Crackdown is what I like to call a system buyer. Every system has them. Nintendo has the Mario and Zelda franchises, and Playstation has franchises like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid. Xbox has Halo, and now Crackdown
. For those who think Gears of War is a bit too sedate and structured, Microsoft offers the chaos and joy of Crackdown.
Since Crackdown's unveiling, I was not sure what to expect. The credentials behind the development team are excellent (David Jones, head of Real Time Worlds, is well-known for creating both Lemmings and the original Grand Theft Auto), the word of mouth has been positive, and what the developers were trying to achieve displayed potential. Yet, how many times have we been disappointed by good pedigrees before? (Rare-ly, I'm sure...)
Crackdown is a free roaming adventure game, a gameplay style made popular on consoles by the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Like GTA, you run around a city and perform tasks, or do whatever you want. I like the concept, just like I appreciate the GTA franchise as well, but let's face it, this form of gameplay is getting old because everyone is doing it now. Nevertheless, I did want to play Crackdown while at E3.
What was intended to be a quick 10-15 minute trial ended up being close to 45 minutes. I had to literally pull myself away from Crackdown so others could play, and force myself not to come back on subsequent days because I knew I would do the same thing again.
In Crackdown, you play an Agent (of the mysterious "Agency") who has been cybernetically augmented to superhuman capabilities. The city has been overrun by crime, and when I say overrun, I mean it. From the moment the demo started, gunfire was blazing. Everybody on the street was shooting at me-- everyone, making everybody a target. However, there is a catch...
A Microsoft representative, Guy Whitmore, told me that as you clear the crime off of the streets, harmless civilians will slowly start to move back into the area. Since you are a cop, hurting civilians is discouraged and your player will be penalized for doing so. This will ultimately affect the gameplay because a player will not be able to shoot and kill everyone throughout the entire game-they will have to become more strategic and careful as the game progresses.
In terms of available weapons, there are grenades, multiple guns, vehicles, and various objects available throughout the game. You can use them to your heart's content, but the real fun comes into play when you start building your character's abilities such as strength and speed.
In one instance, multiple characters were shooting at me from behind a car. I decided that I was going to jump into the car, do a u-turn, and run them over. However, I accidentally pressed the wrong button upon reaching the car, and instead of jumping into the car, I kicked the car in the direction of my enemies. To my surprise, upon contact with my foot, the car flew in the direction of the shooters, knocking all of them over and landing some ways away from me. My mouth dropped when I saw this, once I discovered this technique it became my favorite. I kept kicking vehicles and large objects at everyone instead of shooting them. Soon after, I also found out that not only could my character kick vehicles, but also pick them up and throw them. Then I found out that I could scale buildings as my character's jump strength increased. I had a ball.
And that's really what Crackdown is about at its heart: Absolute mayhem and open-ended play. From the very beginning, the game world is completely open. Just because some gangsters will go through your n00b Agent with ease, that's no reason for the game to prevent you from getting in way over your head.
Luckily, if you do get in over your head, you can get help in a couple ways. First, Crackdown supports online multiplayer co-op with two players. That means that friends can pop in for an evening of collaborative policing or enemies can hold one-on-one super-brawls. If your friend is not online, it still pays to have friends with good Crackdown skills.
You can map four of your friends to each of the main directions on the d-pad. If you need a strength boost and your friend has better strength than you, tap the d-pad and you can swap out abilities for a moment, giving you the super boost you need to get past whatever obstacle blocks your way.
In many ways, Crackdown is the future of the open-ended crimefighting adventure. The unique visual style, the absolute mayhem, and completely next-generation social aspects make Crackdown all it's been cracked up to be. Definitely keep an eye for this one to hit Xbox 360 this Fall.