Orb Addiction, Coming Soon to Xbox LIVE
April 1, 2010 – The original Crackdown was nothing if not divisive. For some it was its amazing, over-the-top action that separated it from the herd of third-person shooters coming out in the early years of the Xbox 360, but for others it was sorely lacking in depth. Few would argue that Crackdown was mostly a proof of concept rather than a full game; a thin framework overlaid with incredibly fun (if not very fleshed out) gameplay mechanics.
The modus operandi for most sequels these days is to acknowledge the shortcomings of the original and attack them head-on in the sequel in an often misguided attempt at achieving perfection. However, Crackdown 2 seems to be doing the opposite. They’re simultaneously embracing their shortcomings and their strengths in a clear-headed vision of what the Crackdown experience is all about.
So, while you’re still going to get the same exaggerated superpowers and agility orbs as before, you’re not going to get some overwrought story that self-consciously tries to legitimize itself through bad drama. Quite the opposite, really – Crackdown 2 adds zombies.
At PAX East we were afforded the opportunity to go hands-on with Crackdown 2’s multiplayer. Rocket Tag was the game of the day, and while we still love the idea of mixing Crackdown’s famous high-flying agility with rockets and a kill-the-carrier-style game, we came away with some concerns.
There is a lot to love about playing this game in multiplayer form. However, there are some basic needs that have to be satisfied before this game ships. First and foremost, the camera needs work. The simple fact is that the camera system breaks down during the heated moments – ironically, just when you need it most. Once your target gets close to you, it’s nearly impossible to keep them targeted after they inevitably leap 40 yards over your head and trot away down the street. The reason is that the players are just too fast and too agile for the camera to be able to keep up with them.
The way the game works is once a player gets the “orb,” they become the target. Their agility is slowed down a bit and they have to escape the other players for as long as possible. Once they die, the orb shows up in the level at their point of death and the other players try to get it. This can be a huge nuisance when the player dies more than 10 feet above the ground because the orb is impossible to see while jumping to reach it. What results is 5-6 players jumping up and down around the orb like idiots trying to be the first to get lucky and snag it by accident.
It’s certainly not all bad news, though. The game’s signature high-flying acrobatics are on full display in this mode, and it’s truly an amazing thrill to be leaping from building to building with rockets whizzing past your head.
The MP mode also introduces a new mechanic to the formula that we really liked. The levels have what are essentially launch pads strewn throughout. When you step on them, they launch you all the way across the map. What this effectively does is it creates a goal for the orb-carrier to reach. Because once they do, they’re given a few moments of safety as they fly for miles across the skyline. It adds a strategic element to a mode that would otherwise be a completely chaotic frag-fest.
Our first impression of this game is a bit like what we thought of the original game. It has huge, soaring high points, with often frustrating low points. When everything is going right there is a lot to love about this experience, but there were times when we were so annoyed we could have smashed a controller at the demo booth.
The problems aren’t a total loss for the multiplayer component, though. We were only given the chance to play one game type, and the game is still a few months from release. This could be more than enough time for the game to come together as millions of fans are hoping it will. We’re still waiting to find out if Crackdown will blossom into the fourth major franchise Microsoft so desperately wants (the others being of course: Halo, Gears of War, and Forza). However, this demo wasn’t entirely convincing.
This is still just a multiplayer demo too. It may not be indicative of the single-player portion of the game, which is what Crackdown is known for. Considering this is the first foray for Crackdown into multiplayer territory, we’d regard this as neither very impressive nor concerning. It has some problems, but if it can be ironed out before release, then we predict consumers will be very pleased.
Back and Ready for a Fight
December 2, 2009 – With the plethora of big time AAA games coming out in time for holiday wish lists, it’s hard to focus much on what’s beyond the 2009 horizon. Yet it’s inevitable that sooner or later (and let’s be honest here, probably sooner) that we’ll be looking for our next fix once we’ve exhausted all there is to do in Assassin’s Creed 2, Dragon Age, or whatever your games of choice are. One of the titles to keep an eye on, scheduled for release in 2010, is the open-world shooter, Crackdown 2.
For a bit of behind the scenes history, the original Crackdown title, a surprise hit in 2007, was developed by the independent Scotland studio Realtime Worlds. After finishing Crackdown, Realtime Worlds went to work committing to other projects. But any big time hit needs a sequel, and new studio Ruffian Games has been charged with the task of releasing Crackdown 2 to an eager audience. The good news is Ruffian Games is made up of several former members of Realtime Worlds who worked directly on the original Crackdown. Got all that? Ok, with that history and perspective out of the way, let’s get to what you can expect in Crackdown 2.
Much like in the original, Crackdown 2 puts you in control of a superhuman character with a whole city to use as your playground. If you missed the first Crackdown game, think Grand Theft Auto with supercharged abilities. Abilities like picking up cars and throwing them at bad guys. Abilities like jumping from street to rooftop. Things you’d expect a superhero to do, except with a lot less primary colors and capes.
Crackdown 2 is once again set in Pacific City, and players control the “Agent” working for the “Agency”. Ten years after the end of Crackdown, Pacific City is overrun with gang warfare. Particularly daunting are the creatures that come out at night that rule the streets, known simply as “freaks”. Freaks are the result of a citywide viral outbreak that has the unfortunate effect of supercharging enemies, so they will actually pose a bit of a problem to your street-keeping deity. It was easy to plow your way through all comers by the end of the original Crackdown without even considering death as a possibility. Freaks should rectify that situation and inject some much-needed challenge scale as the game progresses. Of course, if you liked walking and jumping your way knowing no soul could do more than put a scratch on your flesh, this may be a bad thing.
Other improvements focus on expanded options and customization over a revamped core game. Think “more and expanded”. Your Agent will have more super-powered upgrades and weapons at their disposal than before. A new and improved sniper gun, magnetic grenades, and a UV shotgun that will be particularly effective against the night-dwelling freaks have all been announced so far. On the ability front, the same skill sets return, albeit greatly improved. The driving skill will unlock what is being called a “special helicopter,” while the agility skill unlocks a dash maneuver. Co-op will also return, this time supporting four players via Xbox LIVE, while a competitive multiplayer mode allows up to 16 players at once.
One area fans will be glad to hear is receiving a revamp is the missions. They will still be able to be done in any order and as free flowing as before, but now with a greater variety, such as missions geared towards infiltration and sabotage. Fan dissatisfaction of the repetitive mission types of the original should be pleased, as Ruffian Games has said this is a particular point of emphasis.
All in all, Crackdown 2 is shaping up to be an improved version of the original. Over the top mayhem and silly fun are still the names of the game. The scope of the featured enhancements, namely the mechanics of the four player co-op mode and expanded world and abilities, will dictate where Crackdown 2 falls on the must-buy scale. Fortunately, the minds at Ruffian seem to be working on the right things. We’ll no doubt see a slew of additional details released once the holiday gaming frenzy has ended and publishers start to shed more light on their 2010 releases.