When it was first announced that the Microsoft published Xbox 360 exclusive action game Crackdown would also include a way to play the multiplayer beta for Halo 3 in every game, lots of people posted on message boards that this move was just a cheap way to boost sales of the title. Thankfully, the game turns out to be pretty darn good on its own terms with its own take on the open world “sandbox” genre.
The game itself was developed by Scotland-based Real Time Worlds, whose previous title was the 2002 released Unreal Engine multiplayer shooter Mobile Forces (back when the developer was associated with the now defunct Rage Software). Real Time Worlds was founded by David Jones who previously co-founded DMA Design, which among other things created the Grand Theft Auto game franchise and pretty much started the sandbox genre (DMA Design was later bought by GTA publisher Rockstar and renamed Rockstar North). For Crackdown, Jones decided to add a couple of new wrinkles to his previous GTA formula while at the same time simplifying the game so that it wasn’t the long drawn out single player experience that the GTA titles sometimes have a habit of becoming.
Crackdown is an odd mix of shooting and grenade throwing mixed with super hero action style gameplay and even some RPG-lite elements thrown in for good measure. If you are looking for a detailed storyline with lots of characters and plot development a la the games in the GTA 3 series you won’t find it here. Crackdown’s story is pretty basic; your unnamed character has to get rid of crime in the fictional Pacific City by taking out the three gangs that each control a third of the metropolis. You are helped by a special program that allows your character to boost his abilities the more he uses them. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Crackdown doesn’t bog down in storylines; it wants you to play an action game right off the bat.
Crackdown in theory is non-linear in its design. You can go to any place in Pacific City that you want; there’s none of that unlocking of territory that you have to put up with in the GTA games. You can also, in theory, simply go to the heads of all three gangs, take them out and finish the single player portion quickly. However, Real Time Worlds’ gameplay design pretty much makes you follow a semi-strict path in order to complete the game. If you go to a section of town with a gang stronghold before you have your abilities boosted up to the appropriate level, you will get smacked down hard and fast. It’s only by taking out the lieutenants and then finally the main leaders of each gang in each section of the city one at a time that you are assured of completing the game. The gangs themselves have some stereotypical racial identities. The Los Muertos are the Latino group and their section of the city looks a bit run down. The Volk are the Russian-themed gang; their third of Pacific City is industrial. Finally the Asian themed Shai-Gen Corporation controls the final third of the city; they have high buildings and sleek designs.
You start out the game with no special abilities for your Agent but you quickly move up the ladder of advancement in terms of your skills. Weapons and Explosions abilities are pretty straightforward; you shoot the bad guns with guns or blow them up with grenades or rocket launches and you improve your abilities with each kill (skills for kills Agent, skills for kills!
). Ranking up your gun skills results in better aiming by faster lock-ons to your targets; while increased skill with explosive devices means bigger and wider explosions. You also have a Strength skill that allows you to pick up bigger and bigger objects (including vehicles) the more you take out enemies via melee combat. Each level of strength also results in more health for your character.