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Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360) review

"I reviewed the original a while back. I might as well direct you there; it’s not like Crackdown 2 is a new game or anything."

Okay, listen. I love Zelda, but as many people have pointed out, it hasn’t evolved much since its inception. I’m cool with that. I think the formula works. Others don’t, and they’ve grown weary of seeing the same basic outline rehashed again and again over the course of 25 years. That’s fine. But occasionally, someone who very much believes he is a journalist claims that the entire Zelda series has consisted of one game being re-released ad nauseam, which is hyperbolic and ridiculous. If you don’t think the formula has the lasting power to warrant being recycled over and over, fine. But don’t tell me I’m not playing a new game, in a new world, with new dungeons and new puzzles and new bosses, every single time.

Crackdown 2 is a game I never thought I would see: a sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor, in the same copied-and-pasted game world, and has the nerve to call itself a new game. The only major difference is that the streets are now sometimes overrun with zombies, so in addition to feeling like a Crackdown rehash, it also feels like a Prototype rehash. Also, there is co-op. As in, there’s a single-player campaign, and it’s more or less identical to that of the first game, but now other players can join in and play the identical campaign alongside you. So it’s a totally different game now, right????

I reviewed the original a while back. I might as well direct you there; it’s not like Crackdown 2 is a new game or anything.

Assuming you read it, you may have noticed that one of the roadblocks keeping me from truly enjoying the first game was that I’d already played Infamous, which took the same formula and improved upon it. You say I shouldn’t condemn an older game because a newer game did it better, and I say a game like Crackdown shouldn’t leave so much to improve upon in the first place. But whatever. I respect Crackdown for at least laying the groundwork.

But Crackdown 2, three years newer, has no excuse. Since players bounded about Pacific City for the first time, things have happened. Infamous made super-powered sandbox navigation graceful and intuitive, Prototype provided unparalleled levels of speed and freedom, Just Cause 2 wowed us with jaw-dropping scale, and Rockstar continued to advance the integration of linear, character-driven stories with thriving environments. There’s no place for a shallow re-release of Crackdown in a market like this.

Crackdown 2 still by and large has no story, and once again, the entire campaign has you completing the same one mission over and over in different locations. First, you go to a new area and activate a few homing devices, which involves killing, like, three dudes and then standing on a plate for 30 seconds. (But it takes less time if you’re playing with more people!!!!!!) Then you enter a zombie lair and defend an explosive beacon until it detonates. These defense missions are the antithesis of entertainment, firstly because Ruffian’s idea of “challenge” is to simply make the zombies bigger and give them longer health meters, and secondly because the lairs themselves are often full of long drops that are more or less impossible to recover from, meaning one missed step can often mean you’ll need to restart a mission entirely.

Ruffian was also apparently under the impression that the combat in Crackdown didn’t need tweaking. They were incorrect. Again, their definition of “challenge” differs from mine, as later action scenes were only “difficult” because my Agent was knocked around by explosives so mercilessly that it was a struggle just to regain my footing (another of Crackdown 2’s unfortunate similarities to Prototype). On top of that, the lock-on system never seems to target the enemy you want it to, and manual aiming is clumsy and unreliable.

In fact, I guess I never mentioned this in my review of the original, but the controls are altogether awful. When scaling buildings, the question of which ledges I can grab onto remains a frustratingly inexact science, and your Agent has a tendency to bounce off of surfaces that he should be grappling. Furthermore, various mechanics are downright broken and frequently fail to work at the most inconvenient times, like when you press B to let go of a ledge and your Agent doesn’t, or when you hit X to switch weapons and you don't, and then you blow yourself up because you weren’t expecting to still have your rocket launcher in hand.

I believe I’ve made my point: Crackdown wasn’t great, and Ruffian’s belief that the formula and mechanics needed no reworking would have branded Crackdown 2 as a mediocre sequel from square one. But then comes Ruffian’s baffling decision to recycle the exact same game world, with the same layout and everything. By any standard, this is inexcusable. But it’s especially damning for a franchise in which the setting holds so much of the appeal in the first place. Pacific City was the game. Climbing to its highest locations and delving into its deepest crevices was Crackdown’s biggest and perhaps only draw, and the few joys that its sequel comes close to replicating – the rooftop races, the killing rampages, the collecting of shiny objects – are extinguished because we’ve already been through this routine in the same place.

From a business standpoint, it’s slimy and abhorrent to repackage stagnating content, market it as a new product, and sell it at full price. As a form of creative expression, it’s a cheap and lazy cash-grab. As entertainment, it’s boring. The game could have been released as DLC for the original – just punch some holes in a few buildings and toss some rubble here and there, and bam, Pacific City 2.0. Or rather, Pacific City 1.1. Could’ve been made in a month. What the hell were they doing that whole time?

Crackdown 2 currently holds a rating of 70 on Metacritic. That’s not great, but it’s decent. I usually try not to let my disagreements with any given critical consensus affect my reviews. Today, I make an exception. What kind of message are we sending publishers and developers by pretending that something like this is even remotely acceptable? Critics who gave Crackdown 2 even the slightest hint of a recommendation should be ashamed of themselves. This is galling, despicable trash. The people responsible for it should never be allowed to make another video game again.


Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (June 03, 2011)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted June 04, 2011:

Wow. I own the first Crackdown, and if this is just a carbon copy of the first, then I'm glad I didn't waste my money. Great review, Suskie.
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Suskie posted June 04, 2011:

Thanks. I'd heard about it, but I guess the game's shamelessness needs to be seen to be believed.
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zippdementia posted June 06, 2011:

Hear hear! Suskie has done the world a favor: hopefully it pays attention.

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