If you’re a fan of Xbox’s Halo franchise, then the year 2007 revolves around 2 events for you: The Halo 3 beta testing this spring and the Halo 3 official game release this November.
In the meantime, you’ve probably picked up “Crackdown” in order to score an invite to the Halo 3 beta testing. While many are charging that this is a lame marketing move to get them to buy a mediocre game, I contend that Crackdown is one of the most fun titles to hit the 360 to date.
So you’re a genetically created law enforcement officer who is charged with eliminating the city of an epidemic of crime. From face value, nothing too exciting there…sounds like a good set up to a video game – either that or a 2007 knockoff of Robocop.
Now, it’s unavoidable that this game will incite comparisons to Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise. It’s a “sandbox” game that allows for senseless violence and endless hours of exploration and easter egg finding, while simultaneously being structured by to-dos and missions. However, the dynamics of this game extend above and beyond anything that GTA has been known for. Your agent radically develops his skills as you use them during the game (GTA San Andreas had this, but not to the extent of Crackdown). You actually feel inspired to increase your skills as soon as possible so that you can well, crack down on crime and gangs. Also, with a lot of things going on in the screen, you really feel like this is a city trapped in turmoil – something that GTA never really accomplished. Also, since you’re technically a cop, you are actually penalized in the skills department for killing innocent civilians (no more driving around on the sidewalks!) This game also challenges the sandbox paradigm of flat worlds – pretty much any tall building in this city is accessible, allowing you to not only wreak havoc on the streets, but on many rooftops as well.
You start off in the Agency (sort of Police HQ) and you grab a car and take off for to one of the city’s islands. At first, you get the feeling that this is just a clumsy GTA knockoff that just quite doesn’t pull it the same way. However, once you emerge into the city and literally see all the chaos manifesting all around you – you realize that you have a job to do.
In terms of the meat of the gameplay, there’s a lock on firing mechanism for shooting firearms, with zoom in scope capabilities. You can also beat people down with your bare hands and feet, which is cool for when you want to save ammo when dealing with a bosses’ minions or just regular derelicts who want to step up when they see you on the street. Again, one of the distinguishing factors in the game is the ability to increase your skill levels in terms of agility, firearms, explosives, and strength by doing things in the game. For example, there are 500 green orbs that you can collect on rooftops. Each one of these helps you to increase your agility skill. Within 1 hour of playing the game, you suddenly realize that you can make some serious jumps and climb buildings that would’ve been previously just background scenery in other games.
The Graphics and Sound:
The game has a cartoony feel to it in terms of graphics, but I think this actually adds to the overall mood of the game. A grittiness similar to Gears of War would probably be more of a distraction than an advantage. The vehicles are actually pretty well done and are obviously inspired by cars and SUVs of today. Also, the draw distance is really far and you actually feel like your in this world rather than only being able to see 10 blocks away. The sound of the environment is great and you really feel like you are interacting with the world. On the other hand, the in-car music and radio stations are just “ok”… they’re nice to have, but don’t really add to the game that much the way that GTA’s licensed content really shaped the mood of the era the game was set in.
The Bottom Line:
Halo 3 or not, Crackdown is a great standalone title. I didn’t mention the co-op mode, but it has that as well so that you and a friend can act like you’re Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida running around saving the world. It appears to have enough missions and Xbox Live achievements to keep you busy for a while. Definitely worth a shot. If not, just get it so you can get your Halo practice in.