Stick with it though and the individual improvements and additions snowball, or you may find that more of the same game is good enough because the first installment was so much damn fun. I'm not sure which it was for me, but after those first few hours my ennui diminished and then I forgot what the word ennui meant because I was having too much brain-numbing fun.
As an agent, you will improve your superpowers by using them, mainly to kill things. Kill things with explosives and your explosives skill increases, granting you the power to explode things even more explosively. Kill things with cars, and your car skill increases, granting you access to better cars, and so forth. You increase your agility skill, though, by climbing high rooftops and collecting orbs. This can easily become an obsessively addictive mini-game in itself, as there are 500 of the damn things, and acquiring them requires equal parts platforming skill, puzzle-solving and flights of imagination.
Every structure in the game can be climbed if your agility skill is high enough, and you're creative. There are even Xbox Live achievements for doing ridiculous daredevil stunts like climbing the highest building in the game, jumping off it into a chimney stack, landing at the bottom of a deep, dark hole, in a large toilet bowl filled with water and rubber ducks and surviving. Or, if your agility is high enough, you can get access to the wing suit, which is basically a personal hang-glider. Use the wing suit to glide across each of Pacific City's islands without touching the ground, and you get an achievement. It's an achievement you may never get, but if you care enough to try, it's there for you.
On the negative side, the controls are occasionally unforgiving or just plain broken. Some of the more insane climbing or gliding stunts require a precision that may simply not be possible with an Xbox controller, but in any event is frustrating in its absence. Some of the enemy weapons you'll encounter are also controller-throwingly overpowered, but that's forgivable considering you, as an Agent, have the ability to kill practically anything merely by touching it.
Combat in Crackdown 2 can be frustrating for the same reason Superman is boring: If you're really invulnerable, where's the conflict? In Crackdown 2, you're not actually invulnerable, but you can absorb bullets better than a Bounty paper towel absorbs water, and you can jump from a 20-story building without breaking more than the pavement beneath your feet, so, you're close enough. It's actually a marvel that the combat is any fun at all, considering. The big guns and powerful explosions probably help.
Bottom Line: With plenty of missions, new enemies, new weapons, minor enhancements and lost of things that go boom, Crackdown 2 offers hours of satisfying, brainless fun for those who enjoy that sort of thing. Newcomers to the series and die-hard fans alike will find plenty to obsess over.
Recommendation: Rent this one if you're not sure if it's your thing. The demo didn't do it justice though, so it's worth a second chance if that left you feeling dry. If you enjoyed the first game, or like open-world action in general, buy this. You will not regret it.
Game: Crackdown 2
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Ruffian Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studio
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon
Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist.