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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Video Game Review: Crackdown 2 (XBox 360)

Hey all, The Mike here, with my first ever video game review! Be gentle...

I had incredibly high hopes for Crackdown 2, which is kind of surprising considering the fact that it took me a while to get into the original Crackdown (which ended up one of my favorite time killing games ever). I am by no means a talented or "hardcore" gamer, but this was a game which allowed me to jump around, blow stuff up, and find hidden treasures (in the form of the Agility and Hidden Orbs that make up a huge portion of the Crackdown universe's appeal). In short, the game made me feel like a radioactive luchador version of Dirty Harry.

As its release approached, Crackdown 2 promised a lot of the same elements that made me love the first game. The orbs were back, plus "Renegade" orbs which have to be chased down on foot or by vehicle, and the playable character seemed to have the same superhero-like powers as the first film. The game was also returning to the same city in which the first game took place, and used a similar, comic book inspired, color scheme as the first game.

The game also promised something new and exciting: "freaks". And these freaks, when looked at by the untrained eye and/or placed into a loose definition of the term...resemble zombies. I was completely sold on using my building-leaping, heat-packing, silent-but-deadly "agent" to take out hordes of zombies. So, Crackdown 2 became a must play...and ended up taking up a few full days of my life while I had some time off of work.

For the most part, the charms of the first game are back. The Agent is still one of the most fun video game characters I've ever controlled, with the ability to scale heights and an array of great weapons (when you find the "Quacker" grenades, things get REALLY fun). There are some new toys like UV weapons to fight the freaks, a wingsuit which allows the agent to glide around the map, and the Agency helicopter which is a blast to use (once you can reach it). But on a whole, the experience of Crackdown 2 left me a little disappointed.

In Crackdown, there were 15 "bosses" that had to be defeated. What I loved about that game's story - which wasn't really even a story - is that the bosses weren't really different from any other villain you'd face. The agent could plow into a boss' location and, if he was sneaky enough, take out the boss before any of the minions surrounding them had a chance to play defense. It made the game a little easier once your agent's skills were developed and weapons were acquired, but it kept the game feeling light and I always felt it gave me a little more control over the pace of the game.

In Crackdown 2, the bosses are nowhere to be found. Instead, there are "Strongholds" which can be captured by simply killing a ton of enemies until the voice of your handler tells you you've captured the stronghold. Worse, that's only your secondary objective, as you have to close down freak lairs by dropping beacons that supposedly wipe out the freak virus. Encounters with these freak lairs or the freak breaches that occur randomly aren't too different from the strongholds. Just kill until you're told to stop killing, and you're done. There are 27 strongholds, 9 freak lairs, 15 or so freak breaches, and several other monotonous tasks to complete, which leaves Crackdown 2 feeling like a drag where Crackdown felt like a breeze.Also annoying to me is the fact that, unlike Crackdown, you never seem to make progress at your goals. Once you cleared an island in that game, the island was open for you to run around collecting swag without fear of attack. In Crackdown 2, the villains never go away. You're told you've wiped them out, and a brief cutscene at the end of the game shows you that you've completed all your objectives. But when you respawn to work on other objectives, you'll find that the freaks and criminals you've already "eliminated" are still around. Their numbers are diminished at times, but their recurrence left me feeling like I'd never really made progress.

I have had a lot of fun playing Crackdown 2, and I don't regret picking it up since I love the idea of The Agent and the feel of the character so much, but I could have had the same fun putting the copy of Crackdown I picked up for $10 a year ago back in my 360. At a $60 price tag, I can't imagine that even the biggest fans of the first game will get complete satisfaction out of what is essentially an expansion of the first game with better graphics and a less optimistic setting. If you haven't played Crackdown, go pick up a cheap copy of it (probably about $5 now!) and enjoy. Don't bother grabbing this one until it's on the bargain racks.

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