Crackdown Review

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Crackdown was a sleeper hit and one of the reasons it was so successful is because early copies were bundled with an access code to the Halo 3 multiplayer beta. And as it turns out, Crackdown is a lot of fun. I acquired my copy well after Halo 3 launched and it became one of my most played games on 360. Developed by Realtime Worlds and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Crackdown was released for Xbox 360 in February, 2007. Players are put in the shoes of an Agent with superhuman abilities and must rid the city of its most dangerous criminals.

Set in the fictional Pacific City, the city is controlled by three criminal organizations: Los Muertos, The Volk, and the Shai-Gen Corporation. An organization called the Peacekeepers police the city but after they were overwhelmed by crime, an organization known as the Agency was forced to step in. Using advanced technology, the Agency has created supersoldiers known as Agents who are dispatched to clean up the city by systematically eliminating the leaders of the gangs. I do like the premise and whether it was intended or not, its got a satirical tone that often reminded of the film RoboCop. It just doesn’t share all the same themes or excessive gore.

Crackdown can be played solo or cooperatively. You start by choosing a difficulty and Agent skin, and begin your fight against crime at the Agency where you can access a garage with Agency vehicles. There are three exits to the different districts of the city and as soon as you enter the first district, you’ll see the city is basically at war. It’s a war on crime. Gangs are running rampant in the streets, nobody is safe, and almost everywhere you go are enemies ready to gun you down. You’ll frequently see Peacekeepers engaged in firefights with gang members, bullets will zip all around you, you’ll often see and hear explosions, and pedestrians will run away from all the action in fear. It’s mass chaos all the time.

Being an open world game, you are free to go anywhere you want but it’s wise to eliminate the gangs in order. Each district is controlled by a gang and things become more difficult as you progress. You can hijack any vehicle you come across and use any weapons dropped by enemies. You can store vehicles in your garage which can then be retrieved at any time and take weapons back to Supply Points. Once discovered, Supply Points act as fast travel points and allow you to outfit your agent with whatever combination of equipment you desire. You can equip a primary firearm, backup firearm, and explosives or cloaking device.

Your goal is simple. Eliminate all gang bosses. Each gang has a kingpin and by eliminating their generals first, they become easier to take down. You must discover where each gang boss is by finding their hideout in the city. You can get around in a variety of ways including driving or running but jumping around is by far the most enjoyable, especially when your agility is maxed out. As you play, you’ll increase each of your five core skills; agility, driving, strength, explosives, and firearms. Improving your skills does become addictive because as they improve, you become more efficient and can even acquire new abilities and upgrades.

Most skills improve by doing basic stuff like simply shooting enemies, beating them up, or blowing them up so most of them can be upgraded by just engaging enemies which is the primary focus of the game anyway but you can take on specific side content like races to improve certain skills as well as try for record times. If there’s any skills I would suggest focusing on first, it’s agility and strength. Improving your agility means you’ll be able to run faster and jump higher and being able to jump from rooftop to rooftop is often the best and sometimes fastest way to get around. It’s also a lot of fun. The best ways to improve your agility are by collecting the agility orbs scattered around the city and by completing rooftop races. Strength is important because increased strength means increased maximum health which becomes very beneficial when you get to the second and third districts.

Pacific City is basically an action sandbox. Killing innocent people will hinder your skill progress and result in the Peacekeepers coming after you so you need to be careful when on the streets, especially with explosive weapons. Gang members will often shoot you on sight and if you piss them off enough, they will send hit squads after you. The streets are often extremely dangerous so it’s wise to stick to the rooftops. It’s also the best way to avoid hurting innocent people. There will be enemies on top of buildings but they’re far more prevalent on the streets.

Driving is fun but jumping around is much more enjoyable and as your agility increases, you’ll be able to reach previously inaccessible areas. Your Agent can grab onto ledges and pull himself up and into the air with great strength. Grabbing onto ledges can be finicky and you need to make sure your Agent is facing the ledge or he won’t grab on. It also sucks when you see a ledge or something that looks like it can be grabbed but it can’t and then you fall and take damage or die. Crackdown features plenty of platforming and each district becomes more challenging to get around than the one before it. In general, it’s wise to improve your skills before moving to a new district.

Crackdown is a lot of fun but it’s not perfect. The whole concept of playing as a superhuman Agent dispatched to clean up the streets works really well and some of my issues with the game are quality-of-life related. For one thing, the map doesn’t highlight the entrances to the Agency so you need to remember where they are. It sucks when you’re in the middle of a district and find a car you haven’t stored yet but don’t know how to get back to the garage. I also don’t like that you have to drive all the way back to the garage to store vehicles as opposed to weapons which can be stored at any Supply Point in the city.

One of my bigger problems with the game is related to certain skills. If you actually put a focus on improving certain ones, it can feel grindy after a while. Improving agility isn’t that bad because agility orbs are everywhere and it’s just fun jumping around and collecting things. Driving can be a bit tedious because there’s so many pedestrians on the streets and it’s very easy to hit them which hinders the skill’s progress. I typically avoided driving in general because of that and races that take you through back alleys can be a real pain in the ass. The strength skill is also tedious to improve because you have to beat up enemies or throw things at them and it’s easy to neglect because of how much fun shooting and blowing shit up is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool being able to kick enemies off ledges and pick up and toss cars at them but the gameplay really shines when you’re running, jumping, and gunning.

As mentioned earlier, increased strength means increased maximum health and you’ll want as much health as you can get for the second and third districts. The first district is easy enough, at least on the Ruthless difficulty, but I found things become much more challenging the moment you step foot in the second district and the same could be said for the third district. Enemies carry deadlier firepower and can drain through your shields and health rapidly if you’re not careful. It does become a bit annoying because you can die in a matter of seconds even with maxed out health.

Thankfully, your shields and health do automatically regenerate but frequently running away to find a place to hide and wait for your health and shields to replenish can be a nuisance. No matter what boss you’re after, they’re always surrounded by goons so you’re always outnumbered. You’ll constantly be shot at from multiple directions, and foes will frequently throw grenades, fire rockets, and snipers will try to pick you off from a distance. And when you’re up so many enemies using deadlier firepower, that means you have to be more careful. So the tougher the enemies got, the less powerful and superhuman I felt. It also made me wonder if the game was properly balanced for solo play. It’s definitely beatable, I’ve beaten this game numerous times. It’s just that things can become more frustrating the further you progress despite the fact your Agent’s abilities are improving. When I have maxed out skills and spawn at a Supply Point and attempt to jump to another rooftop nearby only to die from a barrage of bullets before I land or land with little to no health left, I think something might need to be tweaked.

Action junkies should find a lot to love about Crackdown. The game features an awesome arsenal of firepower and satisfying gunplay. Weapons have good feedback, muzzle flashes are big and bright, and you can actually target different body parts. Each boss is located in a hideout and finding them can sometimes can be tricky but there’s often multiple ways to get to them. You’re given plenty of freedom when it comes to how you want to take care of things. That said, Crackdown is a repetitive game. No matter what you do or where you go, there’s not much variety. The enemies only get tougher the further you progress. It’s basically constant shooting from beginning to end. Once you wipe out a gang, that district is free and clear and once you eliminate all the gangs, you can resurrect them and do it all over again.

Pacific City is fun to explore but there’s not much to do outside of eliminate enemies and assist Peacekeepers. There’s some side content but not a lot of scripted or staged events or missions. There’s multiple rooftop and road races, all of which are checkpoint races. There’s also the Stockpile events which require you to collect a set amount of orbs before time runs out. It might be best to do these things after cleaning up a district because trying to complete some of the races, for example, with gang members present can be annoying. You could be trying to jump to a checkpoint and then get shot or killed or a rocket hits you and fucks up your time or gunfire blows out one of your tires during a road race. The only side content I wasn’t able to check out was the Rocket Tag minigame because it requires multiple players.

Crackdown does come with multiple game modes and difficulties. As mentioned before, you can resurrect the gangs after you’ve wiped them out and go after them on a different difficulty if you want. And you can retain your skill progress. There is a Time Trials mode where you try to eliminate gang bosses as fast as possible. You can also participate in street races against AI opponents. Finally, there’s the Keys to the City mode which is basically cheat mode. You can activate cheats and do whatever you want but your progress won’t be saved.

Crackdown showcases a colorful cel-shaded art style. Despite noticeable pop-in, the draw distance was impressive for the time this came out as was the detailed city. Each district feels unique and there’s a lot to see. From the amount of pedestrians on the streets to the random firefights that occur to all the storefronts and brands and advertisements. As a result, the city does feel somewhat alive and immersive. The soundtrack consists of a lot of electronic and sample-based music and the action is accompanied by some good audio work. Weapons-fire sounds powerful and shots will often echo. Enemies will frequently shout and scream and all the yelling, explosions, and gunfire make for very hectic sounding situations. On the technical side, Crackdown was enhanced for the Xbox One X to support higher resolutions and it does look great running on the newer hardware. I did play this on a Series X and the game did crash on me once but that was the only problem I encountered. Even with a lot of action on-screen, I can’t say I noticed any major dips in the frame rate.

Crackdown is one of my favorite open world games and it’s still a blast to play. It’s not perfect but I think it holds up really well. There are certain conveniences and mechanics that I’ve grown accustomed to in modern open world games but not enough that Crackdown feels dated in a bad way. What really makes the gameplay enjoyable is utilizing all your skills and the environment to your advantage. Crackdown is also a product of a different time. A time when maps weren’t filled with an insane amount of blips. It doesn’t have a deep story and there’s no padding. It’s an open world game, third-person shooter, platformer, and collect-a-thon all in one. Pacific City is more or less just an urban playground. It’s a game with a clear objective. It throws you into the world and basically says “have fun”. It never forces you to do anything. You have the freedom to do whatever you want and clean up the streets in any way possible.

I would absolutely recommend Crackdown to anyone. It’s a great example of fun. The concept is fun, exploration is fun, the gunplay is fun, and all the fun can be experienced with a buddy. It’s the kind of game you can commit yourself to or fire up just to blow off some steam after a long hard day. Crackdown is one of my favorite games released for Xbox 360 and I would say it’s a must-play for any fans of urban sandbox action.

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