Hello all! Last week, I wrote about my favorite strategy RPG ever.
This week I'm gonna switch gears and talk about an insane sandbox game where you throw cars. Oh, and you do some other stuff, too.
Crackdown came out in 2007 as an Xbox 360 exclusive. There's a good reason for it being exclusive, too. Developed by Realtime Worlds, who would go on to develop, um, APB, the forgettable MMO, Crackdown came packaged with the beta for a little game called Halo 3. It was the only (legal) way to play the beta at the time.
So people showed up in droves to buy Crackdown. $60 for a beta. At least, that was the train of thought for most people. I remember working at GameStop at the time, and people would show up all day to buy Crackdown, with every single customer talking about the Halo 3 beta within.
But then something happened. Some people actually bothered to put Crackdown in their 360. Andthey found out Crackdown was not only good, it was loads of hysterical, bonkers fun.
Crackdown casts players as a non-speaking, unnamed Agent working for the "Agency." (Writing!) Agents are cloned supersoldiers, genetically modified to be nearly unstoppable, able to make soaring leaps and lift cars. The Agency creates these seriously built dudes to combat the three gangs that control the fictional Pacific City. The three gangs are mostly interchangeable; all three being of different nationalities, but none of them really attack you differently or anything. The story is forgettable, but it has a creative ending, even if you see it coming.
Crackdown's a sandbox game, through and through. What separated it from games like Grand Theft Auto (at the time) was the increased freedom the game allowed. You really could play it however you wanted. Each of your skills (Agility, Explosives, Strength, Driving, and Firearms) level up independently of one another. For example, scoring headshots nets you extra Firearms XP, while jumping to collect Agility Orbs increases your Agility XP, and so on. Each skill has just five levels, but the jump from one level to the next is pretty extreme. You start off as an average (though still pretty strong) dude, but soon, you'll be leaping 30 feet in the air and hurling family sedans at bad guys.
(Side note: the game says you can jump 30 feet, but come on. It's way more than that.)
The crazy superpowers are what let you play Crackdown the way you want. The general flow of gameplay is: find a gang General, storm the place he's hiding in, and take him out. How you do this is up to you, though. You can level up your Firearm skill and shotgun everybody in the hideout, or if your Agility is high enough, you can simply leap over the building he's hiding in, bypassing the guards almost entirely. Or reach a high Driving skill and hop in an Agency vehicle, driving your superpowered car (!) through the mass of enemies. (The higher your Driving skill, the more your Agency car "transforms" from an average futuristic car to some kind of death machine. It's pretty cool.) If your Strength and Explosive skills are high, you can lob cars at your enemies, leaving them utterly defenseless.
Or combine all these tactics. Or, or, or...really, anything you want. Each General (and gang Kingpin) resides in a different hideout, with the Kingpin typically hiding in a larger, more complex area. It's cool, because it allows you to plot out each mission as you go, and find your own solution to each problem. It's more of a "sandbox" than other games of it's day, because...well, you kinda feel like a kid playing with cops and robbers toys.
There's also the usual sandbox game offerings here, like races around the city and such. The kinds of things completionists love, but others will do like two of. One thing I do remember is the achievements. Back in 2007, most achievements weren't all that interesting. They were mostly "finish level 1" and "finish level 2." Perfect Dark Zero had one where you had to finish 1000 Deathmatches, and I was like "who's even going to do that?"
Crackdown had achievements like "keep a car in the air for seven seconds with explosives" and "climb to the top of the Agency tower." These seem ordinary now, but back then they were neat. They were achievements that actually put your abilities to the test, rather than just having you play normally or win a stupid amount of online matches.
Graphically, Crackdown probably won't impress today, but it has a cool comic-book look to it. Characters are drawn with clear black outlines, and there's some very light cel-shading going on. The game maintains it's frame rate (well, it did for me) despite the loads of chaos going on. The three gangs don't look different enough for me, though. On the other hand, you'll be killing them so quickly you won't really have time to examine them closely.
Audio's kind of a mixed bag. Most of the voice acting (well, pretty much all of it) comes from the Agency Director, who narrates everything you do. Just not in that cool, Bastion way. He tells you when you've come across a gang hideout, and congratulates you when you level up one of your skills. It's a solid performance by Michael McConnohie-who anime fans will know as Rolf from Robotech-but he never shuts up, and his lines eventually start to repeat. It gets annoying. Aside from that, cars, gunshots and explosions sound great. There's nothing here music-wise to write home about.
Recently, Crackdown has been outdone by games like Saints Row IV, which is so over the top it makes Crackdown look like a cop simulator. But Crackdown is still worth a look, because it's the kind of game you could zone out in front of for a few hours, and have a lot of fun leaping and bounding around the environment. The freedom to plan your missions remains a selling point in this age of hyper-linear games. It's like 3 bucks at GameStop, so check it out.
Questions, comments, future GOTW suggestions? Post 'em here!
Next week, I'll check out a game that was sort of mentioned in this article. It's not Perfect Dark Zero, because why.