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First taste of 'Crackdown 2' satisfies

June 16, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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The original 'Crackdown' was certainly one of the biggest surprises of 2007. Many people originally bought the game simply as a means to gain access to the Halo 3 beta. Yet a large number of people who played it were pleasantly surprised by the new IP that featured superhero-like cops that were able to wreak havoc in an open-world city.

It's three years later and a Crackdown sequel is imminent, but things are a little different. A new developer has taken the helm, with Ruffian Games replacing Realtime Worlds, and there's no prize at the bottom of the cereal box like the Halo 3 beta to help nudge people toward buying the product.

Oh, and now there are zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. We'll get to that in just a moment though.

Crackdown 2G4 Canada had a chance to try out both the campaign and multiplayer portions of Crackdown 2 ahead of its release date, and it looks like Ruffian Games is taking the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach.

After a very quick opening cinematic that serves to refresh those who played the first game and catch up gamers who missed the original, the player is quickly dropped down into the fictional world of Pacific City. It's the same place the first Crackdown took place, but things have gone downhill in this urban centre.

The first thing we notice is the more pronounced cel-shaded look compared to the original. This graphic style is used to give the game a more comic book-like appearance but in motion, it looks almost too cartoon-y at first. It only takes a few minutes to get used to though, and it all blends well with the often colourful backgrounds and nearly constant explosions.

After the opening minutes and obligatory tutorial, it's time to head off to complete the first mission. Your character has to activate several beacons spread throughout Pacific City in order to take out the zombies - affectionately dubbed 'freaks' - that come out at night to reign terror on innocent civilians.

It's pretty standard fare and stands more or less as a way to get the player accustomed to how the game plays out. Anyone familiar with the original Crackdown will be right at home here. You can take out baddies (or cops, or civilians) just about any way you desire. Melee, firearms, explosives, cars - you play however you'd like.

The hook with Crackdown 2, like its predecessor, is that you earn coloured orbs every time you kill someone, but the colours coincide with the manner in which you take someone out. So if you're driving up a storm on the streets of Pacific City, running over all of your victims, your driving abilities (acceleration, handling, etc) will level up faster. Continually throw grenades into large crowds, on the other hand, and you'll quickly become an explosives expert.

It certainly has an addictive quality, and in our short time with the campaign, we managed to level up at least one of our abilities. The progression worked wonderfully in the first game, and we're betting it'll play out the exact same in Crackdown 2. It's amazing being able to eventually leap tall buildings after you've run and jumped around enough.

Crackdown 2One problem with the sequel, though, is that there doesn't seem to be a way to easily switch between targets once you're locked onto one. Holding down the left trigger will have you automatically lock onto an enemy, but if you want to switch to someone closer to you who's shooting holes in you with a shotgun for instance, you have to let go of the left trigger, aim for the enemy you want, and hold it down again. It makes an otherwise fluid game feel clunky, especially considering how often the screen fills up with enemies.

The jury is still out on the whole 'freaks' aspect of the game as well. We're not quite sure what they add to the experience, as they act like your typical zombie in any zombie movie made in the 21st century - that is to say, they're mindless, and they're fast. They only come out at night, and though it's fun running over a whole crowd full of the things, it does get a little monotonous.

Our only regret is that weren't able to try out the co-op. The first Crackdown is still one of the best co-op games to come out for any current generation system, and that was limited to two players. Crackdown 2 allows for up to four supercops to team up at any time on Xbox Live. Crackdown is a true sandbox game, and we can only imagine what could be done with four active imaginations being let loose together in Pacific City. We did notice a few objectives that were only able to be completed with multiple players.

There is also a full competitive multiplayer portion to Crackdown 2, and G4 Canada had a chance to go in-depth with one mode that's sure to be a hit, Rocket Tag.

It's fairly self-explanatory - one player starts off glowing yellow, and it's up to the other players to 'tag' him or her in the most violent way possible - with rockets. The person who is 'it' dies (obviously) and leaves behind a yellow orb, making whoever touches it the next target. The winner is decided by whoever controls the yellow orb for the longest - either for a set amount time, or until the game clock runs out.

At first, this mode seemed like a complete mess, with players barely able to stay 'it' for more than a couple of seconds before being hit from every direction by numerous rockets. Turns out there's actually some strategy involved though.

Crackdown 2The maps are made up of different chunks of Pacific City, with boundaries made of up of invisible barriers. Once you get to know the limits of the map you're on, it's simply a matter of constantly staying moving - preferably staying as high up as possible.

You'll have to learn how to jump from one point to another without getting stuck on the ground or hitting a dead end, as that will spell almost certain death. It's nearly impossible to hide on any map as well, so your only choice really is to move, move, move!

By the end of the night, there were some truly white-knuckle rocket tag games to be played. This mode is just as over-the-top as the campaign and looks like it'll be a real crowd pleaser. There was also some classic every-supercop-for-themselves deathmatch, which didn't have quit the flair that rocket tag did. That being said, being able to hop into a helicopter makes things a lot more fun.

So though things seemed slightly underwhelming at first, Crackdown 2 managed to impress us more and more with every explosive barrel shot into the air and every rocket hit to the face.

And considering that what could easily be the title's biggest draw - the four player co-op - wasn't played, we're eagerly anticipating the impending release of Crackdown 2.


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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see