Round and round.
Orbs, orbs, orbs, orbs, orbs. They're all I see lately. In my dreams. When I'm awake. I can't stop listening to Roy Orbison and Orbital. I've watched the Sphere about a thousand times now. All I've been eating is pancakes and Cheerios. It's getting pretty bad. Anyone with any sort of hint of OCD who has played the first Crackdown knows what I'm talking about. So to those people, please prepare for more sleepless nights of leaping from rooftop to rooftop in a meticulous frenzy, because Crackdown 2 is awesome.
[image1]There are a number of improvements made over the first Crackdown. Mostly in the depth of gameplay. Co-op games have been upgraded from two players to four; more vehicles have been added; renegade orbs, which actively run away from you, have been added to further drive you into the depths of insanity; and the graphics have gotten a facelift.
The addition of the zombie-esque “Freaks”, who roam the streets at night and lurk in dark tunnels during daytime give you more incentive to get behind the wheel as you can mow down hordes of them, a la Frank West style in Dead Rising. Or, you know, just shoot them or blow them up. There's even an allusion to Left 4 Dead with a similar variety of Freaks. But just labeling them as undead rip-offs in a slowly dying trend seems unfair as some of the Freak fights tend to get more epic than just shooting wave after wave until you get to a safe house, and they can get a lot bigger than your average zombie too.
Missions follow a simple "lather, rinse, repeat" format. Once again, there are a lot of enemy strongholds to take out, though there are now missions that have you playing a defensive role, like in the Freak lairs where you must protect UV bombs until they're ready to blow. Yes, you'll be doing the same thing over and over again, except that the ante eventually ramps up from automatic-weapon shoot-outs to holy shit everything is exploding and burning corpses are flying through the air.
[image2]But it's not like the original was anything more than that. In fact, it's where most of the game's charm comes from. Mindless action mixed with an almost endless hunt for collectables is basic, but that's not synonymous with bad. The plot can be ancillary to the fun; otherwise, there wouldn't be grown men getting into it over their Donkey Kong high scores.
Not everything in this simple world is perfect, though. While graphics have been upgraded and much more color has been added and the water effects look much, much better, it's still a very bland world. Some places lack serious polish, such as cliff textures that still have their polygonal forms protruding instead of looking smooth and natural. And in a world so vast, being able to place checkpoint markers on your HUD map seems like an obvious addition but is nowhere to be found. The addition of the glider suit that you unlock towards the endgame seems pointless, especially since there are helicopters as well and the suit is very difficult to control. Stunt-ring side-missions add a bit of replay value, but not much.
Arena multiplayer is just as simple as the story mode, and consists of only Deathmatch (solo and team) and a unique mode called Rocket Tag, which plays exactly like it sounds. Rocket Tag combat is fast-paced and frantic as you would expect, but it's pretty much over once someone gets a hold of a chopper and starts unloading missiles everywhere. The lack of alternate game modes is disappointing, too. Capture the flag would be ridiculous fun with Crackdown 2's style of gameplay, as would a Conquest mode of some sort. But they're both MIA.
Fortunately, there's enough in story mode to keep you and three friends entertained for quite some time. And there's plenty to do before or after you complete the actual plot. Even though Crackdown 2 feels more like Crackdown 1.5 than a true sequel, there is enough here and enough that has been improved that you will enjoy it just as much as the original, if not even more. And there's always the hope (if not a certainty) that more will be added later via DLC, much like with the first one. But for now, wash your hands five times, make sure the stove is still off, check all the locks in the house three times, and get to some orb collecting.