Ah yes, Crackdown, the game everyone knows about if only because it comes with a Halo 3 beta pass. After having failed to qualify in the other two phases, Halo fans were left with no choice but to buy Crackdown if they wanted to sample the third in the series before most. Crafty marketing for a substandard product or an added bonus to an already solid game?
Well, Crackdown is definitely not a substandard game. The genre that probably comes closest is sandbox, there is a decent sized map called Pacific City comprised of three main islands and, in the middle, the Agency HQ and while everywhere is open to you, you’re advised to stay on one island until you get a bit more talented. I suppose I should explain the somewhat brief plot at this point, you play an unnamed, supercop who was created in a lab by an insane scientist and you have been enlisted by the law enforcing Agency to bring the three warring gangs, each in control of one island, under control and create peace in the metropolis. The three gangs are Los Muertos, the Volk, and Shai Gen and are designed to be confronted in that order. Each gang has seven bosses including a kingpin and the idea is to diminish the strength of the gang by taking out the foundation members before moving to the kingpin and eradicating the whole gang, while you’re allowed to go to any area of the map from the off you’re warned to stay out of the Volk and Shai Gen areas until you become more experienced.
You begin as a rookie superhuman cop with basic points in five attributes namely Agility, Driving, Explosives, Strength and Firearms. Whenever you use one of these skills, usually to kill an enemy, they increase, eventually leading to you getting a little star next to it, signifying you’ve gone up a level in that skill. You start by being slightly above human standards being able to jump about ten feet in the air, drive cars, grenades cause standard damage, you can pick up small items and you know which end of a gun is the dangerous one. As time goes by your skills will increase and you’ll eventually become a killing machine raining death from 30 metres above.
So what are the graphics like? Well to be honest at first I didn’t like them but after half an hour of playing I began to see the charm and now I can see that they’re extremely good. At first glance they appear to be cell shaded but to say that is doing them an injustice, any water glistens and reflects the sunlight, patches of metal shine and… well, reflect again. The sky at dawn is spectacular and the draw distance when you’re at the highest point in the game is intimidating. Then of course we have the explosions which work up to being nigh on nuclear and definitely look the part with plumes of smoke and fire.
The sound is, adequate. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it but it doesn’t do anything amazing either. There are many, many songs which can be listened to while in one of the Agency cars (I’ll get to it) but none are particularly memorable, the ambient sounds while running around the streets are nice and while there are no complaints the sound is just ‘there’.
Now onto the meat of it, the gameplay. To start it plays much like you’d expect a third person sandbox game to play but as your skills increase so does the gap between other games. You can literally treat the sprawling cities as your playgrounds with a full agility, explosions can reach spectacular proportions and it’s always fun to tear around killing gang members. The shooting suffers from some of the same problems as the GTA aiming system, you sometimes find yourself striking the ledge directly in front of you rather than firing your gun and you don’t always target the nearest threat, instead choosing to go for the harmless passing car down the street. It does, however, improve on GTA aiming somewhat by introducing a fine tuning mechanism allowing you to target the legs, torso, head or either arm which is a nice addition.
Overall I’d say Crackdown is worthy of a purchase, and not just because it comes with a Halo 3 beta pass. It’s a fun shooter but if you play from start to finish going after the gang bosses you won’t get your money’s worth, this game was intended to be played aimlessly, wandering the game world randomly killing and completing tasks for achievements or just for the hell of it.