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Game Profile
Xbox 360
Real Time Worlds
GENRE: Action
February 20, 2007

Crackdown 2

 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on November 21, 2006

Hands-On Preview: An open-ended action game that has super powers and online co-op? Sign me up.

aCrackdown from Real Time Worlds shares many things in common with the Grand Theft Auto franchise for several reasons. Chief of those reasons is that the David Jones, founder of Real Time Worlds, helped with the creation of the original GTA game. However, as many now know, the GTA ?model? has become a very successful one to emulate (see Saints Row) and many developers see potential with the open-ended style. The problem in the past has been that the majority of these ?copy cat? games have not been able to achieve the special mix of story, action and design that even comes close to GTA (Saints Row has done the best job so far). Real Time Worlds is attempting to create a game that will not only meet the expectations of the open-ended formula, but also maybe even add some ingredients to it. Their main two ingredients? Genetically enhanced super powers and online co-op for the entire game.

In Crackdown, you are a member of ?The Agency,? a group tasked with cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of Pacific City. Like most open-ended crime worlds, Pacific City is populated with several gangs who all operate slightly different from one another. The Los Muertos is a street gang who concentrates on urban warfare and the drug trade. The Volk is a European outfit that has more structure and ambition than the Muertos. Finally, the Shai Gen is an Asian organization that looks to leverage their knowledge of technology to further their secretive plans. Each gang has scores of underlings that you must remove from the streets, and each gang also has six leaders to best, as well as one kingpin.

One of the real cool things about Crackdown is that a player isn't forced to take on the game in a linear fashion ? quite the opposite, actually. To be fair to other sandbox games, most of them don't really require you to move through in a linear fashion either, but they usually do herd you along at some point to make everything tie together. What Crackdown does is let you completely decide when and how you will go about taking on the various gangs. Each of the leaders and kingpins will require different skills so you'll probably figure out pretty quickly whether you're capable of taking on the task you've chosen. On paper, this sounds like some pretty good freedom for the game, but seeing it in practice throughout the entire game will be the only way to know whether it actually works.

As for how you'll be combating the various thugs and mobsters, Crackdown has some surprises for you. Of course, you'll have access to the usual assortment of guns, explosives and physical attacks (and many of these are very interesting in their own right), but The Agency isn't just some goofy rabble who pumps out rent-a-cops ? not a chance. Your officer will be genetically enhanced with special abilities that will come in very handy throughout your time in Pacific City. Of course, the catch is that you'll have to level up these powers as you go along, meaning when you start out, you'll have limited use of these abilities or they won't be as effective as they'll end up later on. What are some of these abilities? Expect to be swinging light posts, throwing and kicking cars, leaping entire city buildings, and using enhanced speed and combat attacks in order to take out the opposition. Many of these special powers really open up the game world, and it is especially pleasing to be able to scale buildings with a single jump or to launch a car off into the distance with a well-placed boot. A lot of these special abilities will tie into how you complete certain aspects of the campaign as well, since you might be able to scale a building rather than fight a bunch of guys waiting outside. Just the same, throwing cars at people from a distance may prove more effective than fighting them up close with your fists and firearms.

In regards to said cars, you'll be able to drive them around like in many other open-ended games, but they will also change throughout the game based on your skills and level. Cars can be upgraded and tweaked, and you'll be able to make some of them go crazy fast as well as jump high in the air. Many car models are basic civilian types, but you'll also find gang-specific cars and ?Agency? vehicles as well ? the latter type is heavily customizable.

When playing the game back at E3 2006, the performance was decent, but there was some noticeable bits of slowdown and graphical glitching. Even still, the game looked very interesting, as it uses a sort of comic book style that is quite vibrant, but not quite so much that it looks cel-shaded. As for the action, it played very well and was able to handle many pedestrians and gang members on the streets at once, and the weapons in play (from concussive grenade launchers to various assault rifles) were all satisfying and unique. The ability to blow away cars and pedestrians with the grenade launcher was particularly memorable, as the impact would create a sort of sonic wave that would blow everything out from the epicenter (the game uses some inspired physics to help add some comedy into how people and objects fly around). The special abilities were very interesting as well, and the ability to jump buildings, scale high ledges, throw cars, and just generally move around the world like some sort of combination of Spiderman and the Terminator was very, very cool.

Honestly, though, what could really be the defining feature of this game is the inclusion of online co-op support throughout the entire game. This won't be some half-assed addition like previous shooters/action games, but rather a fully featured co-op experience that runs through the entire campaign with no compromises. Much like Gears of War, the co-op will allow two agents to truck through the campaign and drop in and drop out at any point. The host will be the only one to gain actual story progress while two people are playing, but both players will accrue stats and level ups for the overall characters. Real Time Worlds has said they've devoted as much time to the co-op experience as they have to the solo portion, and this is very encouraging seeing as co-op ? if done right ? can be an amazing feature.

Final Thoughts
Crackdown looks to be one of the flagship games that Microsoft Game Studios will be pushing in the spring of 2007, alongside Mass Effect from Bioware. With the unique special powers and full-fledge online co-op, Crackdown definitely has some unique aspects going for it. If the presentation comes together in the style that Real Time Worlds hopes it does, Crackdown could definitely be something worth getting excited about.

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