Crackdown 2 Review: More Retread Than Sequel

Pacific City begs of the Agency’s purging powers again in Crackdown 2, the Xbox 360 exclusive sequel to 2007’s surprise sandbox hit Crackdown that borrows more from its predecessor than introduces new. If you loved scouring the city for Orbs in the first then this second turn is an encore performance glazed with a few minor tweaks.

A decade has passed since the events of Crackdown and a new threat has emerged for the Agency to repel. As a mindless Agency clone, you’ll set out into the now familiar city – as in nearly identical to the first game – with limited powers and orders to eliminate a terrorist organization dubbed The Cell and mutated Freaks who take a page from the Locust Horde arrival handbook.

The Cell roam Pacific City by day with annoying limitless ammunition and seemingly one target: you. Most of the time they are easily defeated unless you stumble upon a barrage of rockets or a mini-gun is met. Neither plays nice and delivers one of the few combative frustrations the game delivers.

By night, varying sizes of mutated Freaks rise from the ground and fill the streets like zombies a shopping mall as skills building fodder in gift wrapping with a bow on top. Run circles around them to build a big crowd and then toss a grenade, or drive down a Freak infested street and whip a power slide at high speed. Their milling about presence in massive numbers is your invitation to limitless homicidal shenanigans. Only when stumbling into the larger goo spewing kind do they become a nuisance to survival.

Accomplishing cleansing Pacific City is freakishly simple; follow the map to Cell strongholds and activate a marker to signal helicopter support. Hold off the Cell long enough for the chopper to arrive and the stronghold is toppled. For Freaks extermination, activate a series of 3 absorption units by standing on them and then protect a spherical beacon until it can fully charge and obliterate the infestation. Pick up some optional back-story carrying audio recordings along the way and that is the long and short of Crackdown 2’s narrative and path to winning the game.

Beating Crackdown was never the primary reason to play and neither is it in Crackdown 2. Being wild jumping around the city like Superman, collecting hundreds of Orbs and playing with a friend online were. In this respect Crackdown 2 matches the original and takes it to a new level with the addition of Audio logs to find and four-player cooperative play and Party system with a couple unique Achievements tied to it. There are 16-player online adversarial modes as well, but the real bread and butter remains building up agility by collecting green Orbs, driving by running over bad guys, strength by melee combat, firearms by shooting bad guys, and explosives by blowing up bad guys. The game beckons for you to return and continue searching and wiping out Cell and Freaks only moments from turning it off.

Racking up insane kill counts would serve more purpose if there was a counter or more robust Achievements system. If there was ever a game that warranted breaking out of the mold and offering more than 100 Achievements then Crackdown 2 is it. There are roughly 1000 different things to find in the game, not to mention races and challenges that can be completed.

Most of the Achievements are not awarded until skills or areas of the game are completed which will take many hours to reach. There’s no real incremental system that will award an Achievement for reaching 250 Agility Orbs, 100 Xbox Live Orbs or 100 Hidden Orbs. It’s find every of a specific type of Orb or nothing which is an advanced test of one’s patience for repetitiveness.

Crackdown 2 developer Ruffian Games has gone on record stating the game took a mere 8 months to complete from start to finish. This unusually condensed development cycle shows in the final product with the re-use of Pacific City, essentially identical engine and gameplay, and some bugs here and there including standing within feet of enemies in a virtual “dead zone” where you might as well be wearing a cloaking outfit based on their lack of responsiveness to your presence.

When it comes to matching the thrills and addictiveness of skills building or running amuck with a friend to capture wild Achievements, performing crazy stunts or just goofing off while armed to the teeth, Crackdown 2 is a success by association. Nothing was broken in the original and nothing much as really changed in the sequel. Sure there are caverns full of room for improvement, but sometimes reuniting with a proven old friend to relive glory days beat swinging with the new kid on the block.

– Dan Bradley

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