#748 Crackdown

Posted: 11th August 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

170th played so far

Genre: Adventure/Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Realtime Worlds
Publisher: Microsoft

This is so strange. Whilst on the train to Brighton we were talking about the possibly upcoming Sony answer to Super Smash Bros. and what characters would be included and we got onto the topic of… well how many Xbox 360 exclusive titles are there? Little did either of us know that Crackdown, which I had been playing for a while before we went on our arcade trek, was an actual Microsoft published game. The fact that it does not contain any named protagonist which would make it perfect for a Microsoft-themed Super Smash title is by the by. Still, weird how these things turn out.

Our Thoughts

When we sit down to decide what games we play next (yes there is a decision process) what we like to do is not just play games we are itching to play (although sometimes they sneak through) but also to have certain games played in some form of order. The reason that we played the god-awful Free Running was because we wanted to play the game that helped to popularise the use of parkour in modern video games. It’s something that has helped to make games like Assassin’s Creed, inFamous and Prototype would not be as loved if it was not for this gaming mechanic. We’re not deluding ourselves that it was the first game with a lot of these ideas (since the sprawling world of freedom found in Spider-Man 2 really seems to be an influence) but Crackdown did something very strange… you play for the hell of it.

That is not to say that the missions are superfluous but you get a lot of fun from the game by shooting villains in the legs before throwing a grenade at them… and that can be done on the streets. The whole ethos of this game is to give you a city to act as your playground as you leap between buildings and throw lorries into the air in order to shoot them like clay pigeons. Having as much fun as possible causing mayhem is the game here… but there are restrictions. In order to have maximum fun you need to level up four times on five key skills: agility, firearms, driving, explosives and strength (not so hard so far) but you only gain points by using these skills to kill villains (not so bad) but you lose points for harming civilians (…oh). Don’t misunderstand us because there is plenty of freedom in this game but unlike games which allow you to play out your benevolent and malevolent sides (e.g. Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row 2) you get penalised… rather severely too.

This restriction does not affect strength, firearms or agility since if you have enough sense you will be able to avoid killing innocents by punching them in the face or shooting them in the knee-caps. The other two are rather bothersome though. The driving controls are sketchy at best (they improve with each level-up… but that first level-up is a bitch) and grenades aren’t the easiest to aim at first so these will take a while to improve. The most important skills for the fun gameplay, however, are strength and agility so no harm done. After all when you first start this game you are only above human capability so it isn’t too fun to start off with. Once you begin to acquire level ups and agility orbs this game really does come into its own despite being repetitive at times.

Repetitive? Well yes it is. Sure there are races you CAN undertake but the missions are all just ‘get in, kill criminal, get out’ with various degrees of setting and difficulty. That was not what began to annoy me though… it was the voice-over. In order to make this have the feel of being a secret agent (wow I hadn’t even mentioned the ‘story’ behind the game until now… shows how unnecessary it is) you are in regular contact with some form of commander. Rather than this having the humour of FX original series Archer the comments are fairly uninspired and begin to grate. I’m all for telling the gamer that they have done a good job… but not at random intervals when you are driving over the road. That leads me to another annoyance… the music is utterly pants as are the battle cries of your opponents.

The thing about missions is that they seem tacked on to give the game a purpose. What you do and want to do most of the time is run around, finding things and killing gangsters. You can take out the generals and kingpins, and that might reducing the gangsters a bit, but there seems little point. You don’t unlock much, you don’t get anything different, it’s just a checkbox exercise so you can get an ending – almost just doing this to get it out of the way. It feels like the game would have worked well without them, and that’s a shame – I’m sure that with a bit more integration, these could have been more fun.

The graphics of the game are interesting. The characters have the same comic-like look as we recently saw in Borderlands, with dark outlines, although the environment don’t feature such here. The buildings look nice, with little repitition on a higher level, but lack the detail we see in later games, instead going something a bit more plain. It really depends on the location too – you often get some interesting designs in a block, surrounded by more boring buildings. Accurate, I suppose, but it does mean that certain parts get repetitive. Ignore the windows with the blinds at same slant everywhere…

The game isn’t going for realism in its looks, and that obviously shows. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but don’t expecting any gorgeous sights. The game just doesn’t work well for eyecandy.

Final Thoughts

The best way to describe this is that Crackdown feels like an engine looking for a game for it. It looks like, plays well, has good mechanics and shows a lot of promise, with some options in how you deal with things and what you can do, but the actual story, goals and such are so open and vague that it doesn’t hold much interest. Being able to kill the gang leader before their generals feels more like an oversight than a design decision and there’s doesn’t seem to be much of a point to what you’re doing. Include the rather uninspired battles – they really are all just straight fights, no special challenges or areas or such – and it feels like they could’ve put a bit more effort into that rather than figuring how much each car weighs and when you can start throwing it.

  1. […] big disappointment of mine was Crackdown. Jeroen already covered everything that made this a disappointment so I’ll move […]