It’s hard to figure out what causes us to be addicted to certain games. Whether it’s obtaining every single coin in a specific level of Mario or the idea of having your character so maxed out that you can kill people with the flick of your pinky. Whatever magic a developer spins into their game to get you hooked Crackdown has in spades. Never in my lifetime have I laid in bed at night pondering where the next hidden orb could be or just how high I could get a car in the air before it hits the ground.
If you stop and think about it the game itself doesn’t do anything particularly innovative or special to make it stand out from other shooters. At it’s heart the game is a simple sandbox title that focuses on gunplay with a hint of platforming and RPG elements thrown in for good measure. What does make it stand out though is just how much fun it is to play around in Pacific City.
You begin the game with limited abilities and an open world for you to mold the ultimate badass. From the outset you will begin collecting orbs that increase different abilities such as driving, shooting, and everyone’s favorite agility. Each ability has four basic levels that you can upgrade and one final tier that will grant you master status of that power. Upgrading these powers is one of the most addictive endeavors I have ever encountered in a game.
For instance you can upgrade your strength simply by defeating enemies with melee attacks. The stronger you become the larger the objects you can pick up and the further you can hurl them. The progression is perfect, thus not allowing you to lift cars until you reach level three, and once you max it out you really feel a sense of accomplishment not to mention opening up more possibilities inside the massive game world itself.
The core game is comprised of a campaign mode and a plethora of time trials that are basically the boss battles and racing levels. Pacific City is broken down into three sections each containing six different bosses and one kingpin that you can opt to take down in any order. The coolest part about taking down each boss is that you can choose to tackle them in any order you see fit and each one provides the baddies with different advantages that you can eliminate by taking them down.
For example if you target the weapons expert first your enemies will never get upgraded firepower on said island, whereas if you take down the recruiter there will be less enemies to deal with. This adds a nice layer of strategy to taking down each kingpin as you get deeper into the game.
When you begin the game you have the option of going absolutely anywhere your heart desires. Unlike previous games of this type there is no bridge construction keeping you from exploring the entire city. However each island is labeled for a reason and trying to head straight to the Shai-Gen will leave you picking up your dismantled body parts more often than not.
Each city is also structured to your abilities, for example the buildings in Los Muertos are not nearly as tall as those in Shai-Gen to accommodate your agility. The enemies also won’t be carrying explosives on the first island whereas once you reach the depths of Asian town you will run into foes with heat-seeking missile launchers.
While the game is structured to give you free reign it does give you a guideline that best suits your abilities. One of the cooler aspects of each boss fight is that the narrator will give you a probability percentage before each mission depending on your stats. Unfortunately this isn’t dependant on the boss themselves, but yet their henchmen that guard them. You will notice as you progress through the game that each main bosses are all equally easy to kill; it’s the henchmen that surround them that pose the real threat.
Probably the most exciting part about Crackdown though is the added co-op functionality. Real-Time Worlds has listened to the cry from gamers across the globe and implemented a seamless co-op experience similar to Epic’s Gears of War which makes the game almost infinitely replayable. Just like GoW you can hop in and out of your buddy’s game or simply leave your session open for others to join. The cool part is that the game will be based on the host’s save so for instance you have a buddy who just got online with the game and you have a maxed out agent, you can hop into his fresh game and back him up.
With the co-op being so fun and fresh it is sad to see a lack of multi-player, thankfully the open-ended nature of the world leaves this limited only to the player’s imagination. The designers obviously knew that players would use the world to create outlandish games and activities, which is certainly one reason they left a kill counter for co-op’ing agents to keep score. There are also a ton of items scattered throughout this virtual playground to aid in the creation of some outlandish games. Unfortunately the game is limited to two players and one could only imagine the chaos of having four or even eight maxed out agents in one world, but hey that is what sequels are for.
As far as visuals go Crackdown has certainly had its fair share of critics. The simplistic cel-shaded appearance threw off many gamers looking for a bump-mapped next-gen affair in the vein of Gears. However once you indulge in the world of Crackdown you can’t help but appreciate just how gorgeous it really is. The draw distance is unmatched by any other title and the frame rate is extremely smooth considering the amount of stuff going on at once. The highlight of the game visually though has to be the explosions. Watching parts of cars, bodies, and debris fly across the level in a giant cloud of smoke and fire is truly one of the most gorgeous landscapes I have seen on the 360 to date.
While the visuals will wow the audio doesn’t fare as well. The sound effects are incredible, but beyond that you really won’t appreciate much else. Most of the people in Pacific City are mute and the ones that do manage to mutter a word usually spout obscene phrases that make very little sense. The narrator is the highlight and even his comments start to repeat too soon into the game. The licensed music is also disappointing, but at least we always have the option to import our custom soundtracks, of which I highly recommend “Eye of the Tiger” while causing chaos around Pacific City.
I could write a ten page article on why I love Crackdown, but I wanted to keep this review short and sweet. While the game is just a giant mesh of tons of genres it manages to do them all to near perfection. When a game has you thinking about it constantly and talking about it only makes you want to play it more you know you have something special on your hands. Even with a shoddy storyline, a short campaign, and god awful music, this is still one of the best Xbox 360 titles released to date and very easily one of the most fun games I have played in recent memory. Crackdown is probably the most appropriately titled game in history as I am truly addicted.