Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Game Review: Crackdown 2

The original Crackdown was a splendid open-ended adventure game that soared over initial expectations. The game presented a fabulous world to explore in a beautiful cel-shaded design, along with plenty of fun action. Indeed the game had its fair share of flaws, including limited hand to hand combat, repetitive mission scenarios and broken vehicles. One would have hoped that the developers behind Crackdown 2 would have taken the formula they had and expanded upon it substantially to bring out an even better video game. Unfortunately this is not the case as Crackdown 2 is a stereotypical example of a video game designing safety play in that almost nothing new is attempted, the game is almost completely moulded on the architecture of the predecessor and 3 years later, albeit still fun, it is not as impressive this time round.

Speaking of architecture, those who played the original will notice straight away that Pacific City has not changed at all geographically. Physically on the other hand, the city has been ravaged and destroyed by mutants and enemy soldiers. While it can be very thrilling running past a distinctive land mark from the previous game and seeing how time enveloped it in rust and decay, you can’t help but feel somewhat ripped off in that the map is identical to its predecessor. This time round the same graphical praise cannot be given to Crackdown 2; the game tries to use a dark and gloomy environment to suck you into the world but often leaves little to the imagination. Everything around you is dingy and plain ugly to look at. The cel-shaded look helps keep the games style unique, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Just like the original Crackdown, most of the fun will be had in exploring the city and tracking down the power enhancing orbs. The achievements for finding all 500 in the last game or however many there were I lost count and gave up myself were a staggering success amidst gamers. The same formula is implemented here and will see you climb rooftops, check every nook and cranny and now even give chase to persistent orbs to continue powering up your super hero. It really says something when in an open world action-adventure title where there is so much fighting and gun action, that collecting bright orbs is unfortunately the pinnacle the game has to offer.

Crackdown 2 suffers from some pretty irritating inconsistencies, namely in the areas where you would expect it to be strongest in. Promoting continuous exploration of Pacific City would surely entail that the environments would be a joy to navigate. Well, you will find yourself infuriated at the games inability to register particular ledges, windows and other things you can grab on to. This comes into fruition particularly when you start making your way to the top of the games tallest buildings and losing your grip and proceeding to plummet to the bottom is an utter nightmare. The issue doesn’t happen a lot, so it is not enough to warrant not attempting the more advanced areas of exploration, I’m just saying be warned, take a few deep breaths if it happens, and go for it again.

The original game introduced an incredibly annoying voice in the sky that narrated everything you did, well that same God like figure makes a grand return here. Alongside his awful and inconsistent narration, the opening and ending video reels are about as much story as you’re gonna get in Crackdown 2. You can spend time finding audio logs scattered around the world and they do shed light on the experience somewhat, but I feel that there is so much already to try and find in Pacific City, that another thing to add to the agenda is bothersome and irritating.

So Crackdown 2 will eventually force you to fight some enemies, which come in 2 different variants, the Cell organisation; a bunch of humans looking to destroy your organisation, and the mutant freaks. The developers chose to omit enhancing the fighting mechanics in the series, which is a terrible shame because they were average at best in the original. You gain a vast variety of weaponry that you can use to decimate foes including your fists as well. When you get attacked you go into a ridiculous limp like state that takes an irritating few seconds to recover from but unless you play on the hardest play settings, no amount of enemies should be to hard to despatch. The main issue in Crackdown 2 is the ridiculous repetition in the objectives you tackle, all of which follow a very linear set of patterns, either run to here, clear this strong hold out, race to here etc. There is nothing neither interesting in the missions nor rather challenging for that matter.

The game tries to diverge from this monotonous formula by once again offering you a variety of vehicles, including a few new ones to try out. The original Crackdown really put incentive on the vehicles, regardless of the fact that they just weren’t that much fun to drive. Once again various stunt missions, timed runs and so forth make it worth getting behind the steering wheel, but aggravating issues such as Pacific City’s idiotic populace makes driving around more trouble than its worth.

A big bonus in Crackdown 2 and lord knows it really needed one, is the ability to play the campaign cooperatively over Xbox Live. You and up to 3 other friends can rampage the city or just run around collecting orbs, you get to keep what you find which is a great incentive to hang around in your friends world as it is just plain more fun with buddies around. This is definitely the highlight of the game, when playing with friends all of the games issues seem to dissolve away and it is undeniable that there is an endless amount of fun to be had with friends in Pacific City. Should you chose to tackle the campaign together, or go after the multiplayer specific objectives, or even get involved in the competitive side of the multiplayer, all of it is very entertaining. Lets not forget that pushing a friend off of one of the games highest buildings could cause many giggles and potential in game fights.

I feel that I have put Crackdown 2 in a pretty bad light over the course of this review; to be honest I feel it does deserve it, somewhat. The good thing, no, the great thing about Crackdown 2, is that you get the feeling the developers stepped away and let you create the fun you have, be it through exploration, through cooperative annihilation and so forth. While yes technically the game is poor, the graphics aren’t great, it suffers from monotony, the audio isn’t exactly special etc, but there’s something about Crackdown 2 that is just, fun, yeah, it is addicting and fun. It deserves a go, perhaps I was a little too critical, after all, I’m booting up my copy now.

Technical presentation – 5.0
Graphics – 5.0
Game-play – 8.0
Replay value – 9.0

Final score – 7 / 10

Igor, CeX contributor
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