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Why You Should Care: Crackdown (and Crackdown 2)


I know it’s been a little while since we’ve had opportunity to discuss some of the under-rated/under-appreciated games in the industry, and for that I apologize. The hope has always been that this would be an on-going series, and originally I was thinking it could be a weekly segment. However, with the November rush of games for review, this series fell a little by the wayside. So again, apologizes for the unscheduled hiatus! I’m back though, and raring to talk about games that I feel should have gotten a little more love, or maybe deserve a second glance if you didn’t know/give a chance to them previously.

One other little bit of house-keeping before we get rolling here: During my time off from the series, I decided that one a week is a little bit much. I’m going to, for the time being, step the series down to a bi-weekly feature for the time being. Of course, some feedback on what you guys think about that would be greatly appreciated! Think the series should be weekly? Monthly? Let me know!

And now, on to business:

I remember there was a period in my life that I thought collecting objects was stupid. It seemed like a pointless waste of time, and lazy game design on the part of the creators who were trying to stretch out thin games by offering ‘collect-a-quests.’ Medals, bug-hunts, artifacts, coins, whatever you wanted to call it… If your game was one that featured that kind of content, back in the day, then it was a game I had no interest in playing. That was until Crackdown. When the original Crackdown launched, I was cautiously optimistic. The idea of throwing around cars and leaping from roof to roof excited me… but the idea of having to collect orbs seemed like the single laziest excuse for a collectable side-quest of any game I’d played to date.

Then I got into the game.

The world was changed over-night as I found myself finding my way to the tops of buildings via careful climbs up their sides in darkened allies, as if the game was some kind of an epic mountain climber sim, just to get those sweet, sweet green-glowing agility orbs.

What It Is:

Crackdown is a third-person open-world action/shooter title that was originally developed for the Xbox, but then was held back until 2007 and launched on the console’s successor: the Xbox 360. The concept that it brought forward, being a super-powered cop laying the smack down on multiple gang factions through massive amounts of excessive force, were enough to hook players like myself, the game’s sales numbers were driven primarily by an included beta key for the upcoming Halo 3.

Other than the fact that the game was basically one of the world’s best ‘sandbox’ games (to be clear, I define a sandbox as a game that give you a bunch of tools to really dick around with the world in, not something like Skyrim or GTA where you’re essentially role playing in an open world), the game introduced a unique twist on the genre of open gaming by allowing you take on the ‘end bosses’ (Kingpins) at any time.

So, to summarize Crackdown into nutshell-format: Super powers, guns, orb collection for Agent improvement/modification, open-world sandbox, ability to kill the bosses at any point, big, bad, WAY over-the-top action.

Why You Should Care:

There’s a couple of key features to the original Crackdown (and really, the second game can be included here, because it’s just a tweaked version of the original) that made the game a whole lot of fun, and something that everyone should be made aware of, if they weren’t already:

The first big factor for me was the world traversal. In any open-world game you’re going to be spending a lot of time getting from Point A to Quest-Recipient 3, so it’s important that you make those “down periods” as interesting as possible. To that end, Crackdown’s ability to make scaling buildings fun and challenging was one of its big selling features for me. There was an almost puzzle solving element to getting up the side of taller buildings at the start of the game before agility was leveled up. You needed to seek out the hand-holds within your reach and make your way up to the top of a building. Of course, as your character advanced, that bit of the game got easier and easier… Eventually you would gain the ability to jump from street-level directly onto of some smaller (two story) buildings in a single bound. And of course, once you got yourself up to the rooftops, there was the ability to fling yourself forwards in a great rainbow-arching leap from building to building, cutting down the time it would take to navigate the winding streets below greatly.

Secondly was the multiplayer aspect of the game. A lot of other open world games in Crackdown’s era focused solely on the single-player experience, making the world as robust and open as possible so that one person could spend days lost in the game wandering around and making their own fun… Crackdown did all that as well, then said “Hey, what if your buddy could also jump into the game with you, pick the car you’re in up over their head and fling it off the side of a building into a couple dozen mines below to see what happens next?” There are tons of videos online of the insanity that people dreamed up by being allowed to work together, soaring their characters to new heights with car/platform assisted double and triple tandem jumps, and all sorts of wild sorcery performed via the games expansive list of explosive weaponry. Beyond that, there was always the option to grief. I’ve spent many an hour just playing “keep Player 2 out in the water for as long as possible” thwarting their valiant efforts to return to try land with all manner of explosive weaponry (when caught in an explosion the character models tend to rag-doll and be thrown back with hilarious effect).

Finally, and maybe most importantly, for me, is what the game did to the idea of collect-a-quests in general. Crackdown was the first time anyone had managed to interest me in the idea of running around hunting for ‘trophies’ because in the world of Crackdown orbs had effect on your character, immediate effect in most cases.

Driving fast, catching air, drifting around turns and completing races meant driver orbs and access to advanced classes of vehicle; the most ‘eff yea’ of which being the agency vehicles that would actually transform when you got into them if you had a higher driver level. And that concept spread to all of your Agent’s abilities: beat guys up for melee/strength so you can lift larger objects and throw things further; climb to the tops of buildings and complete foot-races to increase your agility so you can jump farther/higher; shoot people, get headshots, take down bosses with guns and increase your weapon proficiency so that you can use bigger, badder guns; and finally explosives, go forth and blow sh*t up and you get rewarded with a larger explosion radius and new ways to launch said explosives.

There are a lot of great experiences that the original Crackdown, and then its successor offered that were completely unique to the world of open-world third-person shooters/sandbox games. It was also the reason that I now care about collecting items (the only other game that had me interested in collecting really since, of its own uniqueness, was Arkham and the Riddler trophies). If you haven’t had a chance to check out Crackdown previously, it’s not too late. The game is a great one, it’s significantly dropped in price since its release, and you don’t even need to leave the house to pick-up a copy either anymore now that the game is available for digital download on the Xbox Live Marketplace.