Crackdown 2 - first look

Gas canisters have now been placed liberally across the city, and predictably these can be exploded with a single shot. However, for a noticeably more random outcome, why not shoot the lids off and send the canisters skidding around the environment instead? These ‘rockets’ could take out enemies or vehicles, or they could suddenly whiz back and catch the player unawares, exploding you in a shower of your own hubris. And blood. And guts.

The new Mag grenades need a bit of explaining. If you attach multiple mags to objects they form a sort of electrical bungee cord, expandable and explosive at the touch of a button. You might ‘glue’ a car to two walls to form a volatile slingshot, or build an impromptu bridge between buildings to let you bound somewhat gracelessly across. How about sticking a couple of gas canisters together, then sitting back and watching the chaos unfold? The possibilities are almost endless.

In the first game, you could only change weapons or replenish ammo at Support Points, which also acted as checkpoints when you inevitably got yourself killed. This time around you can call for ammo and supply drops anywhere you feel like it. They’ll then tumble from the sky and land conveniently at your feet.

Like every new weapon, Mag grenades have been explicitly designed to make the game’s freeform destruction more fun. New developers Ruffian Games have given a few examples of how players might utilise the new toys but, as with the original game, many videos of brilliant and unforeseen uses are bound to crop up all over YouTube.

You can still explore the whole city in co-op, but you’ll now be able to do so with up to three other Agents at the same time. Considering the original struggled at times with just two, it’s going to be interesting to see how Crackdown 2 copes with double the amount. Scratch that: it’s going to be interesting seeing how it will cope with eight times the amount. Sixteen players can now turn their attentions toward one another in a range of new competitive modes. The only one confirmed so far is Deathmatch, a seemingly typical free-for-all enhanced with jump pads.

Yes, jump pads. While on the surface they’re similar to the ones seen in Halo, here you can pick them up and move them around, creating your own airborne shortcuts. Sneaky players will even be able to place floating proximity mines in the trajectory between pads, exploding hapless fools who meet them midway.

It’s encouraging that the freeform fun of single-player and co-op appears to carry over to Deathmatch – there’s also a persistent Call of Duty-style leveling system, although it’s not yet clear what form this will take. Presumably online characters will level up in much the same way as offline ones, increasing in strength and agility as they grab orbs and punch people in the head.

The first Crackdown was something of an accidental hit. The joke at the time was that it came free with the Halo 3 beta – it was the other way around, obviously – but the game itself turned out to be exceptionally entertaining. With higher expectations for the sequel, any weak points of the original game will be more glaring under a much harsher spotlight. But even if original developers Realtime Worlds have moved on – Ruffian Games consists of a few developers who worked on the original Crackdown – this is one of those rare sequels that seems to know exactly what made the original game fun. There are clever new toys, improvements to co-op, and enemies that will actually prove a challenge. The first game was fun, yet a little flimsy – but Crackdown 2 could prove to be unstoppable.

Nov 4, 2009