It’s the end of the world as we know it …
Welcome back to Pacific City, Agent. Crime has taken a backseat to a daytime war against the anti-agency terrorist organization named Cell and relentless mutant assaults all night long. It’s the same city, but she hasn’t aged well. Smashed pavement, broken buildings, barricades, and grafitti litter the streets that were well maintained.

 

… and I feel fine.
I was one of the people who bought and played Crackdown while waiting for the Halo 3 beta that was included, and found that I enjoyed it enough to justify buying the DLC. I generally am drawn to cooperative gameplay so when the offer went out to the GT team as to who wanted to review Crackdown 2, I gladly accepted the burden.

 

There is no Halo beta tied to this game, and while that might seem limiting, it allows Ruffian Games’ darling title to stand on its own. That’s not to say that Crackdown 2 doesn’t have any flaws, but I’ll tell you this- I’d rather be playing it right now than writing this review.

Are those new shoes?
Crackdown 2 has stuck to 720p and the cel-shading and comic-like textures. It’s not loud and annoying; if you haven’t played the previous title the closest comparison would be Borderlands. They’ve done away with the auto-upgrading vehicles based on your skill, and instead restrict which vehicles you can order based on your rank in driving. You also don’t use the Agency headquarters anymore, but instead get to order weapon or vehicle drops at specific Agency strongholds scattered across the map. Those spots aren’t free though; you’re going to have to fight to unlock them.

 

There were only two game-stopping issues I ran into while playing Crackdown 2 for the past 5 days.  One was where another game reviewer was stuck behind some air ducts and could not get out.  I offered assistance by giving him all of my ammo.  (In retrospect, he could have just “extracted” and redeployed at a different location.)

 

The other issue was where I ended up climbing out of my overturned car on a bridge and got stuck in a guardrail. Even though I was frustrated at that particular moment, the vast amount of time I’ve spent in overturned vehicles in Pacific City has taught me that this was a rare set of circumstances and something I couldn’t duplicate.

Agent, have you been listening to anything I’ve said?
Crackdown 2 has the same narrator as the first one, so you can expect some pretty funny dialog. If there was a shortcoming in this, it’s that there are some phrases that get used a lot. Ruffian did away with the visual indicators showing if you’ve pissed off the mutants, peacekeepers (police/civilian casualties), or Cell insurgents.  Instead, the narrator tells you when you’ve enraged a faction enough that they’ve deployed additional forces to take you down.

 

Speaking of sounds, you can rely on positional audio in Crackdown 2. I can’t tell you how many times Dolby 5.1 helped me dodge grenades, or turned around BEFORE getting trampled by stomper mutants (similar to the tank class zombie seen in the Left4Dead series). They’ve also licensed songs which are available when you’re driving, but there is no selecting the songs. I found that if I were in the mood for music, I’d just stream my own music though the Live interface as I didn’t care for the techno-heavy music, with exception given to the included CCRs Bad Moon Rising and Johnny Cash’s Man in Black.

You do remember how to drive, don’t you?
The controls haven’t varied much from the previous game, with the following caveats: there is no more zooming, you can’t switch targets while locked in (unless your target dies), and there are some added moves once you hit level 5 for agility and strength. I’m not going to spoil those moves for you – I was looking forward to finding them myself.

 

Ruffian added a much needed tool that was missing in the first Crackdown – an orb radar. It has a timed cooldown period so it doesn’t make things too easy, and coupled with the achievements map found in the  Crackdown 2 pause menu, you can see all of the orbs that are still out there.

You are not alone, Agent.
Right from the word go, if you’re signed into XBOX Live with a gold account, you are playing multiplayer. When you select your own city and difficulty, by default you are set to accept connections from other players to drop into your city to help out. You can change these settings per game to restrict or refuse connections, or you can opt to visit someone elses home turf. You also have more than one agent slot, so don’t be worried that you’re going to severely overshadow your buddy who just started. Also, since there are five difficulty settings, you can adjust the challenge based on your overall party skill and progression.

 

The nature of getting Crackdown 2 in advance of the release date, for me, a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s all kinds of fun playing a game that almost no one has yet (besides the game testers, the review media, and the pirate community), but I really want to play this with 4 people, and scraping people together with a game that isn’t out yet is pretty hard to do. I did manage to play for a bit with fine gentleman from another game review site, and it gave me a taste of being able to play with my friends.

Do you like what you see?
I’ve put 20+ hours into Crackdown 2, and while I admit that at its heart it is a formulaic sandbox game, it does everything right. There isn’t a strong “you must go here first” atmosphere. It is just plain fun. No justifications, no strings. The game captures the magic of jumping around, climbing highrises and blowing stuff up.

 

Crackdown 2 is held together by an intriguing storyline (anyone who finished the first Crackdown knows the Agency isn’t as benevolent as it wants to seem), and in addition to the missions you also have the option of collecting 500 agility orbs, 300 hidden orbs, 80 Live orbs, dozens of moving orbs (which force you to chase them on foot or in a vehicle) and 52 storyline clips that give you a better perspective on the nature of the mutant outbreak. It isn’t content rich though, so don’t expect to be wowed like the Red Dead Redemption release.

 

The real magic is that you get to do so with your friends with a seamless interface and a balanced gameplay. There are adversarial modes as well, and while there weren’t enough people on before release date, they look to be like a lot of fun. Knowing that Crackdown put forth some of the best downloadable content for its time, I expect that Ruffian Games and Microsoft are planning on giving Crackdown 2 some serious DLC love.

 

If you don’t have Live gold account though, you might want to consider trying the demo first, as there is no splitscreen multiplayer. For the reason that the magic of Crackdown 2 relies on the 60/year Live subscription, I’ve adjusted the value score accordingly. If you do have the Gold account, then feel free to add three points to the overall score.

Consider this a lesson, Agent.
Crackdown 2 is a game that’s heavy on action, gameplay and interacting with your friends. At the time of this review, I can’t think of another sandbox style game that allows cooperative multiplayer that is this fun and accessible. From stringing vehicles together with mag grenades to trying to collect orbs and achievements, the folks at Ruffian have put out a quality product that is almost as much to play alone as it is to share. A friend described the demo as being “More Crackdown. That isn’t a bad thing.”, and I concur.

 

Pacific City needs your help – and so do I. I’ll see you there, Agent.

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