is to simply give you a taste of what this game is about, to try and communicate some of the enthusiasm I have for it and encourage you to simply go out and buy it. There are so many so-so sequels, soulless remakes and plain unimaginative games out there that gems like this really need to be raised on a pedestal and bathed in the spotlight so that Joe Public at least has a chance to wake up to the fun they COULD be having. Do a search on YouTube for crackdown videos and you�ll start to get a feel for the possibilities that Crackdown gives you. Read the forum threads here on EG. BUY THIS GAME.
10 / 10