Released back in 2007, Crackdown was one of the first attempts at getting a Grand Theft Auto-styled game on the current platforms, along with the likes of Saints Row and Godfather. Its concept was to take the well established formula of an open world full of gangs, crime and guns, and instead put you in the shoes of a super-powered agent, aiming to take the gangs down and rid the city of its crime. Does the game hold up 6 years later? Well…yes and no.
Welcome to Pacific City, Agent – The Story
The story of Crackdown involves a group known simply as “The Agency,” an international police organization, on its last legs in a battle against the top 3 gangs of Pacific City. A last minute decision is made to utilize recent experiments on human enhancement, essentially giving the subject inhuman powers, such as super strength and agility. You control a nameless agent, one of the very first subjects of this field testing, and are let loose to take down the gangs, cleansing the city of all crime once and for all.
If you think this sounds very cliché (or like some combination of Saints Row and Prototype), then you wouldn’t be wrong. The story here is definitely not one of the games stronger points. However, it’s fairly clear that the game wasn’t made with the intent of having a strong storyline, as it only advances in small, pretty meaningless cutscenes before and after attacking a gangs general, and really doesn’t have much of a standing in the game outside of that. Those who prefer their games to have a strong, gripping story will probably not find a lot of satisfaction here.
Fighting The War On Crime – The Gameplay
Crackdown is really at its strongest in the gameplay department, though whether it holds up very well against its more recent competition is another story. Right from the start, you’re given a small taste of the things you’ll be able to accomplish. Your running, jumping and strength are already better than any regular person, but its when you increase those skills – through some basic, light roleplaying-like experience gaining – that things really get crazy. After some time with the game, you’ll be leaping up entire buildings, running as fast as vehicles, and tossing around just about anything that isn’t tightly secured to the ground. There really isn’t much better than throwing an entire bus at a group of unsuspecting criminals, or kicking their car around as if it were a beach ball.
The story missions themselves, though fun and often challenging, severely lack in variety. They all consist of running around the district until a gang generals location pops up, then wiping out everyone in that given area. The generals themselves are nothing special either, just an average enemy with a huge boost in health and power. While these can be entertaining, and the areas they’re in are varied enough, it does get a bit old doing essentially the same thing over again, especially considering that there are 21 main criminals to go after. The worst part about this would have to be that every time you discover a general’s location or defeat them, the gameplay is interrupted with a small cutscene, either giving them the only backstory you’ll get, or explaining what has been affected by their death – something that’s essentially meaningless and mostly unnoticeable until the whole district has been cleared. The game does offer the usual side activities as well, such as racing (both on foot and in vehicles), completing stunt jumps, and hunting for the 800 total collectible orbs scattered throughout the city. My favorite concept that, to this day, other games haven’t really done is how the Agency’s vehicles will transform into bigger, badder machines depending on your driving skill’s level. Each increase in each skill is easily noticeable, which is a nice change of pace from other games requiring multiple increases before anything useful happens.
The cooperative gameplay is where this game shines at its absolute brightest. Once you get a game going with a friend, everything else improves. The side races gain competition, missions can be handled with more strategy, and the destruction is even greater. All of this happens with a pretty impressive lack of lag, as well, and you’re always free to go as far away from each other as you want, as there are no restrictions on distance. The loading times when starting up a game or after dying are surprisingly short as well, even when in coop.
Being A Super Soldier Isn’t All That Simple… – The Controls
For the most part, the game controls about how you’d expect this type of game to. Running or leaping around the city is about as simple as it can get, but things can get a bit awkward, especially in the heat of combat. Aiming in this game isn’t quite the same as other shooters. Here, you either “shoot from the hip” or use the pretty unreliable lock-on feature. When you lock on to a target, you can move the right stick around to select what specifically to aim at (whether that be limbs on a person or parts on a car.) However, your character will have the tendency to lock on to the wrong target, potentially making you an open target while you try to correct it. There’s no switching between targets if this happens either, so you have to keep trying until the game gets it right. During my time, I lost count with how many times it decided to lock on to a criminal who was very far away and completely unaware of my presence, instead of the one a few feet in front of me, turning my face into Swiss cheese. I ended up not using that feature very much at all until my guns skill had gone up enough, because at least then I had control over what I shot at.
The driving, assuming you’d prefer that over more unusual travel methods, is pretty well done. Most vehicles in the game handle like an arcade-style racing game, and pulling off stunts with them is always enjoyable. On the other hand, I did run into problems here as well. There would be times when my character would not get into a car after hitting the button to do so multiple times, for example. The AI traffic can be pretty awful too, especially during races where there seems to be even more of them, and they seem to purposely get in your way.
Lastly, the platforming elements aren’t quite as solid as one would expect from a game offering those things, either. Grabbing on to a ledge, for example, doesn’t have a button command, though it probably should. Many times, I wound up falling long distances because the character wouldn’t grab on to something the whole way down. This became very frustrating when doing a race or finding a new collectible “orb.” On a few occasions, it also resulted in death because of how high up I was when I thought I could make a jump by grabbing the edge of a roof.
Guns! Explosions! Destruction! – The Audio
The many sounds of Crackdown are very well done, especially for its time. Gunshots, explosions and fire all sound as chaotic as they should. Bodies hit objects with a suitable thud and slight crunch, bullets zoom by with a fitting sound, and the engine of a sports car sounds as powerful as it should. The soundtrack for the game features an interesting mix of industrial and techno music, both in English and Spanish. It’s a shame your character’s boss feels the need to constantly chime in with the same tutorial and objective related statements again and again, otherwise this would be even more enjoyable. Sure, there is an option to turn off the voice, but then you’ll miss out on some story and objective details. His constant reminder of how to increase your skills (even when they can’t be increased anymore) will probably annoy you into paying that small price for turning it off, anyway.
In Closing… – Final Thoughts
Overall, Crackdown is a decent choice in having mindless, crazed fun with a friend. You’ll have some good laughs and probably enjoy blasting through the campaign, but the many flaws really show the game’s age after these years. You’d probably be better off with the sequel, which offers up to 4 players together at once, or one of the many other mindless fun games that have come out in the mean time. It’s not a bad game by any means, it just doesn’t hold up very well in this day and age.
About the author: Born and raised in Massachusetts, Jeremy Harrison has had a passion for games ever since he first picked up a controller as a child. He always keeps an open mind about things, and prides himself on being able to look at something (especially games) from different points of view.