The Freaks Come Out at Night: Crackdown 2 Review

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Crackdown 2
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ruffian Games
Systems it’s available on: Xbox 360
ESRB rating: T for Teen
System reviewed on: Xbox 360

Pacific City’s really gone to hell. It was just a few years ago that legions of players assumed the roles of genetically-grown crimefighting Agents deployed to take out the gangs who ruled the city.  Crackdown fused a robust third-person shooter with platforming elements and tied everything together with an addictive upgrade system. That system had players collecting orbs all over the city, jumping and climbing all over the architecture. Grabbing orbs and engaging in constant combat would let you grow your Agent into a superman, making him insanely strong, accurate with firearms or deadly with explosives. This formula made the Xbox-exclusive Crackdown into a cult hit with a recognizable look and feel.

Of course, with that much power policing it, Pacific City’s crime problem got eradicated and the Agency shifted its focus elsewhere. In the ten years between Crackdown 1 and 2, things have gone really downhill.  An anarchist organization called the Cell has been trying to protect the city from the Freaks, mutated citizens who live underground and terrorize ordinary citizens when dusk comes. Into all of this turmoil returns the Agency, with a new crop of Agents and Project Sunburst, a plan to eradicate the Freaks with a weaponized solar power network. (For more background on Crackdown 2, check out my hands-on from a few months back.)

The Agents in Crackdown were working solo, but Crackdown 2 offers co-operative play. And if you’re a real orb-aholic, then you’ll want to grab a friend to pick up those orbs that are available only during Xbox Live play. It’s a nod to the social gaming of games like Farmville, where you need friends to help you acquire assets. I suspect we’re going to see more of this kind of thing in console games. To its credit, joining up to co-op play is dead simple and doesn’t break the flow of your single-player experience.

Crackdown 2’s two-tiered regenerative health system–shield and health–resembles that of Halo. There’s no cover mechanic in the game and it feels weird at first but you’ll get used to the run-and-gun style of play after a few hours. The look of the game differs a little from Crackdown the first; it’s still cel-shaded, but now it seems that there’s a layer of grit laid over it. I wish Pacific City had a bit more personality to it, though. Sure, the NPCs offer up a chattering commentary on what’s happening but it feels cookie-cutter.

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