Super Cop Playground
Crackdown is an open-world game. That’s it. It’s not a living world. It’s not a breathing world. It’s not a world that feels larger than the player nor is it a small world. But, Crackdown has a world, an open world, and you do play in it. Playing Crackdown is a lot like visiting a large building that is still under construction in the middle of the night. It’s eerily quiet and the air is still. You can still see the scaffolding wrapping around its exterior and the intestinal piping and wiring line the hallways, exposed through gaps in its unfinished walls. You could really do just about anything here because you feel alone, truly alone. Isolated and away from the prying eyes of judgmental observers, you could run screaming down the bare, empty corridors. You could curse up a storm, throw things against the walls, get on the roof and enjoy the view, or do something else completely inane like opening all the windows and closing all of the doors.
Crackdown feels incomplete. Like our barren and isolated building, the world of Crackdown feels like the frame of a world under construction. The structures and layout are there and dime-a-dozen carbon copy cars and “people” wander the streets aimlessly. Interchangeable “bad guys” sit at street corners and seem more like yellow-shirted place holders than violent gang-bangers out causing havoc. And then there is you, the only dynamic character, the only thing that breaths in this barren cityscape. The world of Crackdown is quiet and without music, and the fact that most of the noise in the game will be generated by your character’s leaps and grunts, gunshots and detonations, and squealing tires and revving engines emphasizes the fact that you are the only living entity in Crackdown’s cardboard cut-out world. As a result, Crackdown winds up feeling very much like a game.
In Crackdown, you play a super-soldier cop who evolves at an incredibly fast rate. Your character is part of a crime-fighting organization known as the agency, which is headquartered on an island in the center of the city. The agency is the last vestige of order in a city overrun by crime and it is your job to take the city back by any means necessary (read: kill everyone).
The city itself is made up of 4 islands with a designed order of how to tackle them, with each island being progressively harder than the next. You can access all the islands from the beginning and you can go to the harder islands early on to try and get some more powerful weapons to help you in the beginning. All of the islands can be accessed from the agency island, which serves as a central hub in the game world. You can also pick up one of three special agency super vehicles here: a super car, a SUV, or a semi-truck. Each one of these vehicles is designed to blast through traffic in a certain way. The super car goes under cars, knocking everything in your path up in the air as the angled hood of the car slides underneath. The SUV drives over everything like a monster-truck and the semi-truck barrels down the road like an unstoppable juggernaut, going through traffic and smashing everything to pieces.
The cars are fun but you’ll definitely be spending most of your time on foot. Your super cop is able to leap to superhuman heights rather effortlessly which helps you climb tall buildings and traverse the cityscape by jumping from rooftop to rooftop. This is encouraged by the game’s main driving force, the leveling system. The leveling system makes this game and it is the only real reward you get when playing. You have 5 different stats: strength, firearms, agility, driving, and explosives. Firearms, explosives, and strength level up by killing people with guns, explosives, and punches to the face, but agility and driving are leveled up a little differently. To increase your agility, there are 500 agility orbs scattered across the city, with the higher ones giving you more agility than the lower ones. These are easy to see (they are bright green and float up and down,) and once you are on top of a roof, you’ll often see several agility orbs on the roof next door and think, “free exp. Why not?” You quickly find yourself getting side tracked jumping from roof to roof grabbing orbs. Driving is the most difficult stat to level up but it is the most rewarding. In order to increase your driving ability, you have to rundown bad guys in your car (that sounds kind of nasty on paper actually.) The benefits from increasing your abilities are what you would expect for the most part. Increasing strength allows you to lift heavier objects and throw them farther and cause your melee to do more damage. Explosives makes your grenades and rockets make bigger explosions (which doesn’t make much sense at all really, but when you see cars getting blasted sky high followed by a towering inferno, things making logical sense just doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore.) Firearms lets you aim better and agility allows you to leap higher and further and run faster. Increasing your driving skill however, actually has a physical effect on your agency super vehicles. Not only will your handling be a thousand times better and you’ll be able to pull off more complex driving maneuvers, your agency super vehicle transforms into something stronger, faster, with bigger tires and more fire shooting out of the exhaust.
Your super cop starts the game feeling rather mundane, and not much tougher than your average cop, but by the end, when your cop is fully leveled up, you become almost invincible. At the height of your powers you will be kicking garbage trucks 50 feet and sniping people from 100 yards away with a SAW machine gun. Every grenade goes off like an A-bomb and the structures of the city look more like a set of stairs than towering sky scrapers. Your agency super vehicles also get enhanced at maximum level. The super car gets machineguns on the hood, the SUV gets a jump button, and the semi-truck gets a turbo boost. The incredible amount of power your character gets makes the fact that this world was designed specifically for you stand out more and more. You eventually realize, this isn’t a world but a playground.
You see, Crackdown relies on you making your own fun for yourself. The missions and objectives in the game feel like they are there simply because that’s what people expect. All of the missions are the same; you run into the enemy stronghold and shoot everyone till you find the leader, then you kill him too. After this, you say, “well that was fun,” rinse, and then repeat. There are a few side things to do, like driving races and rooftop races. There are also several supply points on each island that you can “liberate.” Once liberated, you can teleport between supply points and spawn there. Also if you bring weapons that you gathered in the field to a supply point, you will have access to them every time you are at a supply point. That’s really everything the game gives you to do though. Most of the fun you will have with this game will be derived from getting your awesome powers and then messing around with them. The game’s achievements reflect this notion with achievements like, keep a car in the air for 5 seconds using explosives, kill 5 enemies in a single jump, or harpoon 5 enemies to the same car (you need the DLC for this last one.)
The game also features a 2 player multiplayer mode. You can only play system link or on Xbox live though. I had to play the multiplayer in the demo because I didn’t know anyone else who owned the game and I didn’t feel like playing with a stranger. We had a blast though. One of the cool things about it is that it has a generalized multiplayer. It is sort of co-op by default but if you kill your friend, it starts keeping track of the kills and so you can have a death match until you get sick of killing each other if you want. Also, if you start one of the vehicle races or rooftop races, it will be a competitive race between the two of you. It’s fun to play around with if you have a friend who also has the game.
In the end, this game is really more of a playground than a world and if you get a kick out of just messing around and doing stupid stuff you’ll have a lot of fun with this game. I also found that it was pretty enjoyable to play while listening to a pod-cast or the radio or something, as it’s fun to play but it doesn’t require a high degree of focus to enjoy. If you are looking for an adventure and an exciting experience this isn’t it. But I found whacking a gang-banger upside the head with a dumpster and watching a bunch of colorful orbs fly out of him to be really satisfying for some reason. I definitely feel like I got my 15$ worth.
Is it worth 15$? : Yes Rating: B