Summary: Clean up Pacific City as a superhuman cop. Jump between skyscrapers. Shoot out tires on civilian vehicles for hours. It's Crackdown, baby.
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.
It’s this super hero aspect of Crackdown, combined with the gameplay design of making the gangs tougher for you to deal with, that makes the single player experience extremely addicting. You start out by taking out low level flunkies and finally reach your first sub-boss in Los Muertos. When you take them out; you get a huge feeling of satisfaction that makes you immediately want to move to the next section of the city to take on the next criminal lord. The gameplay moves fast; enemy AI can sometimes be super accurate with their weapons if you are not careful and of course bosses have extra health that you have to wear down to finish them off.
All of this action takes place in the huge environment of Pacific City and the game designers have taken great care to make the city less of a real world look and more of a comic book metropolis. From the oil refineries of Los Muertos, and a massive off-road stadium in the Volk domain, to the slick office buildings of the Shai-Gen, this is a highly stylized location rather than the more realistic look of the Grand Theft Auto games. As a result the graphic look of the game is certainly different; it’s like playing in a game with art direction by Jim Lee. Some people may have looked at the screenshots for the game and not be impressed at first but that changes when you actually look at the game running with impressive lighting and visual effects features. There is also none of that “popping up” in the environment that sometimes happens in games in this genre. You can pretty much see to the horizon in Crackdown – and the horizon in this game goes very, very far.
Crackdown also has multiplayer features but it’s only for co-op play through the single player game. While having co-op is great on its own its not much of a feature. It would have been great to see deathmatch or other team based multiplayer modes in Crackdown. We can just imagine the fights as people jump high over rooftops while firing at opponents. On well…maybe in the sequel.
There are also a couple of other complaints. One that we have is that once you complete the game there isn’t much else left to do. You could try to complete all of the driving and aglilty races but that gets old after the first few attempts, especially as you will likely be maxed out on your abilities at that points. Basically you are left trying to make every Xbox Live Achievement score and while that may be fun for some it’s certainly not for others. Another is the soundtrack. Like the GTA games you can enter a vehicle and its radio comes on to try to entertain you with tuned. Unlike the GTA games the Crackdown tracks are the worst kind of indie music you have ever heard.
Fun and addictive gameplay
Meager multiplayer options
|<% print_image("10"); %>|
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|