Reviews// Crackdown (Xbox 360)

It has more than a whiff of GTA...

Posted 20 Feb 2007 18:30 by
If you’re looking for a game with pedigree, how about Microsoft’s Crackdown? You could argue that it is descended from both Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto. That’s because it was developed by Scottish outfit Real Time Worlds – whose proprietor, the legendary David Jones, made both Lemmings and the first two, top-down GTAs before flogging his company DMA Design to Rockstar.

Any David Jones game demands attention, and there’s no doubt that Crackdown is the Xbox 360’s first big-hitter of 2007 – and to ram the message home, as we recently described on SPOnG, if you buy Crackdown, you’ll also get to participate in the multiplayer beta of Halo 3. It may be a month early, but Crackdown has a whiff of the PS3 launch-spoiler to it.

And it has more than a whiff of GTA to it – albeit the free-form side of GTA. Jim Cope, Real Time Worlds’ Release Manager, explains what the game’s all about: “David Jones wanted to take the whole GTA concept he’d seen developed by Rockstar in his direction: a completely open and non-linear game, in 3D, with the whole concept of the city as a vertical space. He didn’t want to put the player in the position where they had to be dragged along – there’s no storyline to unlock the next lot of islands. We wanted a whole world where the player is put in at the deep end, and they can tackle it in whatever way they see fit.”

“We’ve got a world called Pacific City with three districts, each controlled by one of three gangs: the Los Muertos, on the island where you start the game; the Volk, who are sort of Russian mafia, into their heavy weapons and military hardware; and the Shai-Gen, who are effectively the top-tier gang in the game – they’re very high-tech, service industry-based crime-lords, if you like.”

“You play a superhero. Using the very last resort it knows, the Agency takes a genetically modified human and lets him loose on the city. Then it’s down to players to take out all three gangs in whatever way they see fit and whatever order they want. It’s a very ambitious free-form game: you can do anything you want. If you want to tackle the game using your driving skills, you can; if you want to shoot people, you can. And that’s really the whole concept behind the game.”

Now, that is one of the simplest game premises I’ve heard, and in practice, it really is pretty much that simple. With a big twist: perhaps the key aspect of Crackdown is the ability to develop your super-powers as you progress. Cope explains, “The player becomes a superhero through the development of five key skills. You’ve got the agility skill, which lets you jump higher and further and run faster. We’ve got strength, which allows you to pick up bigger and bigger objects – you start off able to use a concrete slab as a weapon, and end up able to use a whole truck as a weapon.

Then we’ve got explosives: as your explosives skill increases, the grenades get bigger, the rocket-launchers get bigger and the explosions get bigger. And the explosions triggered by blowing up vehicles get bigger. Then there are firearms – essentially how accurate you can be firing a weapon: long-distance shots, head-shots and sniper shots all come into force.”

Don't forget to read our exclusive interview with [i]Crackdown producer, Phil Wilson, right here.[b]
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