Sinan Kubba thinks that The Agency needs an overhaul.
Crackdown 2 is the smoking of video games: it epitomizes the moral that just because something is addictive that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Once every enemy is fallen and every orb safely collected, you’ll be left drained of any energy with only a sickly feeling to keep you company.
Back in 2007, Crackdown offered an exciting vertical take on the open world genre, letting players explore a 3D space in a whole new way. During the past three years, several challengers to its crown have stormed the scene, with Saints Row 2’s ridiculous mayhem, Infamous’ empowering combat, Just Cause 2’s expanse, and Gay Tony’s resurrected Grand Theft Auto chaos all moving the genre forward. Not only does Crackdown 2 fall behind these challengers in almost every areas, but it also stands rigidly still. Many will deem it ‘Crackdown 1.5’, but that credits this game too highly. Crackdown 2 is more like a remastering of its predecessor, albeit one bereft of any imagination or spice of variety.
It doesn’t help that Crackdown 2 is set in the overwhelming familiarity of Pacific City. Take away the attractive cel-shaded style, the texture touch-ups, and the cosmetic deformations of certain buildings, and you might think yourself a time traveler. Familiarity doesn’t always have to breed contempt, but overwhelming familiarity often leads to boredom. So when you take on your first enemy and realize that the ham-fisted lock-on shooting has returned, you’re already a little weary.
Many games have made it easy to switch between enemies when auto targeting, so why Crackdown 2 stays fiddly defies belief. When you negotiate homing rocket launcher attacks, you’re usually struggling to lock on the right target while being tossed around the pavement. It’s stupidly frustrating.
Thankfully, you’ll always have one advantage with every mission: you’ll know exactly what to expect, and I cannot emphasize exactly enough without abusing font etiquette. Missions in each of the three main campaigns become a mindless encore, not changing an iota from one performance to the next.
Only the detonating beacons missions – part of Crackdown 2’s premier campaign – show signs of life in their later stages. For the first seven or so, however, you’re defending the same old structure against the same old horde of zombie-like enemies in the same old underground cave. Finally, a screen-filling nasty shows up in the last few waves, followed by an Agency Tower escapade that is actually quite brilliant. It’s just a shame that this is the only ray of sunshine in a sky dominated by pastes of the same old cloud.
Repetitive missions was a criticism of the first Crackdown, but an easily forgivable one for two reasons. The first, simply, was that game’s novelty. The second was how the missions employed a variety of structures for players to navigate. Crackdown 2 can offer neither in its defense. It is needlessly repetitive, and this repetition only further enforces the familiarity and inevitable contempt.
There’s an argument that Crackdown was more of a make-your-own-fun game, and so the lazy mission structure in Crackdown 2 should be ignored. Would we give the same concessions to multifaceted beasts like GTA IV and Infamous? Should we forgive Crackdown 2‘s backwards and unimaginative mission structure just because it offers some new weapons, a few interesting power-ups here and there, and the usual crowd of addictive glowies? The missions are so systematic that completing Crackdown 2 almost becomes a mindlessly enjoyable grind filled with destruction and carnage. Almost.
To Crackdown 2’s credit, the game never leaves you short of something to do. It is a completist’s paradise, even more so than the original. Now there are skill jumps, sky dives, audio logs, and all kinds of orb to hunt, including the dastardly new Renegade orbs that speed way from you like you smell of dead fish. Unfortunately, all of these things to do and find are just as repetitive as the missions.
Collecting agility orbs is as addictive as it ever was. There’s always a green beacon in sight and in reach, nudging you gently into that just-one-more mentality. The way the agility and hidden orbs tie into beefing up your cloned behemoth remains a benchmark for collectibles in games.
Similarly, Crackdown is still king when it comes to Xbox 360 Achievements. The cheesy machismo of the Voice of the Agency is the best thing about Crackdown 2. This time around, he proudly notes each of your Achievements, making them all that much sweeter. I all but wet myself when he, much like a frat boy high-fiving you in the dressing room, simply let rip with “Achievement!” My pants were in similar danger when I finally collected my 500th orb – it was almost worth it just for his booming praise.
But the overwhelming feeling I gained from that orb and the 499 before it was one of disappointment. Not that it was over, not that it wasn’t challenging, but that it, like the rest of the game, did not feel any different to what I had done before. Crackdown 2 could’ve been so different, so much more.
Yes, having the Xbox Live friends leaderboard for races is a clever addition. So is the carry-over for orbs when playing in co-op mode. The Live orbs provide some additional worth to co-op. Nonetheless, these are just tweaks to an existing formula. They’re not the meat one expects of a sequel.
The same location, the same play, the same fiddly mechanics, and an almost endlessly repetitive mission structure make Crackdown 2 feel like a shoddy remastering, albeit one that fails to address one or two crucial flaws in the first game. But if you enjoyed Crackdown, chances are that Crackdown 2 will suck you in with its similarly addictive play. While you may find yourself unable to put it down, Crackdown 2 will never feel special like its predecessor, not even close. It will feel more like a filthy habit; one that you’re compelled to play through but one you know you shouldn’t. If there’s an iota of doubt, than consider this review your metaphorical support group: maybe you should quit while you’ve still got the chance.
|Our Rating for Crackdown 2|
Crackdown hasn’t suddenly become bad game – but three years on and the lack of evolution and imagination has hurt its sequel badly.