It might not have worked if these ideas weren’t so superbly executed, but they are. The controls are slick, with responsive, high-speed movement and melee combat and targeting features that put other open world games to shame. In a way it’s a compliment that the driving is probably the least compelling aspect of the game. The handling model is fantastic, and there is a superb range of vehicles to choose from, but why bother with something so prosaic as driving when you can leap tall buildings with only a couple of bounds?
Over time the game boils down to a matter of establishing the locations of the various bosses and sub-bosses, working out a logical order and then trying to spot a weak point. Along the way you’ll also grab supply points, which are handy spots where you can drop off weapons, move instantly and – most importantly – respawn when vast numbers of gang members batter you into submission.
Now it must be said that at times the actual encounters lack drama – the bosses are nearly always lurking on a rooftop or in a compound surrounded by gang members, and while the AI isn’t bad it’s hardly the stuff of F.E.A.R. However, the game encourages you towards creating your own set-pieces. One minute you might be making a vertiginous climb up a lighthouse, the next you could be storming an island hideout single-handed. With bullets and bodies flying everywhere, fuel drums and grenades exploding in all directions, and you racing headlong right through the middle, games simply don’t get any better than this.
Of course, not everyone will agree. The look, for example, is determinedly counter the current trend towards photo-realism, though I think the combination of cel-shading and inset detail – reminiscent of a gritty, sci-fi graphic novel – fits the style of the super-powered action much better than the Gears of War approach would. Some may dislike the lack of structure, find the action repetitive or complain that it doesn’t last long enough. Well, maybe this isn’t an epic of GTA proportions, but I can only imagine that those who cracked Crackdown in less than eight hours must have a) really burnt through it and b) missed out on a lot of fun along the way. The action, meanwhile, only gets repetitive if you take the same approach to every boss. Take time to explore your capabilities, and the game constantly surprises you by accommodating nearly every whim. This is not the sort of game that drives you from climax to climax like a symphony. It’s a game that wants you to improvise, to play – to just have fun.