Microsoft gets it. Come out with original, awesome gameplay and you will attract the gamers; Gears of War, Halo, and now, the crime-fighting high-jumping action-packed Crackdown. With innovative gameplay, modified genetics based on your actions and a myriad of weaponry with which to take on the three big-time gangs that have taken over Pacific City you play as a genetically modified super police agent. Playing like a combination between Grand Theft Auto (which is of little surprise considering Dave Jones, the creator of GTA was involved in making the game) and Halo, Crackdown lets loose manic world that's just waiting for you to take charge with guns blazing.
Due to years of crime, Pacific City has been taken over by three different gangs, the car loving Los Muertes, the gun-loving Volk and the evil syndicate of the Shai-Gen, who have divided control of the city into thirds. At a loss, the police agency has only one option left-you.
When the game begins, your agent's status is minimal, his athletic abilities are not particularly impressive, his shooting, driving and explosives abilities all are lacking. Do not worry though, soon enough, as you jump, punch and kick, grenade, shoot and drive your way through the various enemies your genes will be modified and your agent will possess incredible skills. With peak abilities, your agent will be able to jump over 40 feet straight up, throw objects hundreds of feet, lift cars and toss them at oncoming enemies and sharp-shoot from far away. Each of the skills increases the more you use them, every time you shoot someone you earn points, as with everything else; the more you do them, the higher your abilities will get.
As you work your way through the different gangs, new weaponry becomes available; scoop it up and bring it back to the agency supply points to save the guns for use at any other time in the game. Located throughout the islands in the game, supply points allow you to restock on ammo or to instantly travel from one supply point to any other you have unlocked. And you will need to rearm yourself, regularly. With lots of gang members around gunfights become common and almost unavoidable.
After you take out the various generals of each gang, the overall gang is weakened. Try and take on the boss of a gang without taking the generals and you'll find that it is not as easy as you might hope. Never fear though, in Crackdown, you may lose your life, but you never die. Thanks to genetic storing, the Agency has your DNA on file and so if you find yourself dead they will simply reclone you and drop you at the supply point of your choosing. So feel free to go guns blazing into any battle and not worry about the consequences. Remember those places you have been though because, using one of the best memory coding sequences ever, Crackdown remembers nearly everything. You left a car on the top of the mountain; it will stay there until you move it, left some bullet holes in the wall? No one is going to come by to respackle them and they will be there when you return.
It is in the athletic ability that this game really soars. Your agent, as he finds the agility orbs strewn around the world on top of buildings and all over the place will increase his stats and soon be able to do incredible athletic feats. In fact, the driving portion of the game is almost completely unnecessary as it is a little clunky and not close to as much fun as jumping from rooftop to rooftop to make your way around. Find a ledge, anything with a little handhold and your agent can propel his way up and over.
Unfortunately, while the gameplay is very entertaining and really enjoyable, there is simply not enough of it. Making your way through the three gangs is relatively fast and once the game is over, there is not a lot of replay value. Also, while you can play multiplayer through X-Box Live you cannot play with two controllers on your own console, which is a little frustrating. That said, the online play is pretty enjoyable since you bring over all your own stats and accomplishments and can bring them to a friend, or rando's game. Play alongside them or cause havoc all over the city, you are not tethered to them and can choose to work together if you want or work toward a common goal instead. Disappointments in the multiplayer include a lot of lag issues (although a patch is coming that supposedly will help) and minor issues including things like, you and your partner can get into the same car and drive away but the passenger can do nothing more than sit there, an ability to shoot from riding shotgun would be a great addition.
The soundtrack in the game is pretty extensive with over a hundred songs available on the radio. However, since the radio only plays when you are in a car, and being in a car is not close to as much fun as jumping around…well, you get the point. The rest of the sound effects in the game are really well done, with all of the work being done by Hollywood Foley artists creating all-new effects just for this game.
Ultimately, Crackdown is a balls-out fun time, for a little while. Once you beat the gangs there is not a lot to do other than play co-op. Hopefully there will be some downloadable content to add more to the game. Otherwise it feels like a longer demo, which while an awesome game, needs more. Is it worth playing? You bet, besides it includes a Halo 3 beta to play around with too. Play Crackdown and have a great time, and hope that the cool features and gameplay get used to make a larger, more complex game real real soon.
Learning Curve: approximately 10-15 minutes
Crackdown is available exclusively for the X-Box 360 and can be found in stores on February 20.