"Skills for Kills, Agent. Skills for Kills"
Release Date: February 20, 2007
Developer: Realtime Worlds
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I recently decided to revisit Crackdown, as there are a few achievements I wanted to unlock, and mostly to play some cool co-op. I was shattered to realize that during one of my many console changes, I must have lost the save game and my character, that was next to Superman himself in power and awesomeness, was now more akin to the Man of Steel after he lost his powers in Superman II. I was devastated, no longer could I jump from Room top to roof top, while carrying a semi in my arms. I had to choice, I had to rebuild him.
This incident must have been a blessing, because I actually forgot how much fun this game could be. Crackdown is an action game with a hint of exploration sprinkled in for good measure. The story is thin and simple. You are a member of an elite squad of cybernetic enhanced crime fighters working for “The Agency”. You have been hired to rid Pacific City of the three different organized crime families; the Los Muertos, the Volk and the Shai-Gen families. Each family contains several crime bosses and one kingpin. Everyone will need to be eliminated. Since Crackdown is a sandbox game, you can decide the order of who you take-down first. While you may opt to try to take out a family Kingpin first, it may be wise to take out a few bosses as this will greatly weaken the Kingpin and improve your odds at winning.
As I indicated, Crackdown is a sandbox game. But unlike other so called sandbox games, in Crackdown you can travel anywhere you want to from the moment you start the game. There is no legion of super cops stopping you from visiting a specific area (or island), but be warned there are super crooks that will mow you down if you travel to the rougher areas before you are a bit more skillful. As an member of The Agency, you have been outfitted with cybernetic implants that will elevate you to superhuman proportions once you have trained your skills a bit more. In Crackdown you have 5 main skills; agility, strength, driving, shooting and explosives. Each skill start out weak but can be improved by collecting orbs for the skill you want to improve. Each action will produce orbs of one or more skill type. For example if you shoot an enemy dead, you will receive shooting orbs, that will fill in your shooting skill bar. If you kick an enemy dead, you will receive strength orbs. Now if you performed more than one type of attack, such as shot an enemy to make him/her drop their weapon, then kicked the enemy down and finally dropped an explosive device to finish them off, you will receive orbs corresponding to all 3 skills used (just less of each). Incidentally driving over an enemy will earn you driving orbs, but to improve your driving skills, you need to complete races and stunts. Agility orbs are mainly obtained by finding special green agility orb stacks placed all over the game map. Finally there are also Hidden orbs that will increase all your skills a little bit, but can be hard to find. Once you have acquired enough orbs to fill in a skill, you will gain a level for that skill that will dramatically improve your capabilities related to the skill. The first skill you need to improve is your agility, as it will dictate how high you can jump in this game, and trust me, if you plan on staying at ground level, you will die, often.
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Side note on agility and hidden orbs. Some evil person from Realtime Worlds thought it was a good idea to insert 500 agility orbs all over the game world. These are easy enough to spot, but can be in locations that are very tough to reach. If that was not maddening enough, they also stashed 300 hidden orbs in places that are easy to reach, but hidden from view and very hard to find. Now the inclusion of such orbs in themselves offer little to the regular player, but those same devious programmers saw fit to provide 2 achievements for the discovery of all the these orbs. And because of this, you now understand why I may never sleep again.
A small portion of Crackdown involves driving/racing. To this effect, you have three Agency vehicles available to you, but you may also commandeer and car you see on the street. If taking over a fictional city from various crime bosses, “borrowing” vehicles at will, shooting stuff up in a sandbox style game all sounds familiar, that may be attributed to the fact that Crackdown was created by David Jones, you also created a little know game called Grand Theft Auto (did not think you heard of it).
Just as in Grand Theft Auto, Crackdown features an incredible open city for you to explore. The game engine allows for unbelievable draw distance. If you climb a high tower, you can see for miles. Pacific City is a bustling city, filled with people at every corner. As a crime fighter it is your duty to ensure they come to no harm as you deal with the various crime families. If by chance you do harm innocents bystanders, you will lose some of your skills. This is most problematic while driving, as the skill is hard to develop, and easy to lose. The engine also covers everything in a cool cell shaded graphics style that makes the game look and fell like a comic book,
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The game controls are tight, and they need to be, as you will be spending a lot of time running and jumping from rooftop to rooftop with little room for error. My only concern was driving, as I found the controls of the various cars not very responsive, or on occasion, too responsive, making the various vehicles hard to control, resulting in me running over too many pedestrians and losing driving skills in the process. For this main reason, I avoided driving. It was also way more fun to go from rooftop to rooftop once your agility skills have been maxed.
I had not really tried the multiplayer aspect of Crackdown prior to a week or so ago. Let me tell you, this is how the game needs to be played. Taking out the crime bosses is a lot simpler with a friend, but the fun does not stop at eliminating bad dudes, having a friend can make hunting down those evil agility and hidden orbs a lot easier. Also when playing with a friend, you can go through all the races in co-op mode. There is something so fun about doing a rooftop race against someone else. If the other person gets ahead of you, just launch a few rockets at ‘em. That will slow them down. Multiplayer is quite seamless as well. You need only start a single player game, and friends can just send you a request to join your game, if you allow it, they get dropped into your game and can assist you in completing your quests before dropping out again and you can just continue playing like nothing happened. A cool features is that if they join your game, they can still get agility and hidden orbs as these will appear for the person needing the orbs, but not for the second person if they already picked it up. And any agency access points unlocked or crime bosses killed while in multiplayer will be available to both players in their respective single player games.
The most fun I had playing Grand Theft Auto IV was playing in "free mode". In this mode, you are free to roam where you may choose and blow stuff up, without having to worry about the story slowing you down. Well Crackdown is nothing but "free mode" all the time, but with super hero powers to boot. This game is incredibly fun as a single player, but most fun with a friend in co-op. Since in can be had new for about $19.99, or used for less than $10, do yourself a pleasure and pick up Crackdown today, and look me up for I will still be playing.