Crackdown was one of the Xbox 360's first standout exclusive hits. Coming packed with a code for the Halo 3 beta certainly helped its initial sales, but once word got around of its wonderfully free, super-powered, open-world carnage, it rapidly became a solid cult hit. The fans cried out for a sequel, and this summer we'll have it. But how to follow up a cult classic?
Having had several hands-on hours with Crackdown 2, right now we'd say that the devs are taking an approach of 'If it ain't broke...'. Probably wise, given the first game's rabid audience, but is it enough to create a genuinely worthy sequel? Here's what we discovered as we played...
The same city, but better
In Crackdown 2, we’re still in Pacific City. Perhaps disappointing to those who wanted to see a global follow-up, given the ending of the first game (which revealed The Agency – your bosses – to be a sinister organisation with sights set on world conquest), but there are good reasons for the repeated location.
Above: All of it's yours to rampage over, alone or with friends
The Agency has been forced to stay put due to a massive zombie outbreak. Dwelling underground, these Freaks (as we’re supposed to call them, but will probably forget), over-run the city at night, driving the public - and even a lot of the street gangs - away to safety.
Above: We're not using the z-word
As a result of years of zombie carnage (told you we’d forget), Pacific City is recognisable but now in a right old state. Buildings are wrecked, roads are broken, and whole chunks of the map have been reshaped due to dilapidation. There are also new buildings too (and yes, long-time Crackdown fans, they’re taller, and you know what that means), so while you’ll recognise the place, you’ll have to get to know it all over again.
The same carnage, but better
Crackdown, as anyone who played it properly will know, was not about the missions or the story. It was about leaping around with ever-increasing super-powers, bashing the merry hell out of anything that took your fancy. People were basketballs, buses were baseball bats, and cars existed only to be precision-squashed from not far below cloud level.
Above: Crashed or thrown? In Crackdown, who knows?
That’s all the same in Crackdown 2. The system of collecting agility orbs to boost your powers remains, and having played through the first few hours, our Agent seemed to develop at a similar rate. But it’s augmented by some new weapons so fun that they verge on stupid. First up, a missile launcher that fires three rockets at a time in a swirling arc, locking onto their target and blowing it into a vapour that its ancestors can see. It’s definitely one to pull out the sparklers and toffee apples for.
Above: Twang it into a tree
But then there’s also the Mag Grenade, which is even better. Once thrown, it will stick to any object and immediately unleash an electromagnetic tether. Throw another one at a different object and you’ll connect them, as if tied to opposite ends of a giant elastic band. Want a flail made out of a lamppost and a car? Easy. Want to turn a street into a slingshot for firing trucks along? Just stretch the tether between two buildings, pull back the vehicle, and TWANG. Far less zombies than were there a minute ago.
Above: One burst zombie coming up in 3, 2, 1...
And speaking of the zombies/notzombies/freaks/persons-of-vital-and-aesthetic-impairment, they’re designed exactly as video game zombies should be, ie. in huge numbers and easily squashed. Rarely did we ever take much damage, even when wading through hundreds of them (though we’re promised tricky agility-augmented ones later), but the point is that there were hundreds of them, and thus they made one hell of a splat. Say, when for instance, ploughing a supercar through several miles of packed-out street. Think Dead Rising’s density, only in a city centre.