Set 10 years in the game universe after the ominous conclusion of Crackdown (reviewed here), the sequel sees the player once again adopt the role of an unnamed, genetically modified law enforcement ?Agent? in the now ruined Pacific City.
While the original game set the scene for a sequel in which the Agency enjoyed absolute power after crushing all of the street gangs, things have actually played out somewhat differently. In the intervening decade, the population has been ravaged by the virus that was released accidentally in the first game, which mutates them into hideous "freaks". The more amoral of the survivors have organised themselves into "Cell" - a factional criminal militia that fulfils the same role as the street gangs of the first game; namely to act as antagonists to your progress and canon fodder for your impressive arsenal.
Cell inhabit strongholds that they cram into at night, making it important to time your offensives for when they are roaming the streets in order to optimise your chance of success.
Conversely, Freaks take to the streets at night. Both cell and freaks can be attacked using mêlée moves, which is useful for when you are out of ammunition.
However, as in the first game, most kills are made using any one of a large selection of ordnance, ranging from shotguns, through Uzi-style sub machine guns right up to rocket launchers. Freaks are resistant to traditional weapons, but developer Ruffian has thoughtfully included a selection of UV weapons that are especially effective against the mutants.
Fans of the first game will be relieved to know that Crackdown 2
is very obviously an evolutionary sequel, rather than a revolutionary style re-imagining. Not only is the city familiar, but the gameplay is too. That's not to say that nothing has changed. For a start, the city lies in ruins, a result of 10 years of Freak and Cell dilapidation and neglect. So while players of the first game will recognise the landscape, it has changed sufficiently to present new challenges. An obvious one is that the barricades that Cell has erected to defend their strongholds make climbing a much tougher prospect unless you choose your starting point well.
Another immediately noticeable change is the presence of the Freaks. While Pacific City was well populated in Crackdown
, it was primarily with citizens, who were non-antagonistic. Now at night, which comes around all too frequently, the streets are filled with Freaks, and players have to keep their wits about them or they will be attacked constantly.
One way to combat this is to spend more time in vehicles, which enables you to mow down Freaks, law enforcers and citizens. Only the former will be tolerated by the disembodied voice of your agency handler, which instructs and narrates your game, giving advice and admonishment in equal measure.
Driving was only a peripheral part of Crackdown
. Sure, for completists, you had to win races to notch all of the bedpost. If your aim was simply to "finish" the game, there was no need to spend longer in a vehicle than it took to get out of the Agency headquarters at the start of every session - there was no way to get out on foot. Early in the game, vehicles were a convenient way to get around the vast and open city environment but as your speed and physical agility increased, running, swimming and rooftop jumping were, for this player at least, a far better way of getting around. Taking part in races was an option but not one that players were in any way compelled to partake of.