Posted – 2.11.2008
Crackdown isn’t so much of a crime drama than it is a superhero action simulator with RPG stats to give players even more to toy with as they jump from rooftop to rooftop, kick cars out of their way, and throw trucks as they deliver a beatdown to the scum of society. Taking a page from RPGs such as Dungeon Siege or even a JRPG such as one of Namco’s “Tales”, the more you use a skill, the better your character gets. Drum your fists against enough bad guys, and your strength will improve. Ride like a country boy from Hazzard County, and you’re ability to handle four wheels on the road will improve along with the look of your ride. Improving your firearms skill allows you to focus in on foes even faster, allowing you to nail your shots with deadly precision. Even your character will improve their look depending on which face you decide to wear at the start.
There’s not much of a story, per se, as there is a list of targets that you can take out. As a genetically enhanced Agent, you’re Pacific City’s final hope as the Agency Director guides you through each mission profile, delivering the kind of colorful commentary that should be at home in a comic book. Accidentally run over a few civilians, and he’ll say something about it. Do well in frying your foes with rockets, and you can count on him being your number one fan, adding just enough humor to the title where there isn’t much of a narrative to follow other than in letting you do what you want. The comic styled cell shading that paints every character and building in the game adds to the impression that this was pulled straight from the pulp frames of your favorite superhero strip.
You’ll even be able to collect weapons and store them in handy Agency safehouses scattered throughout the city, as long as you’ve freed enough of these to make things easier on your travel plans. Pacific City is a huge place, not only because of the winding highways and roads that sprawling between everything, but of how it tackles the vertical climb to the top by making the most of jumping around like the Hulk. Most everything that you can see can be climbed given enough jumping agility allowing you to eventually grab an achievement for climbing the skyscraping majesty of the Agency Tower. There’s plenty to see on the rooftops of Pacific City and your enemies will also be making the most of wherever they happen to be.
As an Agency soldier, you don’t have to worry about the little things that would get most other police officers in other titles in trouble. Things like “collateral damage” or “public displays of violence” are a way of life in Pacific City, although the police might take it upon themselves to try and put you down if you get too unruly. But as far as being disavowed, the Agency needs you more than it needs headlines…just as long as you keep doing what you are supposed to be doing. The controls make things easy to manage and getting used to shooting, running, punching, throwing, and even driving will come naturally to anyone that is used to action games in general.
Criminal scum is divided into three major crime cartels that have each taken a piece of Pacific City’s underground pie. The Soviet-styled Volk hold the industrial sector, Los Muertos dominate in the west in what used to be the residential area, and the enigmatic Shai-Gen corporation controls the upscale area to the northeast. Dismantling each of these organizations starts by taking out key members in order to pave the way towards how much firepower you may have to face when you decide to tackle the kingpin. A dossier is supplied for each target and you are free to engage each one as you find them, or if you’re feeling particularly dangerous, head straight to the top of the chain. The boss fights aren’t anything that spectacular as the lieutenants and even the crimelords themselves are nothing more than glorified thugs with a fancy background, but there is a certain level of satisfaction in running up to them and either hitting them up with an overdose of lead or allowing your fists to tenderize them instead.
There is also a lot of little extras found throughout Crackdown’s expansive cityscape ranging from agility orbs that can improve your statistics, hidden orbs that give you bonuses across your abilities, or special events such as rooftop races that you can run through for additional fun as well as improve your Agent. You can also race whatever your ride happens to be at the moment, or engage in a little personal exploration and discover just how high you can go or how far you can fall. Another player can also join you for some co-op as you both try to rid the city of its criminal elements as long as you don’t try and kill each other instead. Fortunately, thanks to future cloning techniques, death doesn’t mean much other than an inconvenient delay in your quest for great justice.
Free downloadable content allows you to collect cars and pick a new face to play as whenever you start the game up, or continue from where you last left off, and plenty of achievements in the game covering such things as keeping a body in the air for so long, jumping from the top of the Agency Tower, or maxxing out your skills deliver even more self made challenges that you can try for as you head into Pacific City’s sandbox of chaos. New content also allows you to resurrect each of the criminal empires that you’ve taken out and head back in, stats intact, to really see how quickly you can clean everything back up. There’s even a “boss rush” mode that you can play with, timing you on how quickly you can take out your target, so be sure to scan over Marketplace for the latest add-ons to the game before starting.
As fun as Crackdown is, it isn’t without its faults. Certain skills are a lot easier to level up quickly than others and the balance of fun in between them is not as consistent. Driving around Pacific City is not nearly as fun as it could have been, although it’s handy in getting from one place to the next if you haven’t activated a safehouse in the area that you want to get to. Much of the action is still exciting stuff and it delivers the sense of being a superpowered agent of change with plenty of firepower to spare, but once you’ve capped the last bad guy and have seen the ending, there’s really not much else to do.
Despite how vast and detailed the city is, it feels a lot more like a titanic jungle gym with bad guys thrown in to make it more interesting. As cool as some of the buildings appear, you really can’t go in many of these unless they happen to be the lair of a key target, leaving much of what you’ll see as giant textured office blocks that are good for only getting in your way or in challenging you to reach the rooftop where a surprise might be waiting. It also would have been nice to be able to go in and further customize your Agent outside of the face that you are going to be wearing. Crackdown’s open ended nature pretty much guarantees just how long the game might actually last. Players that want to hit all of the targets without regard to leveling up their skills too far or taking part in any of the title’s optional challenges can finish the game over a weekend which can make it seem like a really short adventure.
But going in as a human-sized Godzilla of justice has plenty going for it, delivering a fistful of depleted uranium with the kind of over-the-top approach to its explosive action that Bruckheimer might envy. Crackdown’s no-holds barred approach to crimebusting would be the kind of game that Dirty Harry might have enjoyed if he was turned into a genetic superman as you deliver a death wish to the criminal masterminds that have no idea of what to expect. It’s a fun, arcade-style bash ’em up that cuts you loose to stamp your own version of justice on a city that needs it, so if you want to clean up the future as only Mayor Haggar could have, you might want to sign on for the Crackdown.
– World 1-1