There’s a general rule of thumb that suggests when making the sequel to a successful game, you want to keep what made the original great, while adding enough new ideas and features to make it all worth playing again. Crackdown 2 tries to follow this ideology. It definitely keeps closely to the design of the original. Indeed, it’s the epitome of more of the same. So, if you liked the goofy, open-world action of the original Crackdown, this could be just the gaming fix you crave.
In comparison to other open worlds (like GTAIV), the Crackdown series manages to feel distinctive because of its in-your-face simplicity. Crackdown 2 carries a bare bones plot about being a super law-enforcement agent fighting against terrorist cells and, of all things, a virus that turns the fair citizens of Pacific City into hulking, angry zombie-like creatures. Missions are about blowing up people, things, or (usually) both, and there’s not a shred of depth anywhere.
This focus on running around blowing things up gives Crackdown 2 a distinctly coin-op feel, further cemented by its cartoonish graphics, replete with a borderline-gaudy color scheme. Gameplay consists of plenty of gun play, sure, but also running, climbing, and jumping every where you can to find power-up orbs that increase your agent’s abilities. Orbs improve attack power, speed, jumping, driving skills, toughness, and more. There are even fleeing orbs that you must chase after and others only accessible through multiplayer sessions.
It’s not long before your run of the mill agent goes from merely strong to super hero-level badass. Without a doubt, there’s a real thrill in earning major jumping skill increases. Hopping from building to building is simple fun, and it’s the exploration aspect of Crackdown 2 that offers the most appeal in the single player game.
Admittedly, this might be because the rest of it just feels so behind the times. The oft-annoying camera causes plenty of problems aiming and, especially, climbing tall buildings. Aiming is simplistic and unrefined, making explosive weapons far more fun to use than normal guns. Melee combat has about as much depth as an old Double Dragon clone, and even the animation for such moves seems unfinished. Worse, the combat is so unvarying and lacking in depth that it becomes tiresome.
The enemy can flank and guard, but still act mechanically brain dead most of the time, and ally AI is just as useless. On the bright side, Pacific City is full of things to destroyâ€”including parts of the landscapeâ€”and there are plenty of interesting battlegrounds to discover.
Ironically, the use of Pacific City for the sequel is a perfect metaphor for the entire design of the sequel. Crackdown 2 uses the same location as the original, and if you’ve stormed through the city before, you’ve pretty much seen all there is to see. Many of the weapons and vehicles are rehashed, the graphics are only moderately improved, and the gameplay seems to be stuck in a time warp.
Where Crackdown 2 is likely to truly draw players in is the addition of four-player cooperative multiplayer action. Up to four can take on the single-player campaign, and running rampant with other humans really jacks up both the old-school, coin-op feel and the entertainment value. Crackdown 2’s simplicity is actually a benefit in multiplayer, as it lets anyone jump right in to kill, blow stuff up, and jump around like a maniac. Pacific City offers a great open environment for players to just find entertaining things to do. Race on foot, or in cars; play chicken with each other; see who can throw objects and people the farthestâ€¦ Things that would be mostly pointless when alone take on whole new levels of fun with more players, and Crackdown 2 is a game that almost uniquely caters to such activities.
Whether Crackdown 2 is a worthwhile purchase depends on a few factors: if you just want more Crackdown action; if you’re into violent, atypical multiplayer fun; or if you want a retro arcade experience in next-gen clothing. Beyond those checkmarks, however, the game is just woefully underwhelming.
The Blast Factor: Aside from the increase from two to four in coop play, Crackdown 2 hasn’t evolved at all. It’s arguably not even an improvement over the original. There are too many gameplay issues and retro trappings to let it compete with more recent open-world games like Red Faction, Saint’s Row 2, and especially Red Dead Redemption or GTAIV.
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