Crackdown 2 review
There are times when more from the original experience is exactly what we want, although, there are times when a repeat performance is one time too many. Underestimated games that surprise and captivate create opportunities to repeat the quality, even if there is no longer a shock effect. The expectations that grow from former success create a two-sided sword…hype. Hype is a funny thing. Once you have it either you live up to it or you fall short. Sometimes even with a good effort falling short is still a possibility. This is evident in Ruffian Game’s follow up to the 2007 surprise hit, Crackdown.
The original Crackdown left Pacific city in a pristine and gang free place run by the enigmatic, corrupt, and devious Agency. During the time between the original and the sequel, the genetically altered super agent program ceased to exist. The agency understood super soldier’s archetype for going crazy or becoming sentient, thus leading to the creator’s demise. Without agents to patrol, a rebel group has risen. Known as the Cell these insurgents along with the “Freak virus” caused the resurgence of the agent. As the last hope for the agency, you must cripple the Cell and destroy the mutant freaks that surface from dusk to dawn. Like the previous incarnation of the series, you have advantages no other human holds. Your main skills give you an advantage over your enemies, but you must strengthen them though use. Unlike the original though, your skills can progress to a fifth level rather than stopping at level four. Yet, the core skills remain the same; those are strength, firearms, explosives, driving, and agility. You level these skills up in specific ways. Strength increases though melee combat, firearms though the use of guns to kill your enemies, explosives when you use grenades or rocket launches to destroy your enemies, driving though races, the new renegade orbs, and running down freaks or Cell agents, and finally, agility grows through races, regular agility orbs, and renegade orbs. Each skill has a reward for reaching level five, for example, agility level five allows access to the wing suit. The wing suit allows for gliding from high places, thus eliminating fall damage if you deploy the suit. One of the quickest and newest ways to level up is to chase the aforementioned renegade orbs.
Crackdown 2 returns many aspects from the original, but there are some additions. One of which is the renegade orbs. These orbs are not set in place like others in its type, but rather dance left, right, up, and down to anger and befuddle you. With a mocking laugh, they taunt you until you catch them. These new orbs give larger bonuses and add to one of the most rewarding elements in both games. Speaking of new, the aesthetic for Pacific city reflects the devastation that occurred during your absence. The cell shading and cartoonish look returns in full swing, though. Another addition to the series is the UV or ultraviolet weapons designed to kill the vampire like freaks. These freaks introduce a new tempo, which gives the nighttime a new vengeful foe to kill. The only issue with these new freaks is that they become fodder; they are devices to level up quickly, causing the dusk to be a time of anticipation and excitement rather than fear. The climbing of buildings to escape freak and Cell agent alike feels a lot like Sucker Punch’s infamous, which compounds upon the addition of audio logs to expose the traitor in your ranks, explains the freaks, and the public’s fear of the freaks. Along with the open city to explore and the ability to receive a blip on your mini map to indicate the location of collectables, these two games seem as much alike as Crackdown is to Crackdown 2. Where that comparison ends is in the mission structure.
As with most open world games, missions pacing and structure takes a hit because you can choose to rush through the narrative or never complete it. Here there is one major mission, activate and configure sun absorption units to activate an UV beacon to wipe out the freaks. There are 30 units in total throughout the world. Each unit takes nearly 30 seconds to configure once you have fought through the Cell agents guarding them and while it is a decent narrative push early, it soon becomes tedious and boring. If the main story does not concern you when freedom is yours, then there are Cell strongholds to recapture. These strongholds have the same purpose as supply points from the original, except here, you have to call for a helicopter and kill a predetermined amount of Cell operatives to take the stronghold. Again, there are more than 20 strongholds drawing this methodical process of kill, call helicopter, kill, rinse, and repeat out tremendously. Well, if destroying the freaks as a whole or regaining control of the city from the Cell then there are freak breaches to complete. In a freak breach, a hole in the ground allows a rush of freaks to attack you. It is your job to kill the freaks and call for air support to close the breach. Once more, there are more than 15 breaches. These are the entirety of the mission variety and while you can collect orbs, race, and dive off buildings for fun, the missions will not provide much fun after the tenth time you complete each type.
While missions are slow and painful to complete, most people do not play Crackdown or Crackdown 2 for the story. The world really is a playground. Driving handles better than the original, but is still sub par, allowing easier traversal of the islands. The explosions are still some of the best in the industry, whether launching a freak over a bridge with the rocket launcher or creating a rocket car ballet. Finding every collectable will still challenge even the most experienced open world player. Now there are the audio recordings, agility orbs, and hidden orbs, online orbs that require two or more players in the area to access, renegade driving, and renegade agility orbs. Along with that, return the races that you can share times with your friends online. Along with sharing race times, now online brings some new advances. The largest is rocket tag. While in theory, rocket tag should be the greatest mode in open world history but it quickly becomes aggravating. The easiest way to describe rocket tag online is Modern Warfare 2 grenade spam, except risen to an unprecedented level of destruction and death. It may be fun for a round or two, but the novelty wears off quickly.
Crackdown 2 is an interesting test case; most people loved the idea of ten more hours of Crackdown. What we received was Crackdown with some additions. Yet, here they subtracted fun with addition. What they subtracted was some of the most enjoyable parts of the original, such as the single target stronghold missions that required thought and planning. Ruffian had the time to create a truly majestic game and fell short in their ambition and decisions to cut certain content. If you loved Crackdown, you will find fun here and it is a buy. If you only like Crackdown or found it decent at best, Crackdown 2 would be a rent to enjoy over the weekend.