Crackdown 2 hands-on: More of the same, but better?

As we said earlier, the original Crackdown worked best as a playground rather than as a traditional open-world game. New devs Ruffian Games have clearly cottoned on to this, and as such have structured Crackdown 2 entirely around that philosophy.

Above: The gunship is a big reward later in the game

Thus, the story and the structure of player progression through it have been made looser, with only a general scenario present as a skeleton to give players focused objectives if they want them. The Freaks live underground and only surface at night, so The Agency%26rsquo;s plan is to detonate bombs within subterranean enclaves to eventually wipe them out (if you%26rsquo;re thinking Lightmass Bomb here, so did we).

Above: That light beam is powering a bomb across the city

Setting off each of these bombs requires the activation of several power nodes dotted about the surrounding area. To trigger these you%26rsquo;ll have to fight a throng of gang members, and you%26rsquo;ll be glad to hear that that street-based gunplay is just as hectic and explosive as it ever was. Once you%26rsquo;ve activated enough nodes (usually about five, during our play time), the bomb will be powered up, and you%26rsquo;ll have to travel to its underground location to activate it. But there%26rsquo;s a catch.

Above: They blow up real good, but there are a lot of them

While waiting for it to charge up to full explodey capacity, you%26rsquo;ll be set upon by waves of freaks trying to take it out. These set-pieces play out as frantic arena fights against the clock, and can be a furious hoot, especially when co-op partners, conveniently-placed gun turrets and explosives come into play. Bomb detonated, it%26rsquo;s off to the next set of nodes. Or not. As we said, the choice really is yours.

Above: You can get back to throwing cars whenever you feel like it

You really are free to cover as much or as little of the %26lsquo;story%26rsquo; as you like. It won%26rsquo;t affect your Agent%26rsquo;s levelling-up process, and with four-player co-op this time, there%26rsquo;s plenty else to be getting on with, from wiping out gangsters, to flattening hundreds of zombies, to plain old making a nuisance of yourselves with Crackdown 2%26rsquo;s new toys in busy inner-city areas.

Above: With driving like this, cloning technology is a major bonus

As in the first game, all co-op partners are free to cause havoc together or in separate parts of the city, and with a new wing-suit available for on-the-fly hang-gliding, your little team of trouble will be freer than ever to bring the devastation wherever you choose. It's even possible to commit suicide and respawn a clone of your Agent anywhere you like, with no penalties whatsoever.

So then, Crackdown, but better?

Right now, yes, but after our limited playtime we can%26rsquo;t yet tell by how much. Ruffian have told us that the most important thing during early development was to make the game %26lsquo;feel like Crackdown%26rsquo;, and it certainly shows.

Above: The odds are stacked, but not the way the hoods think

But we can%26rsquo;t help wondering slightly if it feels a little too much like Crackdown. After all, we%26rsquo;re talking about a three-year-old-game here. And while Crackdown 2 has certainly added to it, it remains to be seen whether it has done enough to actually evolve it into something more than the first game with a zombie mod.

Finger, eyes and toes crossed. There%26rsquo;s a lot of good old-fashioned fun to be had in Crackdown 2. Let%26rsquo;s just hope that the finished game brings us enough new fun along the way.