Yep, this is Crackdown Too...
OverviewImmediately upon loading into this game you're tossed back into the world you remember from the first Crackdown, Pacific City. The city has taken a beating since the last time you were here though, because the Freaks from the Shai Gen research facility of the first Crackdown have gotten completely out of control and have been destroying the city. You start off as a freshly cloned Agent and have to jump through some training course objectives in order to be let out and "Clean up the City". Skills for Kills is the name of the game once again, as you will level up your Agent's Agility, Strength, Firearms, Driving, and Explosives skills by killing enemies in different ways, and with different types of weapons. The Agency is only faced with 2 opponents this time, The Freaks and Cell. The Freaks are genetically mutated citizens of Pacific City that live underground during the day, and come popping out of the sewer system of a night to take over the streets. Cell is a terrorist organization that is trying to destroy the Agency, and prevent them from wiping out the Freaks, because they believe there is a cure for the mutation. As an Agent you are the Ace in the Hole that the Agency needs to win this war and wipe the Freaks out for good.
Mission StructureThe structure of Crackdown 2 is disappointingly less creative than in the first game. This time around, instead of having 3 different gang factions that you can choose to take out in any way you choose, you have a much more linear set of beacons that you have to activate and then protect while they detonate underground to wipe out the Freaks in the area. Activation of the beacon is accomplished by running, jumping, and climbing to an area with a handful of guards, clearing them out easily, and then standing on an activation pad for what feels like an eternity to send a triangulation beam out into the sky. You do that 3 times and then you're given a location where you can jump way down underground, and trigger the beacon event. The beacon falls from the sky, and begins charging up. At this point, freaks will try and destroy the beacon before it goes off. Your only task here is to take out the highlighted Freaks and protect the beacon. Once you succeed, the beacon detonates and wipes out all of the Freaks in that particular lair. You rinse and repeat this structure 9 times over the course of the game as you follow through the critical path.
In addition to the critical path there are some objectives that can be tackled as side missions. You can take over Cell Strongholds in order to convert them to agency resupply points, and you can close Freak Breaches which are simply points where the Freaks are emerging from their underground Lair. The Breaches don't serve any noticeable point other than giving you an Achievement when you've closed them all. The Cell Strongholds however, will convert into a point on the map where you can refill your ammo, change weapons, or call in a vehicle. You can also bring new vehicles and weapons to this point to add them to your list of available drops.
Outside of these mission types you have Street Races and agility races peppered across the cityscape that will boost your respective stats upon completion. A new addition to Crackdown 2 is the Renegade orb, which provides an annoying new way to boost your agility and driving skills. The agility orbs, even when you're at max agility, can elude you just barely to the point of frustration, and having to find a suitable car for catching the driving renegade orbs, isn't always that convenient. These orbs really only serve a purpose as a reason to give you another Achievement, since their skill boost is only marginally higher than a standard orb, and less than a race.
GameplayFor those of you that have played the original Crackdown, you'll feel right at home here. The way you move about the city has remained largely unchanged, and you'll be hopping buildings as you scramble for orbs, just as easily as you did in the first game. There are a few changes to how your agent behaves in certain situations, for example, you can no longer melee while locked onto an enemy, which can sometimes lead to your agent just kicking and punching the air next to an enemy. This wasn't a huge problem, but could lead to some frustrating moments when you're only facing 1 or 2 enemies. Ruffian has added a bunch of melee weapons that you can use to beat up the Cell members and the Freaks. These are fun to use because they often send your foes flying off into the distance.
At max Agility, your Agent doesn't feel as fast as he did in the first game, but this helps make him feel a bit more solid when he's on the ground. You'll wind up collecting about 300 of the games 500 Agility orbs before you max out that stat and unlock The Wingsuit. The Wingsuit is probably my favorite addition to Crackdown 2, because once you master it's controls, you can soar around the entire city without touching down. It makes it very fun and easy to get from one area to the next since you don't have to climb up and down the sides of buildings. Ruffian also added a handful of Wingsuit Ring challenges to the game that require you to use the Wingsuit to fall and glide through a series of rings. These challenges range from incredibly simple, to incredibly difficult, with the hardest of them reserved for true Wingsuit Professionals.
Overall, I had an absolute blast playing through this game, and leveling up my Agent's skills. With the addition of 4 player Co-Op over Xbox Live, I was able to join up with some of my other friends that were fans of the first game, and wreak havoc all over the city. You can have some really crazy situations in the multiplayer, and can even divide and conquer to blazed through the story 4 times as fast if you want. Or you can just all team up to completely destroy any enemies that you face. If you're a fan of just running into large groups of enemies and destroying them in hilariously big explosions and over the top fisticuffs, then you'll have a great time with this game as well.
GraphicsAlongside the Story, the graphics are arguably this games weakest point. While the view distance has been greatly increased over it's predecessor, the game engine has remained mostly unchanged. It definitely doesn't look like a current gen title, so don't expect that going in, or you'll be disappointed. Since I was a fan of the first game, and also enjoyed the art style, then I was satisfied with the increase in draw distance, and improved day / night cycle. Explosions still look just as epic as they did in the first game, and you can see the orbs very clearly as the come zinging toward you after a kill.
Final WordAt the end of the day, Crackdown 2 is more Crackdown. For fans of the first game, they'll enjoy seeing different areas of the city that they remember from the first game, and how they've changed. However, they'll probably also wish that they had something new to look at. If you're new to the series, this game would probably serve you best as a rental. The real meat of the game can be conquered in around 5 or 6 hours, and unless you want to milk every single Achievement out of the game, then that's probably where this game will end for you. I myself have fun just running around the city, solo or online with 3 friends, and seeing what kind of mayhem can be caused.
I give Crackdown 2, 4 out of 5 stars. The overall entertainment value of this game far outweighs it's shortcomings and lack of a strong narrative.