May 25, 2007
The Million-Dollar Man Simulator
Realtime Worlds / 360 / Mature
When we were first introduced to Crackdown the premise seemed to be a no-miss hit. “superpowers? an open-ended city? plenty of people to kill? Great! where can we sign up?” But, then we heard that a Halo 3 beta invite would come with every copy in the first shipment of Crackdown and expectations took a dramatic shift into “bomb” territory. The answer, as usual, is somewhere in between. Crackdown may not be a really great game, but it’s not a Halo 3 beta invite with a free game either.
In Crackdown you are an unnamed agent, the pride of a high-tech police force known as “The Agency” who has been engineered with upgradeable, super-human abilities and tasked with taking partly beautiful Pacific City back from three vicious gangs packed to bursting with ethnic stereotypes, and a limitless number of flunkies for you to kill. Each gang controls one third of the island city’s area and as you progress through them the gang soldiers become more deadly and your job gets harder.
Removing the gangs is a matter of taking out key gang generals one by one until the kingpin is weak enough to take out. All of these are accomplished via infiltration missions, which, thanks to the game’s free roaming nature, can be approached any way you can think. Be warned though, these bosses are not easy and it’s worth the time to upgrade before taking them on.
There are 5 basic abilities: agility, strength, driving, explosives, and firearms. All are upgraded by killing gang members with a certain method (i.e. grenades for explosives, melee attacks for strength) with the exception of agility, which requires you to collect agility orbs distributed throughout the city’s skyline.
This is where the issues start to come in, the driving skill is near impossible and incredibly frustrating to upgrade. There are three ways to do this: running down gang members while trying to dodge innocent pedestrians (which would negate the points you gain) in a car that you can barely control until you upgrade, races which are impossible to win until you beat the game and can turn off the gangs who’ll shred your car before you can clear 5 checkpoints, and stunt jumps which almost universally require the use of hard-to-find ramp trucks that you must precisely place and hope aren’t moved while you fetch a suitably fast car to jump them while still dodging pedestrians and gunfire. It doesn’t help that you inexplicably can’t shoot from your car despite such a feature being an integral part of every similar game since 2001.
This frustration is often worsened by the presence of your agency contact who is constantly in your ear making repetitive comments and suggestions which are more annoying than helpful once you’ve gotten hold of the game, It’s like being possessed by a Robert Stack sound-alike with short term memory issues.
Beyond the frustrations the game suffers from the fact that the single player game isn’t very long, the story is paper-thin and the action is nonstop and repetitive. Plus the multiplayer opportunities were squandered on a simple and pointless co-op retread and an online interface that makes no sense.
All that being said, it’s impossible to deny that the game is fun, but it simply isn’t very deep or original. The nonstop action gets old too fast and this stuff has all been done before in some form or another.
I know it’s hard to make a game of this type that can escape the shadow of a certain other franchise named for a felony that I won’t name here, but Crackdown, while fun for a handful of hours, simply isn’t any more than that.
By Zack Rovinsky