Retro Review Upholds The Law: Crackdown 1 & 2

Daniel Anderson, Writer

Do you guys remember my last article talking about Crackdown from 2 years ago? I haven’t gotten that game yet, so I can’t do a review on it, but I did get its predecessors. My brother found these free on the Xbox live store on his Xbox 360 and decided to get them. I normally play on Xbox One, so you can imagine my shock when I saw that both the first and second game was downloading onto the console. As far as I knew only Crackdown 1 was backward compatible with the Xbox One, but I was quickly gap mouthed as soon as I saw the second game in my queue as well. Crackdown 1 was released on February 20th, 2007, with its sequel following on July 6th, 2010. I’m not going to review just one of these and be done with it, I’m going to review both as a whole. Best get comfy, this is going to be a fun one.

Starting with Crackdown 1, let me get into why this game sold so well, Halo 3 was coming out and people wanted to play its beta, problem was that you couldn’t just download the beta and find the game’s bugs, you had to get your hands on a copy of Crackdown. Now normally I’d be ticked about this in the past, but because I like these games, I’ll let it slide. Crackdown was developed by Real Time Worlds to be a competitor to Rockstar Games award-winning Grand Theft Auto franchise, and it succeeded. Where GTA, is serious and has you play on the opposite side of the law, Crackdown was a bit more over-the-top where you play as a super-powered law enforcer. 

The game is set in a futuristic dystopian city named Pacific City, where gang violence runs rampant. The Agency has sent in its law enforcement to deal with the crisis, and among those law enforcers is you. The Agent, with the best training, equipment, and genetic augmentations, you are an unstoppable officer of the law. You have several faces to choose from that evolve over time, as you upgrade your agent, adding larger muscles and extra padding to your armor, your agent will look very different than when you started the game. There are three gangs to dismantle, each in a different section of the city. I recommend going after them in this order, there’s the Los Muertos, a Mexican cartel that lives up to their name, killing anyone that gets in their way. The Volk, a Russian mob that controls Pacific City’s industrial section, bringing in weapons and slave labor to fuel their operations. And finally the Shai Gen, a mega-corporation that uses its propaganda to brainwash the citizens and use them for illegal and inhumane experimental research. Each gang has a lieutenant heading each operation, including weapon gathering, training, recruitment, funding, intel and research, and vehicle acquisition. Takedown all of the above to lower the gang kingpin’s defenses and make taking them down a much easier task. Bring weapons back to recently captured supply points, and use them as your own. Once you take down each kingpin, a last stand will be held by what remains of the gang, that you are sent to take care of. Collect Agility orbs to jump across the rooftops a lot easier, and blow things up to create bigger and more devastating explosions. Next is your marksman skills, which the more you upgrade, the more pinpoint accurate your aiming will be, even with machine guns. Last but not least is your driving skills, run over gang members to give your driving skills a little boost, and partake in street races for an even bigger boost. The better you are at driving, the more advanced your vehicles are.

Once you’re done cleaning up the city, the Voice of the Agency reveals that it helped these gangs take control of Pacific City, so that the Agency’s methods could be approved, using you to take out the gangs once they’ve outlived their usefulness. But the one thing I hate is that there are now no gang members to take care of, so there’s no real use of your power, skills, or weapons once you beat the game. This could be solved by playing “Keys to the city” where you can activate cheats to make the game even more ridiculous, by summoning cars, explosive barrels, or reviving dead gangs to cause a bit more mayhem. While in Keys to the city, you can’t save your progress and achievements have been turned off, I think this is just a way for players to say “screw it” and play god. You also have to gather intel of the closest gang lieutenant to reveal their locations on the map, so that you know who to go after, and where they are. But you have to search anywhere suspicious to find out, like a lighthouse, or a failing nightclub.

My final verdict for Crackdown 1, is 8/10. The combat and the fun factor are all unique, and the chaotic gameplay is complemented by the fact that there is no mission system, and that you can take out gangs the way you want. The cars become somewhat useless after you upgrade your agility enough, and the clambering (while unique at the time) is still a bit clunky and hard to control. If you have an old Xbox 360 collecting dust in your closet, then you might want to bust that out to get this game.

On to Crackdown 2, but where to begin? Well for starters, some of the old guys who worked on Crackdown 1 did work on this game as well, but it wasn’t Real Time Worlds that developed this game, instead, Microsoft hired Ruffian Games to do the job. Let me explain, neither Microsoft nor Real Time Worlds knew that Crackdown was going to sell so well, and Real Time Worlds moved on to their next big project, leaving Crackdown a game without a developer. However the brand was still one of Microsoft’s intellectual properties, Like Halo, or Gears of War, but unlike those two, Microsoft didn’t think to start a development studio to make a second game, so instead, they opted to hire the freelance game developer Ruffian Games, to do the deed.

Moving on to the game itself Crackdown 2 took place in Pacific City again, only 10 years after the events of the first game. What did it add? A whole laundry list of new abilities such as the ground pound, bull charge, and wingsuit. It also upgraded the ally count from one guy and a partner, to a 4 man team of agents for maximum chaos. Ruffian also added new cars, weapons, and explosives, such as the quaker satchel charges, which allows you to toss… rubber ducks, with enough explosive power to destroy 2 tanks (I haven’t unlocked the agency tank yet to confirm so take what I said with a grain of salt). They even added airborne vehicles, because in Crackdown 1 the only thing in the air was you and nothing else. Of course, since you’re still a lethal agent, there has to be a threat to the citizens right? Well, you’re correct, and it’s not just street gangs this time, as there is only one street gang roaming the city now called Cell, who started with protests against the Agency but are now moving to extremist operations and actions. Dangerous as Cell is, they aren’t the real threat, but before I get into who/what the real threat is I have a question I want you to answer in your head before you move on. What is the most played out enemy in any game? If you guessed robots, you’re dead wrong, if you guessed zombies, then you get a gold star. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking “zombies again”?! Yes, again. How many games added some kind of zombies mode, or anything to do with zombies in general? Call of Duty added “Nazi Zombies” when they made World at War, Red Dead Redemption added a separate story to their game called Undead Nightmare, and Halo has a whole game mode where you play as the zombies or the survivors. In Crackdown 2 they’re called “Freaks” (really?) and they are large in numbers, yet easy to kill, depending on their size, I’d pack a rocket launcher or UV weapon when dealing with them, as they can’t survive direct sunlight.

On to gameplay and map design, Crackdown 2 uses the same gameplay engine as that of Crackdown 1, so both games are similar to one another. Collect orbs, kill bad guys, and take part in races to increase your skills, but Ruffian did add new orbs to increase skills a lot faster. Renegade orbs are either agility based or vehicle-based, the only other orb is the Xbox Live or Online orbs, which can’t be collected unless you’re playing with a friend or a group of friends. Clambering was fixed, so I’m not constantly sliding off the edge of a window, but those problems still occur. The map is more or less the same as the first game, with a much more grim and gritty atmosphere, and some of the structures are damaged, which makes Pacific City seem much more apocalyptic. Driving is still as clunky but you won’t be using it much, as you still will jump higher and run faster than any human. Aside from that nothing else was really changed or innovated, making Crackdown 2 just seem like a lazy sequel, and the zombies aren’t exactly adding much. While the objectives are different, overall gameplay and map design remain the same, along with some recycled animations from the first game just thrown into the game as the icing on this cake.

All around, Crackdown 2 is between 6 or 7/10. Yeah, some things were added, some things were improved, but most of the game was kept the same without really adding all that much. The objectives were interesting and diverse, the game was enjoyable for the most part, but I feel like the objectives alone were repetitive, and drag out the game, not to mention the fact that adding zombies was a bit much in my opinion. I do like that you can play this game with more of your friends than just that one person, and it ain’t exactly impossible to complete this game alone, it’s still less fun alone.

Well, that’s the entire review. To sum up these two games in one verdict is a justice I feel like I owe you guys at this point. My final verdict for both Crackdown 1 and 2 is a solid 8/10 with my seal of approval. Yeah, both have their issues with how clunky the driving and climbing is but they more than made up for that in pure, unadulterated, explosive fun. Crackdown 2 was a bit of a step down with the zombies, and the mumbo jumbo about just lazy writing, and lazy development in general, but did make up for a little of that in fun gameplay and new toys to use. But what do you guys think? Are you going to dust off your old 360’s in order to get and try this game? Are you going to forget this game exists next week? Or are you just glad that I gave an underappreciated game some love and recognition? Comment down below your thoughts and concerns, and welcome to the Agency.