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I think we all owe crackdown an apology.
First of all it was branded a simple GTA clone, albeit one with interesting cel-shaded graphics. Then it was regarded as the sort of lightweight effort that needed a bundled entry to a Halo 3 beta to make sure it flew off the shelves. Well, it turns out that we were wrong on both counts.
The first is just nonsense. Unlike, say, Saint’s Row or Scarface, Crackdown has nothing to do with the usual gang-banging, pimping, dealing tosh. It’s played third person, involves cars and takes place in an urban open-world setting, but there the comparisons end. And while the Halo 3 beta is a definite bonus, Crackdown doesn’t need it to get our attention. This is a game that can stand proudly on its own two feet.
Perhaps one day we might be able to play an open world game without mentioning GTA, in the way we don’t now inevitably mention Command and Conquer or Doom every time a new RTS or FPS comes out. For now, instead of thinking GTA, you might consider two more meaningful comparison points. First, last year’s Just Cause, both for its assassination set pieces and the way getting around was part of the fun, and second, 2005’s Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Why the latter? Because it’s probably the most successful game to involve super-powers in an open world, and because those super-powers are instrumental in making that open world fun. All the above is true of Crackdown.
Confused? Here’s the setup. You’re a genetically engineered super-cop, set loose on a city on the verge of social collapse. Three gangs run riot on the streets, each laying claim to a specific portion of the city. Eliminate the gang leaders and you can restore peace, but it won’t be easy. To even have a chance of taking the three kingpins down you’ll have to tackle their lieutenants one by one, tracking each to his or her hideout and making sure you put them out of action permanently.
And that’s basically it. There’s no storyline, no cut-scenes to wade through, and no missions as such, just gameplay. You won’t even know who and where your targets are until close proximity brings up an intelligence briefing. This means that you’re basically free to obliterate the twenty-one key villains in any order and however you choose. The catch is that, while you can try to tackle who you want when you want, your chances won’t always be that good. On your first attempt, the game’s superb deadpan commentary – a mix of online help and cutting observation – will cue you in to your predicted odds, and the game will cheerfully recommend that, if necessary, you come back later when you’re better equipped to cope.