Despite a lack of real variety, Crackdown is a surprisingly solid entry in the sandbox game genre.

Pacific City is under attack! The streets are running rampant with violent hooligans and gang leaders are completing corrupt business transactions within the safety of the shadows. Citizens of the once great city are becoming fearful for their personal security and local law enforcement is simply outnumbered by the amount of widespread crime.

Enter the mysterious group, the Agency.

The Agency is the newest and brightest hope for reclaiming the tainted streets of Pacific City. As a massive faction that combines the use of law enforcement and experimental sciences, the Agency has nearly unlimited resources when pursuing their fight against crime. The most secretive, yet reliable, of these resources is their new super agent program.

As one of said experimental super agents, it is the job of the player to single-handedly rid the city of crime. It may sound like a lost cause when up against the countless hordes of gang members and criminals, but gamers will soon discover the secrets that being an Agency super soldier have.

Closely resembling the surprisingly fun superhero game The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, the X-Box 360 game Crackdown takes a more over-the-top approach concerning its characters and action unlike the more realistic approach earlier sandbox game predecessors such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Saints Row decided on. Possessing extraordinarily amplified agility, strength, and skills, players are allowed to use their agents to achieve their own measure of martial law any way they deem necessary.

Using firearms, tossing grenades, hurling dumpsters, or simply sending the welcoming committee of an agent’s foot to the face of an enemy are just some of the many ways to dispatch of unruly enemies. As gamers continue to wipe out the gang presence and explore the city, experience orbs are collected and the agent will grow even stronger in skill levels, abilities, and physical appearance.

At the beginning of the game, players are able to jump about 15 feet in the air, have decent firearm and explosive experience, and can handle a car relatively well. But if a player wants to improve at a certain skill, they’ll need to practice and increase experience for their agent to evolve. Shooting and killing bad guys will drop firearm orbs which in return will increase shooting accuracy, while jumping from rooftop to rooftop collecting agility orbs will allow the agent to jump even higher in search of those hard to reach areas on the taller skyscrapers.

This feature of Crackdown is a pretty fresh concept when compared to game after game of never evolving as a character in games like Grand Theft Auto (except San Andreas) and it keeps the game addictive as gamers will continually want to increase their stats to see what powers are gained in return. But as fun as evolving the agent and exploring the giant map of Pacific City is, Crackdown has its disappointing aspects as well.

The biggest problem with Crackdown is the main mission structure of the game. Instead of silly escort or driving missions that plagued games like Saints Row, Crackdown features 21 different main mission tasks. It’s just a shame that all 21 are the exact same in nature. As the main character continues to evolve and explore, he’ll inevitable come across various leaders of one of the three gangs in Pacific City. All three gangs have six leaders and one kingpin, but they hardly vary in difficulty or tactical approach. Sometimes simply running past the leaders cronies and kicking him to death is the simplest way to achieve victory, and there is really no instance of ever needing to do anything else to win against them.

This lack of mission originality really hurts a game trying to be innovative in other areas, but another big issue with the game is the troublesome lock-on view. Instead of the ability to cycle through targets, Crackdown picks the closest object to the onscreen reticle and locks on. This lock-on ability could target an important item such as an attacking criminal or exploding barrel, but more often than needed will it target a useless item such as a dead body or a car driving almost a football field away. Being able to cycle through various targets would have greatly improved this wonky targeting system, but it ends up being incredibly frustrating at times, especially during heavy shootouts.

With these faults in mind, the absolute redeeming grace for Crackdown is the inclusion of co-op mode for X-Box Live players. It may be more than a little bit annoying when trying to find the correct target to aim at or facing the 15th boring gang boss, but when a buddy is virtually beside you cutting flips inside their Agency sports car or taking the rooftops as you take the street level, those flaws often fade away.

All in all, Crackdown is a very well crafted game that with a little more fine-tuning and mission variety could be considered an instant classic to the sandbox game genre. Despite the few minute flaws, the game is definitely worth checking out, if not for the sheer enjoyment of sharing a co-op experience with an online friend as you both clean the crooked streets of Pacific City together.