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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ruffian Games' Xbox 360 exclusive Crackdown 2, which mixed reviews describe as "more like an ambitious user mod than a true follow-up."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

July 7, 2010

7 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ruffian Games' Xbox 360 exclusive Crackdown 2, which reviews describe as "more like an ambitious user mod than a true follow-up." Crackdown 2 currently earns a score of 73 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. IGN's Erik Brudvig rates Crackdown 2 at 7.5 out of 10. "Epic's oft-repeated motto for Gears of War 2 was, 'Bigger, better, and more badass,'" he begins. "For Ruffian's follow-up to Crackdown, it feels like the motto was, 'Don't rock the boat.'" "Here is a sequel that feels near identical to its predecessor in just about every way," Brudvig continues. "The open world action formula is the same. The game's location is the same. The graphics look about the same. And the shortcomings, well they're about the same too. Is it fun? Yes. That hasn't changed either." Crackdown 2's gameplay progression will be familiar to those who played the original title. "At the outset of Crackdown 2, you'll find yourself in the shoes of a general badass, capable of doling out pain and stomping squads of freaks," Brudvig says. "By the end you'll be able to leap from rooftop to rooftop with ease, pick up and toss cars and trucks, fill the sky with homing missiles, and even glide through the air like a flying squirrel." According to Brudvig, the process remains as addictive as ever. "Crackdown 2 is really a game for people who like collecting things," he says. "The main prize is agility orbs, found on rooftops or other places that require a bit of platforming. You can also find hidden orbs, or the new renegade orbs -- which annoyingly run away from you -- and Xbox Live orbs which can only be snagged while playing online co-op. Add in some audio file collectibles and you have roughly 1,000 things to seek out. It may sound like an odd focus to build a game around, but this platformer-meets-[P]ac-[M]an formula is seriously addictive." However: "Even with all of the additions, the game doesn't feel new by any means and Ruffian still hasn't addressed many of the issues that people had with Crackdown 1. The story is nonexistent. The gun targeting is wonky and doesn't work well with the camera. Certain ledges look climbable but aren't. Lots of buildings have frustrating geometry that cause you to bump overhanging ledges and fall. Melee combat, though improved, still isn't any fun. The vast majority of missions are just cut and pasted from a small handful of designs." "If you're like me, you were probably expecting a bit more," Brudvig notes in conclusion. "The new additions, specifically the expansion to four-player co-op, are welcome, but this hardly feels like it was worth the three-year wait. It's mostly just more of the same, in the same city, with the same shortcomings and a slightly expanded set of missions. Crackdown 2 feels uninspired and rushed, and it certainly doesn't feel like a full sequel." Edge Magazine's staff rates Crackdown 2 at 8 out of 10. "The action game laureate has returned," the review states, "and it's almost better than ever." "Crackdown 2 is even more open than before," Edge praises. "Redesigned as a free-flowing torrent of action suited to four online players, any of whom can drop in and out of the game without disruption, the bulk of its campaign involves a dynamic fight for territory. Rather than kingpins and bodyguards, the main objectives this time are the warrens of mutant Freaks that you have to infiltrate and purge." Crackdown 2's secondary objectives emerge as the game's most compelling elements, however. "Those iconic collectible orbs, meanwhile, goad you from the highest, farthest and toughest reaches of the terrain," Edge notes. "'Rogue orbs', ingenious new additions that don't sit around when spotted, lead you on merry dances that require new, lateral approaches. Live orbs encourage co-op play, and returning stunt markers and hidden orbs take hours -– days -- to earn and collect. However: "The first game's hugely rewarding mission structure has been sacrificed but for a few closing stages. The action is constant but rarely focused, even when funnelled into giant caves full of Freaks in all their forms. Those giant, beautifully constructed venues have lost that anatomical quality where you sneak in through pores, conquer the antibodies, disable the organs and assassinate the brain." "At its best, this is more than just the purest, most narcotic action game in the world -- it's a cultural pinnacle," Edge says. "Every superhero, be it in comic books or the movies they've inspired, wishes they could visit its playground." 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish gives Crackdown 2 a grade of B-. "To my knowledge," he recalls, "there's only one game in the world that lets you team up online with three friends playing as super-powered SWAT agents, make a rendezvous by leaping over skyscrapers, pile everyone into (and onto) one car, tear down the street at 100 mph (rendering a road-clogging zombie horde into a messy green spray), then crash that car into a terrorist hideout in an explosion that rips through most of the bad guys inside. That game is Crackdown 2, and for that reason Crackdown 2 is ridiculously fun." "The problem is, four-player co-op is really all the game brings to the table over its predecessor," Parish warns. "Doubling the number of Agents capable of teaming up over the previous game was a great move and makes Live play exponentially more entertaining than before. But everything else about Crackdown 2 is a letdown: The best parts are those lifted straight from the first game, while all the new additions are annoying at best, infuriating at worst. Crackdown 2 is ridiculously fun, but it owes that success entirely to the first game." Parish describes the first Crackdown as an unexpected gem that excelled in its genre. "Realtime Worlds' 2007 hit was a genuine sleeper, a subversive and unexpected success that earned accolades and word-of-mouth praise on the strengths of its addictive blend of open-world design, over-the-top character powers, and the stick-and-carrot lure of Agility Orbs," he explains. "Crackdown gave players a crime-ridden metropolis as a playground, then encouraged them to explore its heights and hidden corners by doling out hundreds of collectibles that empowered them even further, enabling their Agents to reach even higher heights and better-hidden corners. Crackdown 2, meanwhile, is "basically the same game with largely cosmetic changes, most of which work to its detriment." Ruffian's new approach to gameplay progression is particularly disappointing. "Rather than challenging players with smarter, deadlier enemies, they just flood the screen with rabble and hope the numbers win the day," Parish notes. "Ruffian tries to diversify your objectives over those in the first Crackdown (which consisted entirely of 'take down three gang bosses in any order you like'), but the solutions they settled on are hardly an improvement." Parish continues: "This time, you still have to fight for control of gang-occupied turf, but it's only a single gang, and there are few tactical considerations for how you advance. In Crackdown, defeating different sub-bosses would cripple specific aspects of an overlord's operation; here, the only thing you have to worry about is clearing an entire stronghold of bases before you lose control over territory you've already claimed. " "Despite all these failings, though, Crackdown 2 is still a lot of fun, especially with friends," Parish concludes. "There's no question that Crackdown 2 is a mere shadow of the first game, which stands as an absolute classic. The sequel feels more like an ambitious user mod than a true follow-up. Still, I suspect that Crackdown fans hankering for an excuse to revisit Pacific City will find enough to like about this imperfect sequel to justify at least a rental. Just be sure to enlist a few friends to help make the most of the experience."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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