Review: Crackdown 2

Russ Pitts | 23 Jul 2010 10:51
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Forget story - Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360) doesn't have one. Or, it does, really, but it doesn't matter. You won't care about it even if you remember it, and the game doesn't really go out of its way to remind you. Besides, the point of Crackdown 2 is not to experience a deep, rich narrative. The point is to blow shit up.

But on the off chance you care, here it is: You will play Crackdown 2 as a bio-engineered super-soldier called an "Agent." You work for "The Agency." After saving Pacific City from the three rival gangs at the end of Crackdown, something somehow went horribly wrong and the city is now infested with zombie-like underground-dwelling mutants called "Freaks." They mostly come at night (mostly), so by day you'll be battling a band of anti-Agency guerillas called "Cell." Got it? Cell by day, Freaks by night. Good. Now forget all of that because, as I said, it doesn't matter.

Crackdown 2 is as much about its story as your typical Hollywood action film - less perhaps. It's pure, old school, comic-fueled bombast. If it were a car, it'd be a Camaro. The colors are bright, the explosions are loud and the enemies die in entirely satisfying ways. Plus, if you don't feel like bothering with the story, you don't have to. The world is huge and spread wide open from hour one. It's Grand Theft Auto, except you're Superman.

The game works because it doesn't take itself seriously - at all. The look and feel are straight out of a comic book cartoon, complete with the loud, authoritative, yet endearingly wisecracky narrator, who will guide you along your way to becoming the strongest, fastest, most deadly agent you can be.

There are only two rules in this game, and they're both sometimes hard to follow. The first is: Don't kill civilians. You will want to. Sometimes it will be unavoidable. They're everywhere, what with this being their city and all, and when you bump into one it will break your stride, taking up your precious time and putting you in danger. If you kill them (accidentally or on purpose) the consequences will be the same as if you break rule number two (don't kill Peacekeepers): The Peacekeepers will all try to kill you.

Peacekeepers are about as dangerous to you as a gnat is to a rhinoceros. That is to say, not very. But there are a lot of them, and concentrated fire hurts. Kill too many civilians or Peacekeepers, and the entire Peacekeeper army will attempt to destroy you on sight until they succeed, at which point your tough, but fair narrator/friend will sigh and say "I hope we've learned our lesson."

Crackdown 2 is not subtle, and it's not art, really, but it succeeds extremely well at almost everything it attempts to do, which is not much, but then again, it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of guns and vehicles to unlock or discover, plenty of tall buildings to climb, plenty of enemies to kill and plenty of missions to undertake. Each step along the way feels satisfying and the whole thing ends with a good, solid bang while leaving the door swinging wide open for a Crackdown 3.

Fans of the first Crackdown may be conflicted by this second installment. At first glance it feels like just more Crackdown, and it is. There are subtle improvements and some new toys to play with - not to mention the new enemy, the Freaks, who are a lot of fun to squish - but by and large this feels so much like a mere extension of the same game that the first few hours left me in a bit of a funk, disappointed that the experience hadn't been substantially broadened.

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