Realtime Worlds’s Crackdown hasn’t been talked about at all before it was announced that you’d get in on the Halo 3 beta test if you bought the retail copy. This is no surprise, since it’s basically a GTA clone, and we’ve seen quite a few of those lately. Based on the demo, Crackdown does it right. I’ve been waiting for the demo since I read Edge’s extensive feature on it – it sounds like it does many things right.
Crackdown is not a GTA clone in the way Saints’ Row was; that is, a carbon copy, only without the charm. It’s more like Just Cause, which I found no fun at all, and the fun, but underdeveloped Total Overdose: a sandbox of gameplay, with no railroading and a freedom to do what you want. Freedom is what GTA always hinted at and in my opinion, never delivers on. And in any case, Crackdown has every right to steal from GTA, since it is created by David Jones, who worked on the original GTA over at DMA Design back in 1997 (whoah! a decade already).
In Crackdown you’re a genetically-engineered, superpowered agent sent out from a hi-tech hub to cleanse the city of criminals. You have skills to develop, mostly by practicing them. To begin with, you can throw around barrels and boxes, but kick around a few bad guys and you’ll develop the muscles to throw industrial dumpsters and small cars. Great fun! Also, your running, jumping and scaling skills develop considerably over the game, allowing you to reach ever higher locations. I love the way your agent leaps over buildings, making a crack in the concrete as he lands. It’s just… empowering. There’s a joy of movement, like in the Spider-Man games, only better.
GTA always had lots of combat and it never worked. Crackdown is all about combat, and it works, melee notwithstanding – it’s good when you finish someone with a flying kick to conserve ammo and build your strength, or kick someone when he’s down to finish him, but against standing enemies it’s a mess. Also, the combat is made super fun by the overdone physics – stuff feels solid, but bad guys and exploding things fly all over the place in very satisfying arcs.
I applaud that the game features no story to speak of. There are just gangs to take down and a city to explore. I respectfully doubt that a game of this sort could deliver a story I might be interested in hearing, so why bolt one on it?
I like the graphics a lot. They have a style of their own, a toned down cel-shading that just works, adding theme, definition and structure to the package. Bold colors are very welcome, too. And the cartoon antics fit well within the action.