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Review: Crackdown (Xbox 360)

crackdown.jpgOverview: Accused of being a tag-along for the Halo 3 beta, Crackdown is at first glance a Grand Theft Auto clone. It has strikingly similar gameplay (open-ended sandbox-style) and even gets as close as a lack of a soundtrack except when in a vehicle. Reviewers all over the interwebs are saying it stands on its own, and DESTRUCTOID's own Rob Summa can't stop gushing about it. Personally I was never a fan of the GTA series. I appreciated the concept and respected it for that it brought to the genre, but it just bored me. I love a good story, and I love deep immersive gameplay. Crackdown seems like a game I would pick up, play for 15 minutes, and fall asleep bored. This actually ends up not being the case. I just can't put it down.

The storyline is simple: there really is none. You are a super agent sent on a mission to get rid of the three different gangs in Pacific City. After that, there is little in the way of fleshing out what you would call a plot or a narrative. Is this a good or a bad thing? How's the replay value? Multiplayer? Hit the jump for a full review.

Shininess: Crackdown features some very subtle cel shading. You may not notice it right away from screenshots, but in motion it's very effective. Sublety is something we don't really see too often in games these days, which makes it all the more appreciated. For an Xbox 360 game, it's not the prettiest title in the world, but it really makes up for it in style and the absolutely impressive draw distance. As you leap tall buildings in a single bound, you can actually see each and every other tall building in the vicinity that you may also leap to. Impressive to say the least. Explosions are satisfying, menu systems are satisfying, but other than that the graphics are unremarkable. We are entering a situation in this generation of diminishing returns, and Crackdown really shows that. The graphics will never make you go "WOW", but the gameplay might. As for music... well the choices are sparse. Despite having one of my favorite bands on the soundtrack (Hybrid from Distinctive Records) music is limited in GTA-fashion to inside vehicles. Most of the time the vehicles themselves are so damned loud you can't hear the music anyway. There doesn't seem to be a large variety of tracks, as well. I suggest plugging in your own music and rocking away while you shoot gang members. I could seriously fault the game for not having a soundtrack, but for some odd reason it's no big deal to me. Don't get me wrong, it would be GREAT to have a nice sweeping score. But that's not what Crackdown is about. It's about the...

Funness: And boy howdy is it ever fun. That's right, I said boy howdy. This game is like Grand Theft Auto meets Spiderman meets Ratchet and Clank. There are excellent RPG elements which allow you to augment your abilities, eventually resulting in being able to jump higher, run faster, shoot more accurately and more. Collecting agility orbs may be the single most satisfying collection experience since Pokémon, and searching for hidden orbs rewards exploration in the best possible way. It's fun to just run around, ignoring your main objectives, seeking out the green and white humming delicious orbs of goodness. It doesn't get old right away, though I can see how eventually it could. Once you get everything and complete every achievement, where's the staying power? Co-op is pretty fun, though it has slight lag problems. Nothing to get too worried about as you will be having too much fun finding ways to do awesome things in the game with your friends. Today Eliza and I ran around throwing dead bodies at gang members and doing cookies in the middle of the road in minivans. That's good fun right there.

There aren't many side quests, which is fairly disappointing. Your main objectives are to kill various gang leaders, then killing the boss for each gang (3 gangs in all). While it's fun, and the vehicle and rooftop races are a welcome distraction, I would have really liked more NPC interaction and side quests in the vein of GTA. It would have made the whole experience a bit more fleshed out. The main fun you are going to have in Crackdown is building up your fantastic abilities as you play through. The whole game feels like you are using cheat codes, which is excellent. Remember when you got a Game Genie and you put in the code for Mario 3 where you can skywalk? It's like that. ALL THE TIME.

Worthiness: Without many side quests, Crackdown can get kind of old. It's insane fun the first time through, and playing co-op with friends is a blast, but once everything is unlocked and the last agility orb is found, I don't see picking it up again for a second time through. If you enjoy Grand Theft Auto, grab Crackdown. If you're like me and are a bit more ambivalent to the series, rent Crackdown first. It's definitely a game to try at the very least.

Score: 5/5 Buy it!

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