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Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360) review

"Itís easy for a fan of the original to complain about the rehashed content, which includes the same city, many of the same objectives, and a cornucopia of collectibles. But what if youíre in the group of gamers who didnít like the original and were hoping for something more? In that case, you are doubly screwed."

Iíve always wondered what would happen if the developers of Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto decided to team up for a new game. While a project of this magnitude could take many different forms, my vision Ė or rather, my dream Ė has always been the same. I think of how much fun it would be to steal cars and cruise through zombie-filled city streets. I think about the battles and how chaotic they would be in a world without boundaries.

Crackdown 2 was very close to fulfilling that dream. Set in a massive, open-ended environment, this sequel is packed with futuristic vehicles, enormous skyscrapers, creepy back alleys, and danger around every corner. The game may not have been developed by Capcom, but the survival/horror inspiration is clear. Zombies have taken over the world and in the Agencyís journey to reclaim lost territory, repair damaged beacons, and collect an endless list of items, players will have to kill a ton of them.

This could have made for one of the most exciting games of the year. But after struggling to climb to the top of tall buildings, after crashing vehicles that handle poorly, and after finding that every objective is the same as the last, the experience of playing Crackdown 2 doesnít remind me of any of the games that inspired its creation. While the zombies are more I Am Legend than Resident Evil, the gameplay is more Banjo-Kazooie than Grand Theft Auto.

Those of you who have played through the original Crackdown wonít be surprised by anything that this sequel has to offer. The multiplayer content hasnít advanced much since 2007, but itís still the best part of the experience. Up to four players can enter the co-op mode, while 16 can play deathmatch, team deathmatch and Rocket Tag. Deathmatch battles are by far the most exciting feature; almost every skirmish seems to be littered with players who use their skills to hide on rooftops and pick off opponents from afar. When coupled with the ground warriors (those who fire constantly while roaming the streets) and vehicular combatants (those who seek shelter Ė and an attack advantage Ė by using vehicles), the online battles are very challenging.

Rocket Tag, on the other hand, is a fierce hold-the-item game where one player is given a point-increasing orb and the rest are given rocket launchers with unlimited ammo. The goal is to shoot the orb carrier, steal the orb and hold onto it for as long as possible. This mode isnít as exciting as deathmatch or team deathmatch, but itís good enough to keep you hooked for a few rounds.

However, just like the first game, Crackdown 2ís entertainment value Ė whether online or solo Ė is limited by the ridiculous level design. Itís easy for a fan of the original to complain about the rehashed content, which includes the same city, many of the same objectives, and a cornucopia of collectibles. But what if youíre in the group of gamers who didnít like the original and were hoping for something more? In that case, you are doubly screwed.

Crackdown 2 expands on its absurd gameplay premise by forcing the player to collect more orbs than ever before. In fact, there are more orbs in this game than the number of stars and shines in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy combined!

This could have led to some excellent gameplay features, but the architecture is awful Ė visually and physically. I cringed whenever I came to a large structure; not because I couldnít admire its scope and size (which is respectable from a development standpoint) but because I hated the thought of climbing it. Your homegrown, story-free Agency soldier can earn the strength to jump higher and run faster, both of which make it easier to reach the top of a building or a bridge. But first you must go through the trouble of climbing several structures without those abilities. Itís like playing a Spider-Man game and being forced to collect your abilities by controlling a powerless Peter Parker.

Climbing is no picnic in this game. While Just Cause 2 gave players a grappling hook, Crackdown 2 doesnít offer any climbing aids. Thatís only half the problem. You could spend a good 5 or 10 minutes searching for the appropriate ledge or platform to climb. Worse yet, itís not always clear which ledges are real and which ones are merely in the game for visual purposes. Consequently, youíll fall frequently, scream constantly, and often wonder what the developers were thinking.

The missions arenít anything to write home about, either. They consist of a series of objectives (ex: kill every zombie in a particular location) and mini-games (ex: hop in a car and race through the checkpoints). This is familiar territory, to say the least, whether youíve played the original Crackdown or some other open-world action game. With clunky controls, lame vehicles, and repetitive gunplay, Crackdown 2 doesnít do anything to reignite these old features.

Online play might be enough to carry the Halo and Call of Duty series to success, but it wonít be enough to save Crackdown 2 from extinction. If it had been released as an inexpensive XBLA exclusive, players might have been able to ignore the gameís shortcomings and focus solely on the multiplayer action. But the reality is that this isnít a cheap download; itís a full-priced game with three years of anticipation behind it. If Crackdown 2ís disappointment was limited to a gamer like myself, who chose to rent (not buy) the original, Ruffian Games could rest easy. However, if it disappoints the core fans Ė which it already seems to be doing Ė the developers would be wise to avoid producing another rehash with Crackdown 3.

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Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (August 12, 2010)

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