Developer: Realtime Worlds
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Format: Xbox 360
Easily soundbited (soundbitten?) into “it’s GTA, but you’re a superhero”, and indeed the creation of Grand Theft Auto co-creator David Jones, Crackdown plonks you in the near-future genero-metropolis of Pacific City and tells you to wipe out three criminal gangs by assassinating their key figureheads, adding up to a total of 21 scalps to collect.
As an “Agent”, you’re a supercop clone – which makes respawning neatly tie in to the game’s story, when one clone dies they just download all his abilities and knowledge into another one and send him out – who gains power through experience. Your skills are divided into agility, driving skill, firearm skill, strength and explosive skill. At the game’s beginning you’re at peak physical condition – by the end you can jump thirty feet, throw trucks about and headshot a goon with a pistol from half a mile away.
The entire city, remarkably, is available straight away. Once the game’s loaded, that’s it. There are no pauses when you enter a building, no bits that are locked off until later – you can run end to end straight off, no waiting. (Admittedly, you’ll die, because you won’t be able to handle the tougher gangs at first, but hey.) This does mean, however, that there’s a slight lack in variety since there are no separate interiors – only a few buildings can be investigated, and most of them aren’t that interesting – but it’s a worthwhile price to pay for the feeling of freedom.
And freedom is what this game is about. Once you’re in the city, you can pretty much do as you please (as long as you don’t kill too many innocent civilians, or the Agency will start hunting you). On a practical level, you need to open up supply points bit by bit, gradually work your way up through the lesser of the 21 gang members before taking on the big cheeses, but there’s nothing to stop you at least trying to head straight to the gigantic tower that houses the ultimate villain and blowing his head off. As mentioned, you’ll die, but it’s nice to have the freedom to try.
The main problem is that there’s not much variety. While every boss has a distinct lair, from nightclubs to lighthouses to oil rigs, it’s pretty much just run in, shoot everyone, kill the boss. The game at least advises you on different ways to infiltrate each lair, but on a practical level there’s barely any diversity. It gets a bit tiring when you have to attempt a lair five or six times, but you’ll always come back for more.
Because good heavens, this game is fun. When you leap across five apartment blocks, hurl a grenade into a group of thugs, rip a car door off and chuck that at someone else, before nicking another car and driving that off a mountain, it’s hard to complain about a little repetitiveness.
MAGIC MOMENT: the main way to boost your agility is to collect agility orbs – little green things that are tucked away in high places and make a noise when you get close. There are 500 to collect, and searching them out is outrageously addictive.