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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gaming on $2 or Less - Crackdown for the Xbox 360

I don't mind paying good money for games or hardware that interest me, but there is something particularly satisfying about finding a used game in a bargain bin for $1.50 and discovering that I really like it. There are very few games I won't try for less than $2 and since I like playing all kinds of games it is not all that uncommon for me to find an unexpected personal gem that way - or at the very least a game that gives me more entertainment value than the mere $1-$2 I put into it.

Recently I bought a copy of Crackdown for the Xbox 360 complete with the case and manual on eBay for $1.46 with free shipping (I always include the shipping on my $2 or less rule). I was completely unfamiliar with the game, but now that I've played it for several hours I have to say I thoroughly enjoy it!



Crackdown was developed by Realtime Worlds in 2007, conceptualized by company founder David Jones, the British programmer who created the classic Lemmings back in 1991 and the first two Grand Theft Auto games.

The back of the case has a pretty good synopsis: "All justice. No Restraints. As a genetically enhanced agent of justice, it's your job to rid the city of crime - by any means necessary. You're the extreme solution to an extreme problem, as you attempt to take out 21 gang bosses and restore order to a sprawling metropolis teeming with lawlessness and strife."

The narrator puts it even more succinctly to begin the game: "It's all gone to shit!" as back story pictures pan by comic-book style - which fits because this game definitely feels like a comic book. Grittier than Superman or even Batman though. This is an indie comic where you're a juiced-up Judge Dredd type of law keeper and your job is to kill all the bad guys by stomping them to death, throwing them off rooftops, shooting them in the face, running over them in cars, etc. - good wholesome violence like that. And every once in a while the voice of HQ comes on and shows you some video intel on the latest evil-doer you need to hit. It basically feels like a modern-day sandbox version of one my old arcade favorites from Williams - NARC. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to stumble across a crazy clown or some dude flinging giant hypodermic syringes at me. But unlike in NARC, arresting the bad guys is not an option - you just put them in a grave.



The game begins in the garage of the Agency Keep. You go pick out which vehicle you want to take out into the crime-ridden city - a sporty supercar that drives under other cars and scoops them out of the way, a larger Hummer all-terrain vehicle that drives over cars and obstacles, or a big Mac truck that just piles through them. Once you get out into the city you can also jump into any other vehicle you see out there and if you return it to the agency garage it adds it to your inventory of usable vehicles when you respawn.

In addition to tons of vehicles you can also use all kinds of weapons, including those you pry from the cold dead hands of the criminals. And like the cars, if you check in captured weapons at one of various supply points throughout the city it adds them to you usable inventory. You have to reclaim the supply points from the gang members first but after that they provide a port in the city where you can refit with different weapons and reload all your ammo. You can jump all over the place, climb up everything, lift and throw everything (assuming you've built up enough strength), shoot, stomp, kick, grenade, swim - it is basically the fun open-world experience that I expected from Grand Theft Auto IV before I played that and found it utterly boring.  There are also lots of little add-on challenges like races, stunts, and collecting orbs. The game actually reminded me quite a bit of the PS3 game Infamous which I played a couple of years back, but then I realized that even though I played Infamous first, it was actually released a couple of years after Crackdown. So it seems like several of the things I liked about Infamous may have actually been inspired by Crackdown.

Graphics are bright and stylized - look almost Dreamcastish to me - which I like. This game is a big comic book and isn't going for realism so hyper realistic COD graphics would have been out of place.

The auto-aim on the shooting is intuitive and easy to use, although the melee combat is less so - several times I stood there doing roundhouse kicks in the air 2 feet in front of a guy while he sprayed me with both bullets and profanity.

The trailer shows off a few of your moves as clean the scum off the streets of Pacific City.



There is an RPG component as well as your skill ratings are tracked on-screen for 5 abilities - Agility, Driving, Explosives, Strength and Firearms. You get points for using each of these skills and when you attain enough points you level up for that particular skill. So the more heavy stuff you pick up, the heavier stuff you CAN pick up, etc. And there is something particularly satisfying about picking up up a big car with a couple of thugs in it and hurling it over a bridge into the water. Or just punching a car into a metal pulp a-la Street Fighter 2 for that matter.

As far as the story goes, Crackdown is not going to make you think and feel and empathize with the characters or any of that mushy stuff. It is pretty much just one long cliche-filled series of explosions. So if you are looking for an emotionally-moving tale well, move on to something else. But if you, like me, just finished a game with a more complex narrative and character development and were looking for some nice cheap fun to swish around and cleanse the palate before the next big game well for me this was it.

The primary gameplay is pretty repetitive so it does start to get a little old after a while. So I can't say that I see myself actually hanging in there long enough to kill off all the gangs and kingpins to complete the game, but I found the gameplay, even repetitive as it is, so addictive that every time I turn it on I still quite enjoy it. Also co-op play and a few other options are available to extend replay value as well. I'm not sure how many hours I've put into this so far, but I've definitely gotten my money's worth. Rating-wise - for me I think I'd give Crackdown like an 8.4 or so. Not bad for a game I had assumed would be closer to a 7 when I bought it.  Hell I liked it so much I might have to go check out Crackdown 2 now. I know one thing - if I find Crackdown 2 for $2 or less like I did the first one I'm definitely getting it.

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2 comments:

Fallguy40 said...

Your opening description of the game had me thining about NARC as well. 3-D NARC would be epic.

Since I don't have a Xbox 360, I'll probably never play it but it sounds like a good time.

MadPlanet said...

It's really a surprisingly fun game. If I didn't have so many other games to explore I'd be happy to continue playing it for a while. Well maybe you'll buy a 360 dirt-cheap somewhere in a year or two and if you do buy this game dirt cheap as well. I remember us hitting the NARC several times back in the day - funny thing is there actually IS an updated NARC for the original Xbox, but apparently it was pretty much universally panned as a horrible game so I haven't tried it yet. But if I find it for under $2 somewhere be ready to read about it here.