Crackdown has an uninspired story, dated graphics, wonky controls, and yet remains a decent blast to play some seven years thanks to its open-endedness and the freedom it gives the player to do whatever they want, in whatever order is desired. It’s been a great game for picking up and playing a little bit, and then putting down for a few months while other more narrative-driven videogames demand my time. Recently, I put my nose to the grindstone and took out gang leader after gang leader, eventually wiping Pacific City clean of baddies. No, really–the entire post-game map seems to be void of anyone to punch, shoot, or blow up, which kind of throws a wrench into my progress for a few desirable Achievements.
Again, there’s very little story here, except to say that you’re a supercop working for the Agency who can grow in strength over time by punching, shooting, exploding, and driving just right. Meaning, no going all Grand Theft Auto III and killing an entire street’s worth of civilians, as that’ll actually take away from your level up progression. You are tasked with taking out racist-themed gang leaders and their subsequent goons, and that’s all the story you get for 95% of the game–until right after you finish the final fight. Sorry, but I’m going to have to spoil the twist here to prove a point: your commander, y’know, that directions-giving voice in your head, reveals that he was the one to give so much power to these gangs, to make the populace fear them and be grateful for when the Agency came sweeping through to save the day. It’s not far off from Syndrome’s plan in The Incredibles, and the twist comes out of nowhere and immediately fails because there’s no substantial story actually backing it up. You spend the whole game killing gang leaders, and the ending still would have fallen flat if your commander simply congratulated you and shot fireworks into the night sky.
Crackdown is basically a mix of shooting and platforming, and neither of the two felt stupendous throughout my entire playthrough. Certainly, the jumping is more fun and tighter than the shooting, which gave me a lot of trouble, especially when I was trying to target a different armed enemy, but it kept locking on the one closest to me. That said, jumping from building roof to building roof, even with upgrades to increase the height and length of a leap, still proved a gamble, and I found myself falling to the boring streets below quite often. When you can nail a string of rooftop jumps, it does feel pretty awesome and superhero-like. Overall, the shooting never felt effective, as if you were blasting walking bags of sand until, eventually, they fell down.
There are a few side activities to occupy your time while you move between gang leaders, and they are as so: Agility Orbs, Hidden Orbs, Street Races, Rooftop Races, and Stunt Jumps. Let’s get this out of the way first; I did maybe one or two Street Races/Stunt Jumps and immediately decided to never do them again. Since the driving in the game is so arcade-y and unpredictable, these two activities proved more trouble than fun. As for Rooftop Races, they can be a good time so long as you are upgraded enough to leap here and there. I ended up doing one that brought the Agent all the way back to HQ, but couldn’t finish the race because it was asking me to climb to the tippy-top. Boo and grrr.
Now, for a lot of players, Crackdown is Agility Orbs. These are green glowing balls of light, often on roofs, which you can collect. There are…500 in total. When you get a certain amount, your jumping skills increase, so they are a collectible worth going after, but be prepared, as there are 500 in total, and they do not appear on your map. You gotta keep your eyes and ears open for ’em. By the end of the game, I had found 400+. Oh, and there are something like 300 Hidden Orbs–blue balls of light that provide a boost of experience to all of the Agent’s abilities–and I had only grabbed around 75 or so by Crackdown‘s conclusion. I don’t think I’ll be going back to track down anymore despite the collector in me screaming otherwise.
Alas, I can only imagine how much more fun and amazing this was in 2007, but Microsoft gave out a free copy of Crackdown for Gold users only recently, and so I’m playing it in a completely different industry era. Times have changed, controls have changed, and standards are a bit higher. It’s fine, truly, but games like inFamous 2 improved on the formula greatly. Well, I’m glad I got to at least experience it, knowing that a new one is forthcoming. Speaking of that…
Recently, thanks to the E3 news that a new Crackdown is on its way, Jeremy Parish from USGamer put together a retrospective on the original game that is very much worth your time.