Crackdown 2 - first look

It must get pretty boring being unstoppable. Imagine how Superman feels after yet another fight involving the same ordinary mortal fleshbags he could crush with a twitch of his little finger; he must long for a bit of Kryptonite to shake things up and present a challenge for once. It sometimes felt that way playing the original Crackdown – you were a super-powered, genetically engineered clone capable of outstanding feats of strength and dexterity, but you were the only one in existence. You spent the game fighting puny humans who were only difficult to deal with in vast numbers.

You’re not alone in Crackdown 2, although at times you might wish you were. Ten years have passed since the original game and Pacific City has gone to shit: a zombie-like virus has broken out, creating a race of mutant ‘Freaks’ who emerge at night to terrorise the locals. Many are as strong as you are, and some are even stronger – you’re no longer completely unstoppable. Biologically, we don’t know what causes this, but Freaks appear to be made of custard (it’s difficult to tell without tasting it). When you kill them they explode in a shower of yellow goo and gore, like the world’s most misjudged pinata. Only instead of sweets, they drop orbs. Even better.

As another crime-fighting drone – it’s not clear whether you play as the same guy as in the previous game, you’ve gone all extra-generic and faceless – working for the all-powerful Agency, your job is once again to ‘clean up’ the city streets. But while you spent the first game taking down three crime syndicates, you have a different task to perform in Crackdown 2. It’s up to you to both eradicate the Freaks and destroy the Cell, a terrorist group determined to put an end to the Agency’s dominance.

This feeds into the game’s new day/night cycle. By day, you’ll fight the Cell; by night, you’ll fight the Cell and the legions of Freaks who seem to be allergic to sunlight. Architecturally, Pacific City hasn’t changed too much in the space of ten years – it’s in a state of considerable decay, but should still be recognisable to anyone who spent hours acquiring agility orbs in the original.

Much fuss was made over Crackdown’s collectible agility orbs – for a while, many people were even flaunting the wonderful noise they made as a ringtone – so they were a safe bet for inclusion in Crackdown 2. You’ll be able to jump slightly higher in the sequel, so we imagine they’ll be squirreled away in more out-of-the-way locations.

Crackdown’s structure was built around weakening three criminal organisations by taking out vital gang members – and you could do it in almost any order you saw fit. The developers have promised a similar approach to the sequel. You can wander off and come back to missions any time you feel like it.

It may be much the same city, but you’re a better breed of Agent. The weak melee combat of the previous game has been improved upon – you can now perform a variety of kicks and punches, and tear chunks off the environment to wield or throw at people.

However, that’s nothing compared to the game’s brand new weapons. The UV shotgun is essential against Freaks, as it basically fires a bolt of light at creatures that prefer to lurk in the darkness. It also blasts enemies backwards – or objects like cars or trucks, if you fancy a bit of freeform kinetic carnage. Humans aren’t too susceptible to the weapon, but if you knock them hard against a wall a few times they’ll eventually kick the bucket.

Tom Sykes
When he's not dying repeatedly in roguelikes, Tom spends most of his working days writing freelance articles, watching ITV game shows, or acting as a butler for his cat. He's been writing about games since 2008, and he's still waiting on that Vagrant Story 2 reveal.