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Crackdown 2 is a clone. The open-world playground feels asphyxiated. Running on the remaining fumes of the original's happy accident, Crackdown 2 lacks variety. But most importantly it's missing the joyous fun we all flocked to the first time round.
The secret to the original Crackdown's success was surprise. With the Halo 3 beta packaged along with it the game played second string to Microsoft's standard bearer. Discovering the madcap madness of its open-world, proto-superhero tale was an explosive collision of bugs, glitches, explosions and barrage of phrases ending in 'Agent!'.
Replicating that slightly-muddied lightning in a bottle was always going to be hard. In truth, those of us who loved the original merely wanted more. More opportunities for blowing cars up in a domino-like explosive stream or offering a challenge with more enemies or more powerful foes.
What I didn't expect was something approaching a carbon copy - and with less interesting missions and mechanics that felt forced. Setting the sequel in the same city was the first mistake. As interesting as Pacific City was it never had the real-world application like Liberty City from GTA IV or the grimy realism of Empire City from Infamous.
For a comic-like videogame you need a comic-like city and we've already run the gamut here in the first game. Jumping around the same buildings and locations - no matter how destroyed or crumbled - feels like falling off a badly-designed high-rise into the past.
Crackdown 2 also feels rather lonely, even when playing in co-op. There's a sense of emptiness that's never more powerful than when you stumble across a familiar location from the first game. Where once there were memories of ridiculous boss battles and a myriad of mad explosions, nothing remains. Seeing the quarry empty of enemies and orbs with nothing but the dust and wreckage of memories makes Pacific City a miserable place to play in at times.
Where once there were memories of stupid boss battles with a myriad of mad explosions there now remains nothing.
In the first game the plot was a simple matter of killing off three kingpins and their chiefs in the three areas of the city. Hardly creative stuff but it did lend a sense of character to those regions. Crackdown 2 wipes the slate of all individualism and gives you CELL - a generic bad-guy force with no discerning features whatsoever.
Perhaps filling that gap was meant to be the Freaks. Genetic experiments from the original game's Shai-gen corporation gone horribly wrong that mass on the streets during the night. These are the game's zombie element and serve little purpose than to improve your driving skills by plowing through them at night. They also provide one of the few mission types. Once you activate one of three Project Sunburst stations in a given area you can descend under the city and purge a Freak lair.
Even though there's more variety in mission types than the first game they actually feel more repetitive. There's no opportunity to tackle missions in different ways or take a different approach and by the time I'd reached halfway in the game I was already utterly bored.
The only redeeming aspect of this forgery is the return of the announcer.
These faults drain the experience of the original's fun-loving soul. Maybe it's time pressure, or maybe it's a lack of originality. Either way the result is the same - Crackdown 2 feels like a botched cloning experiment gone horribly wrong - just like the in game Freaks themselves. This is a soulless replicant of the original - recreating the same actions and consequences with none of the fresh faced charm and idiosyncratic bugs.
The only redeeming aspect of this forgery is the return of the announcer. His 4th-wall breaking pep talks and rhetoric still bring a smile even if the backdrop remains a ripped print rather than the rich canvas I wished for.
Not that the original Crackdown was a Constable classic. I loved its flaws and stupidity just as much as the physics and explosions. It was pure videogame fun that never required you to think too much, worry about plot, or made you care about its narrative or character progression. Its soul was beautifully untarnished for the madcap mayhem you could wield within Pacific City.
Crackdown 2 takes that beautiful accident and crushes it under the boot of quick production.
Crackdown 2 takes that beautiful accident and crushes it under the boot of quick production. It left me with a sequel that felt like an HD remake of a game that was already in HD and didn't need to be re-purposed for 2010. It turns out that's exactly what happened and I'm desperately disappointed to see Crackdown 2 turn into this soulless husk of once-vibrant playground.
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