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’s plan is to detonate bombs within subterranean enclaves to eventually wipe them out (if you’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’ll have to fight a throng of gang members, and you’ll be glad to hear that that street-based gunplay is just as hectic and explosive as it ever was. Once you’ve activated enough nodes (usually about five, during our play time), the bomb will be powered up, and you’ll have to travel to its underground location to activate it. But there’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’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’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 ‘story’ as you like. It won’t affect your Agent’s levelling-up process, and with four-player co-op this time, there’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’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’t yet tell by how much. Ruffian have told us that the most important thing during early development was to make the game ‘feel like Crackdown’, and it certainly shows.
Above: The odds are stacked, but not the way the hoods think
But we can’t help wondering slightly if it feels a little too much like Crackdown. After all, we’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’s a lot of good old-fashioned fun to be had in Crackdown 2. Let’s just hope that the finished game brings us enough new fun along the way.