Crackdown ReviewCain Dornan
With the inclusion of a free entry into the Halo 3 online multiplayer BETA, many sceptics instantly labelled Crackdown as little more than a poor GTA clone; a game that relies on the promise of a freebie in order to shift a few copies. Its understandable, after all, as glancing at screenshots and reading through some initial impressions of the game can leave plenty to be desired. While the game offers a fairly artistic combination of realistic and crayon-like arty visuals, many were concerned with whether Crackdown could deliver a refreshing gaming experience as promised.
No, we werent expecting the game to completely revolutionise the free-roaming action genre, and as expected, it doesnt. What we did hope for was a game that offered all the free, no-holds-barred violence that the infamous GTA franchise offered mixed with plenty of interesting, over-the-top and original gameplay ideas that made it fun to play. We didnt want to play a game that we felt as though weve played ten times over in the past; we wanted a new experience, a new way to spend that relaxing weekend as we play a straightforward yet enjoyable action experience.
Surprisingly, developer Real Time Worlds has delivered. To be honest, we werent expecting much from Crackdown. Weve played plenty of games beforehand that promised to completely change the free-roaming action genre before, ala Activisions True Crime, Eidos Just Cause and THQs Saints Row, but very few have managed to deliver in their initial grand plans and promises.
Crackdown does although only to a certain extent. Its great fun to play, adds some subtle RPG levelling-up features and makes urban gameplay interesting by throwing in plenty of over-the-top moves that True Crime or Saints Row could only dream of. Its far from perfect, and is still restricted to many of the genres traditions. Some may also be disappointed with fairly scant and uncreative storyline, which simply sends you on a goose chase around three different areas of a city as you hunt down gang leaders. Although a tried and proven formula, its a tad bit disappointing that more variety and creativity hasnt been included in the storyline.
Instead of controlling the usual gangster or renegade cop, you take the helm of genetically engineered super agent capable of throwing objects three times over his own weight, jump hundreds of meters into the air and run faster than a cheetah. If you die, youre instantly regenerated into one of the many regeneration points situated throughout the city, allowing you to simply run or jump back to your previous location and continue the battle from where you last left it. Its a fairly smooth moving game, allowing you to remain in-the-loop no matter how many times you die and never have to re-attempt missions from the very start.
Given that, the missions arent difficult and lack variation. While different difficulty levels are available, theres no real challenge or variation to require much effort with each mission. Your entire mission structure consists of locating a gang leader, plowing through the hoards of bodyguards that are easily disposed, and then finally taking the 30-second battle against the gang leader who differs little from the typical thugs, apart from some added bars of health to deplete and a handful of cheesy insults that are thrown at you. While it is good fun to blast away hordes of enemies without having to worry about tactics, some may tire quickly of the repetitious gameplay at hand. Those looking for variation in the gameplay will be sadly disappointed with the games missions.
If you tire of doing the missions alone, you can hook up with a friend or a random person from across the globe to complete the missions in a co-op environment. The multiplayer co-op integration is combined seamlessly, with players capable of joining together midway through a game. Having an extra player to help offers a more refreshing experience with the added help available, allowing different missions and circumstances to be approached differently. Although some constant lag was experienced during our playtest, which did prove to be slightly annoying during the more action-filled sequences (such as during a firefight or whilst driving), the multiplayer co-op play over Xbox Live is a welcomed and worthwhile addition.
The more interesting elements of Crackdown thats unseen in other similar titles is its basic RPG elements, which sees your character taking on the attributes of Agility, Strength, Driving skill, Explosion knowledge and Weapon skills, each of which can be improved by retrieving items scattered throughout the city or by actually performing the activity. Killing an enemy using a gun, for example, will increase your weapon skill, while killing them using a punch or kick will improve your strength. Increasing your driving skill will not only improve your characters ability to drive, but also offers enhanced vehicles to choose from. The higher the level of each of your attributes are, the better your character is at performing them. When your agility improves, for example, youre able to jump at greater heights and distances; improving your Weapon skills will improve your accuracy with guns. Its a nice touch that offers something to do apart from progressing through the games storyline, as improving your skill in different areas will make future missions easier and also rewards you in the form of Achievement Points.
Crackdowns visual flair offers a refreshing touch to the genre, deciding to move away from the drab realistic visuals through to a more artistic, vibrantly coloured world that appears to have been designed using a bunch of colourful crayons. At the same time, it manages to mix in some more realistic designs that prevent the game from looking too kiddy. As a result, the game looks unique, refreshing and attractive, helping to keep it away from being quickly dismissed as another try-hard GTA clone.
Theres a fair variety of music on offer, with different vehicles and situations offering a different style of music. There doesnt appear to be too many big-name tracks on offer, which can be somewhat disappointing, but whats there is certainly not of poor quality.
Crackdown surprised me. From the day it was announced, I didnt expect much from the game. Add to this Microsoft Game Studios decision to bundle a free entry into the Halo 3 multiplayer BETA, and my hopes for a refreshing action title was virtually non-existent. Why else was Microsoft bundling a demo to an eagerly awaited game with Crackdown? It sounded kind of fishy, as if it was Microsofts last desperate attempt to shift copies from retail shelves.
The truth is, if youre a fan of the free-roaming gangster action genre, Crackdown is easily worth a look even without the Halo 3 demo. Its far from perfect, and doesnt offer enough variation and unique attributes for some gamers to truly enjoy. What it does is add a slightly refreshing touch to a tried and true formula, one that makes it enjoyable to play from start to finish. Just dont be expecting anything too revolutionary.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.