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Crackdown 2 360 is an amplification of the first game. While offering more of what made the first game so much fun, it also ticks some important technical boxes. Less buggy, more dynamic and with an impressive four-player co-op there has obviously been considerable investment here.
Heading back to Pacific City never felt so good with new orbs to collect, new enemies to defeat and new powers to exploit. With a terrible virus sweeping through the city giving rise to the zombie-like Freaks, there's never been a more desperate need for you. Agent!
The first Crackdown was something of a surprise hit. Bundled with the Halo 3 Beta it sold incredibly well with few giving the game the time of day until much later. But when players finally jumped into Pacific City they found an entertaining and enjoyable open-world experience that put fun game play first above all else.
This was a game that lived on its ability to balance your increasing abilities with ever harder to reach agility orbs. It then wrapped this overworld story with single player missions that again granted rewards for each completed. It is the technical design rather than implementation that really caught my eye here.
Crackdown 2 takes all those elements - wreaking havoc in a huge city, sandbox game play, exploration and discover - and intensifies every one. But as well as continuing the successes, this is also a game aware of its failures. This time round the player's abilities are matched by the inclusion of the Freaks - genetic experiments gone horribly wrong - that keep pace with you both in terms of speed and combat.
Helping you to deal with this increased threat is the addition of special combat suits. One, called the Wind suit lets you fly upwards and turn potentially fatal falls into powerful ground-pound attacks.
It's all game play tweaks and cool additions that make playing the game much more enjoyable than the original, which was already pretty fun.
Tying all these additions together is the main story - Project Sunburst's ridding the city of the Freak infestation. Far from being an annoyance, which the story in the first game felt to me, this one helps to keep you moving forward but also leaving you free to progress how you want.
It's good to see the game stays true to its previous technical signposts. Crackdown 2 is no more linear than the first game and it's possible to complete missions in almost any order you like. These missions are slightly different though, and now resemble the turf wars from GTA: San Andreas in concept. Here, you'll claim territory back from rogue gangs for the Agency and use it as a staging post for swapping out weapons or claiming Agency cars.
It's all game play tweaks and cool additions that make playing the game a good next step from the original. It would be easy to label Crackdown 2 as a 1.5 upgrade but the honest truth is that all these extras and improvements make for a completely new game. Even though you're still in Pacific City the metropolis feels different, especially at night when the Freaks come onto the streets.
It's at night that the game takes on a very new tone - in many ways like a Dead Rising tribute with the ability to mow down hundreds of Freaks in an Agency. Add to this the ability to ride a helicopter, pursue moving orbs both on foot and in the car and you have a game that feels like it has four times the amount of content of the original - mostly because it does.
The wild and technical limits of the world can be broken and you can still have fun when cars fall through the world or a dead body suddenly leaps into the air for no reason.
The co-op, such a surprise technical success in the first game, has also had some love and attention. This moves from two-player to four-player along with a fully-fledged 16-player death match. The creative ways to cause chaos with just two players was impressive last time, now you have four people to riff around the city the range of fun is almost infinite.
Alongside the campaign co-op the multiplayer is a little more tame. But give a little time and its mix of all-out explosions, shoot-outs and hunt and pursue moments and there is a lot to enjoy here as well.
One of the most noticeable technical aspects of the original Crackdown were the bugs and the broken aspects of the open-world. It's good to see that Crackdown 2 is more robust without losing the erratic charm of the original. The physics still have their wild moments and with the help of three other friends you can juggle vehicles in the air and over skyscrapers if you get it right.
The cel-shaded style is just as prominent as before and even though the game doesn't look stunning, it still has stands out amongst other open-world. Games like Infamous and Prototype can't compare with the playful fun that Crackdown 2 instils in you when you play it.
A little like Super Mario Galaxy, but the freedom in Crackdown 2 translates not only to colourful visuals. Crackdown 2 is all about breaking boundaries and having fun while you do it. No other game gives you the tools to create a masterpiece of barmy fun that you'll be producing every night for months to come.
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