Microsoft Games Studios
The grind and grenade gameplay wouldn’t be so obvious if the developers had even tacked on a semblance of a story
Crackdown 2 is instantly familiar; from the cell-shaded graphics to the simple controls and recognisable location. This time, Pacific City is now in ruins, plagued by Cell resistance soldiers during the day and mutant freaks at night. The persistent day/night cycle and half demolished structures add a little variety but you can’t escape a feeling of déjà vu as you take on new missions in the same districts.
You are tasked with activating a series of generators in order to drive back the freak horde, while eliminating as many Cell as you can and slowly taking back the city. Starting as a weedy warrior, players can collect orbs to eventually become a high jumping, car-throwing god. The open world can be navigated on foot or in a newly bolstered series of vehicles as you take on missions and beef up your abilities.
As before, the main appeal of Crackdown is the speed and power as you progress – leaping from tall buildings, running faster than cars and turning whole streets into a roiling sea of fiery explosions. And this is certainly a lot of fun… for the first few hours. Soon, you’ll finding yourself forced to grind to the next agility level up in order to reach an awkwardly-placed rooftop – many of which are again crested by insurmountable overhanging platforms. The missions are overwhelmingly repetitive – the main story literally involves repeating the same two step process over and over as you take out hordes of freaks. There are side missions on offer, but none require anything more demanding than shooting things until they are dead and once you level up your explosives skill, combat is over in seconds.
No attempt has been made to expand on the world, no missions require driving or protection and the lack of NPCs means the sandbox is expansive but utterly bland. The grind and grenade gameplay wouldn’t be so obvious if the developers had even tacked on a semblance of a story but the only background information you get is from the random interjections of your handler (‘splosions…’) and audio logs which have to be laboriously collected and listened to. It’s all the more odd because there’s plenty of material to be mined from the intro sequence, particularly from the Cell leader Catalina Thorne, who seems primed to present the player with a moral choice at the end of the game but is sidelined in favour of an utterly bland finale. At least the post credit outro suggests there might be a little more story meat on the sequels bones.
The cell-shaded graphics still look great, although the detail of the city isn’t up to the standard of modern games, and there’s a nice range of powerful weaponry on offer. But the climbing is rudimentary, particularly in the wake of titles like Assassin’s Creed and the lock-on aiming system is twitchy at best, making precision shots difficult to pull off consistently. Naturally, the game fares better in multiplayer, particularly the 4-player co-op mode but with four super powered agents the level of difficulty plummets. You also get a range of fast paced if unimaginative arena based fights but, for single player only, Crackdown 2 is hard to recommend.