So here we are back in Pacific City, the glorious city of the future guarded by the Agency and now home to derelict buildings that would make your average dystopian futurist proud. Crackdown 2 takes place 10 years after the original and Pacific City is under the domination of a freak virus, a mutagen that has turned a lot of its population into blood crazed zombie-like monsters. The Agency has reactivated its Agent Program in an attempt to clean up the streets once again.
Only this time there's a human resistance movement called Cell, Cell are getting in the way of things so it's up to you, Agent, to put down Cell and the Freaks at the same time. You do this by activating absorption units and beacons across the city, whilst empowering your agent through the 'skills for kills' mechanic that was so prevalent in the first game. In essence it's a remake of Crackdown with new weapons, new abilities and a larger version of Pacific City this time around, one that's tumbled into rack and ruin.
The control system is the same but gone are the morphing Agency vehicles (boo) replaced by lack-lustre counterparts and a vanilla driving experience. Whilst it might echo Carmageddon at night when the Freaks come out to play, vehicles are no more than improvised throwing weapons when you evolve your agent's strength to its physical peak. Just like in Crackdown you have you various skills.
Agility: is raised by collecting orbs strewn around the city, get 100 in one particular level of the skill and you'll raise it to the next marker. There are renegade skill orbs that run away from you and rooftop races that give you a nice bonus should you complete them in time. Your running speed and jumping height raises each level. Get to level 5 and you'll unlock the Wing Suit.
Firearms: is raised by killing bad guys, and lowered by shooting civilians. Getting higher firearms unlocks more weapons to play with.
Strength: is raised by hand to hand kills, get a high enough strength and you'll be able to lift bigger things, use mounted weapons by ripping them from their mountings, shoulder barge enemies at high speed and performing a ground pound move that smashes lots of foes in one. You also gain extra health for the agent.
Explosives: is raised by chaining explosions, using explosives to kill masses of enemies and explosive weapons like the rocket launcher. Higher tiers give you more boom to play with and bigger explosive radius and damage.
Driving: is raised by doing stunts, hitting jump markers and ploughing through enemies in a vehicle. Get a level and you'll unlock a new vehicle to play with, get to level 5 and you can take the Agency Tank for a spin. You can gain more driving skill if you catch renegade driving orbs.
Once you get to max level don't think you're nigh on unstoppable, there are still things that can give you a serious beat-down. You can fall farther, you can take more damage but you can still die if you mess up and underestimate the challenge of a situation. Talking of challenges, there are several, there are Wing Suit glide markers, there are rooftop races, driving races and there are tactical locations to win back. Cell has various strongholds throughout Pacific City and each time you take a tac-location in a Stronghold you weaken it, get all the tac-locations and you can win the Stronghold for the Agency, you get a shiny marker and a place to call in weapons and vehicles, you can also store Cell weapons and vehicles there, along with civilian vehicles.
Dying isn't an issue, you just respawn where you want or at the nearest location. You will need to repeat the activity again though, unless you're playing in multiplayer and have other friends working on the same goal.
Crackdown 2's gameplay is basically short on story, high on action and if you like to grind your powers until you're an ultimate badass powerhouse, then this is the game for you. There's one little secret that we'll give away right here, get your Agility up to 5 as soon as you can, you can gain access to the Agency Chopper and how to do this is simple, you need to look at the Agency Tower and you'll see a circular helipad with 4 choppers parked on it. Now with a bit of acrobatic leaping you can climb the tower and get to a high point, glide over with the Wing Suit and get yourself a helicopter.
It is also possible to ferry up to 3 people on one. Wait for your pilot to come down low enough so that the chopper's legs fold down, then face the crossbar and hit the Y button. If you've done it right you'll attach to the chopper. Useful if you want to get the Chopper Stomper achievement or just drop in on the Freaks unannounced.
There are also Freak Breaches that you can clear once you deal with a beacon zone; you can purge these during the night only. It is also important to note that you only get the Freaks at night when the sun goes down, daylight is lethal to them. During the day you'll get Cell.
Can I play with Madness?
Nope, but you can play with friends. Up to 4 people can enter the same city and do anything they want. You can load up four Agents on a battle bus and try to jump through markers, take on Freak Lairs by yourself or team up with your friends. This is where the true fun of the game really lies, working with your buddies. There's no pvp protection though so be careful where you place that kick or rocket. If you tire of 4 player coop, then you can jump into team deathmatch, deathmatch or rocket-tag where you basically play CTF with a rocket. None of these modes really caught our attention for long, so we went back to coop. You can have 16 players in the adversarial modes.
Crackdown 2 is pretty ok graphically, it's not going to win any amazing graphics awards but it's functional. There's a good level of detail to the Agent this time and the eye candy is nice enough. You're not really here for the graphics though, you're here for the ott gameplay and that's what CD 2 has in abundance. The sound is good, the voice work is interesting and there's enough of it to build the story as you collect the various audio logs around the city.
There are some nifty touches like the orb ping, which reminded us of inFamous' little trick with the radar. Press up on the D-pad and you'll get a brief ping of all the orbs in your location to help with finding them. There are blue orbs which give you a bonus to all your skills, and Live Orbs which are only collectible if you have a friend online at the time near the orb with you.
The music is decent enough and the whole thing comes together fairly well.
It's a bit laggy in multiplayer at the moment, the coop world can slow down and there have been some synch issues between host and clients.
Has it changed enough?
Yes and no, there's a higher level of graphical detail, the story is a little more focussed and the overall feel is better. There's certainly more to do and unlock than there was before. If you liked Crackdown then I'd recommend this in a heartbeat. If you're used to something more GTA and so on, keep clear because the lack of a driving narrative story and the open ended nature of the game might be enough to put you off.
The truth is that collecting the orbs is hellish fun and the over top action makes it even better.