Crackdown 2 Review
Crackdown 2 boasts enough exploration-fueled action to entertain despite its many flaws.
- Exploring the city and grabbing orbs
- Powerful abilities that increase as you play
- Romping around with friends in four-player co-op.
- Inconsistent climbing mechanics
- Repetitive objectives
- Lacks momentum or narrative direction
- Announcer gets very annoying
- Not a significant improvement over its predecessor.
Pacific City is under siege. Terrorized nightly by a legion of mutated monsters and daily by the rebellious Cell insurgents, this metropolis needs your help. As a superpowered law enforcement agent, you traverse the city with great leaps and subdue your enemies by any means necessary. Your abilities increase as you explore and complete objectives, bringing you new powers, guns, and vehicles. Sound familiar? If you played its predecessor, then you have a good idea of what's in store for you in Crackdown 2. This sequel retains the appeal of Crackdown while adding a few twists that help make things feel different. Yet none of these additions are terribly innovative, and there are plenty of issues with which to contend. The scant plot leaves the campaign devoid of momentum, and as you spend most of the game accomplishing the same handful of repetitive objectives, Crackdown 2's problems become more and more noticeable. Though almost every kind of fun you can have in this game is tainted by flaws, the fun of running amok as a supercop remains remarkably addictive, making Crackdown 2 an entertaining open-world romp.
Geographically speaking, this is the same Pacific City that players explored in the first Crackdown. It is still quite large and full of places to go, but time has not been kind to it. Buildings are crumbling, roadways are disrupted, and it generally feels like a more conflict-torn environment. The visuals are improved, and once again the cel-shaded outlines mix well with more realistic textures, creating a distinctive look. Yet Crackdown 2 looks grittier than its predecessor, and while the environments are richer and more complex, the effect isn't always good. Environmental details don't stand up well to close inspection, and explosions, of which there are many, don't look very good at all. Still, it is fun to explore the city and blow stuff up, and the absence of loading times makes doing both easy.
Exploration is one of the most entertaining parts of Crackdown 2, thanks largely to the liberal placements of attribute-boosting orbs throughout the city. Green agility orbs perch on rooftops, encouraging you to climb to new heights, while white hidden orbs reward curious and thorough explorers. Most orbs are stationary, but two new types of orbs flee from you, baiting you to give chase on foot or in a car. Every orb glows brightly, and once you've spotted one, it's very difficult to resist grabbing it. Collecting orbs is immensely satisfying, and there are hundreds of them scattered around the city. Whether you're leaping impossibly high or zooming around at unsafe speeds, it's easy to get caught up in an addictive orb-snatching binge.
The unpleasant reality of these binges is that, while leaping high into the air is exhilarating, climbing structures can be aggravating. The visuals can make it tough to tell what parts of a building you can grab on to and what parts you can't. After a while, you develop a good eye for the environment, but there is still the looming problem of Crackdown 2's inconsistent ledge detection. You will often jump at the side of a building to grab what you know to be a ledge, only to fall impotently to the ground many stories below. Or you'll climb a series of windows but inexplicably fail to grab the exact same kind of ledge from which you just jumped up. Sometimes your leaping skills allow you to regain your position easily, but the higher you climb, the more time and effort you stand to lose as a result of this flaw. This makes climbing tall buildings nerve-wracking; not just because it's tricky, but also because at any moment, you could fall victim to Crackdown 2's inconsistency and plummet to the earth.
Though it is aggravating, this problem isn't bad enough to ruin the appeal of exploration and orb collection, and there's a lot of fun to be had in just roaming around. The other collectibles to be found in Pacific City are audio logs. They come in a number of varieties and shed light on your enemy's agenda and other threats to public safety. These voiced snippets are the only substantial form of plot development in Crackdown 2, but they are few and far between. There is some mild plot intrigue, but unless you scour the city, the opening and closing cutscenes are pretty much all the plot you're going to get. Instead, you get a disembodied narrator who accompanies you wherever you go, who is initially helpful and somewhat amusing. But after a while, he starts to repeat himself and say things that aren't necessarily related to what you are doing. Then he becomes annoying and obtrusive, driving you to turn his voice off. Yet if you do shut him off, you'll also shut out the audio log voice-overs, which are actually worth a listen. You could manually switch the option every time you come across an audio log, but that's an inelegant solution to a bothersome issue.