Crackdown 2 Review
Crackdown 2 is upon us, this time coming from developer Ruffian Games
A little over three years ago, Realtime Worlds, the former developers of the Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings series, brought gamers Crackdown on the Xbox 360. At the time, the game was not widely anticipated on its own merits. Despite this, it was bought up in droves for one reason and one reason alone: a Halo 3 multiplayer beta key was included with every copy. Luckily for Xbox users everywhere, the game actually turned out to be quite good. It was an addictive bit of arcade-style action mixed with Grand Theft Auto open-world goodness. It’s now the summer of 2010 and Crackdown 2 is upon us, this time coming from developer Ruffian Games.
Graphically, Crackdown 2 retains the comic book, semi-cell-shaded style of the original while only bumping up the graphical quality a notch or two. The menu system has seen a much needed makeover and actually looks like a finished product unlike the original. With a slight graphical upgrade and an easier to use interface, the visuals work well enough but are simultaneously disappointing considering the three year gap between the first and second games. Simply put, the game should look better than it does.
Shedding the singleplayer structure of the original game in which the player took down three different ladders of gang members until finally taking on the mighty Wang in his architecturally confusing tower, Crackdown 2 establishes an extremely repetitive two-mission structure that simply repeats itself over and over. Although it may have been smart decision to lose some of the rather bland story aspects of the original, losing the interesting mission structure of the first is truly a detriment to the series.
Players now have the choice of either taking out the next Cell stronghold, similar to the gang battles of the first game only without a boss character, or securing several Absorption Units before taking on a Freak (a.k.a. zombie) stronghold. Both of these mission types are fundamentally the same gameplay experience, you must fight and survive while waves after waves of enemies enter the fray. This structure gets boring quickly and will have many players spending their time exploring and collecting orbs while dreading the mission ahead.
Besides the unfortunate change in mission structure, much of the gameplay has been retained from the original and in some cases, even improved. The leveling structure of the first, fueled through orb collection, is here in much the same way only occasionally with improved unlockable abilities once you’ve maxed out one character aspect. Despite being the same city from the first game, this time around countless more enemies are located on the street causing you to turn your gaze towards the alleys of Pacific City rather than trying to figure out how to travel from rooftop to rooftop.
Unfortunately, some of the changes made since the original tend to actually hurt the gameplay experience rather than enhance them. To make good use of any ranged weapons, you need to use the game’s lock-on system. In the first game, players were able to lock on to an enemy, individually target portions of their body or vehicle, and also switch between targets. In the second game, targeting is just as necessary in the first only for some reason Ruffian decided to remove one feature: switching between multiple targets. This means that when you are attempting to target the exploding barrel behind an enemy. The only way to attempt to re-target the barrel is to leave the targeting system and re-enter, but it always seems to target the least logical targets. This makes the ever-escalating difficulty of the battles more and more frustrating as you continue through the campaign.
Additionally, I found the game’s singleplayer campaign to have an unusual bump in difficulty after only a few of each mission type being completed. What went from being frantic but manageable hordes of enemies quickly transformed into utter chaos filled with dozens of rockets blasting me into oblivion simultaneously followed by strings of giant Freaks barreling into me and knocking me down over and over again to the point where I might as well not have been playing. Now, these moments were only occasional but they work to really pull away from the overall fun of the missions. Coupled with the targeting systems woes and some of the game’s more unfortunate bugs, you might find yourself trying your hardest not to throw your controller against the wall.
Thankfully, one aspect of the series has gotten a much deserved overhaul: multiplayer. Four-player drop-in drop-out cooperative play is truly the highlight of the game. Leaping over skyscrapers with friends is some of the most fun I’ve had in ages playing a video game. In addition to the fun co-op play, Ruffian has also included the standard cookie-cutter multiplayer that gets shamelessly tacked on to so many games this day. There’s deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. All of the staples are here but none of it feels unique enough to keep the attention of many players especially considering how entertaining the co-op is. It’s nice to have the option if nothing else, but ultimately, these competitive multiplayer modes won’t be many people’s main area of interest while playing the game.
Crackdown 2 is the kind of game that makes me wish I didn’t have to attach a score to any or all of its individual attributes. It is not a great game by any stretch of the imagination and some components have even seen a few detrimental changes from the original. Bugs, control issues, and the unusual fluctuations in difficulty can all be quite frustrating. Despite these things, Crackdown 2 is a blast to play and is even more fun when working to destroy the gangs of Pacific City with friends. It’s an arcade, over-the-top destructive romp that is considerably more fun than it is good.