The Basics: From the brain behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise comes an Xbox 360 exclusive, Crackdown, that introduces a twist to the open world genre. Here instead of committing crime you're stopping it as a super-powered government agent that is humanity's last hope for clean streets in the US of A.
Backing the story is a look that at first screams out cell-shading, but upon closer inspection has more in common with adult graphic novels than Celda. Under the hood a dynamic physics system brings to life deafening explosions, car bowling, and building leaping that has Spiderman jealous.
Taking the game from yet another "GTA clone" to top of your most wanted list is a dynamic co-op system that lets a second player join in the fun at any time during the game. Having trouble taking out that last drug cartel? Your brother's lean-and-fast agent just might be the help your big-and-tough agent needs.
What do we think? Wow! Just tons of fun. A major highlight at this year's E3 was leaping from building to building with a big shit-eating-grin scrawled out across our faces. When the developer from Real Time Worlds, based in Scotland, leaned over and told us they had just hit alpha we had to pick our jaws up. Compared to most games at the show Crackdown felt like something ready to ship in a month.
Controls were nearly rock solid and aiming at distant and close thugs was as easy as moving the right analog stick. A dedicated zoom button allowed us to focus in and lock-in on targets that needed "extra" attention. Response time for picking up objects (cars, lightpoles, dead bodies!) with the B button was a little off, but nothing a little tuning can't fix.
Did we mention you can pick up cars like Superman and toss them at bad guys for a game Got-Next likes to call "car-bowling?" The lock-on button makes big things at small people easy, fun, and addicting. We were chucking everything not nailed down at thugs. At one point we used a grenade launcher to blow patio furniture into pieces, and then used the remains of the table to knock a foe over a railing to his death. But it was Ross' use of a dead body to knock a gang leader off a roof that had the GN staff rolling in laughter.
Playable at the show was the much touted open co-op system which allows a second player to jump into the game at any point in the single player campaign. Together, we stormed a compound taking out targets and using pieces of the environment both as cover and weapons. It was nearly impossible to coordinate strategies given how loud the show floor is, but co-op play in Crackdown looks promising enough to unseat our current co-op favorite Halo. A feature we'd love to see is the ability to throw your partner over fences, or at enemies. Make it so Real Time Worlds!
Graphically, the game was a delightful blast of fresh air amongst a show floor crowded with bland high-def renditions of last year's games. The graphic novel look is hard to describe, and like most of next-gen's best looking games is near impossible to capture in mere static screenshots. Subtle things we can point out are influences from graphic novel like blue-tinted night time lighting schemes, and thick dark edges on characters.
Things we're still curious about are how vehicles will work in the final game; during the show we noted that getting into a car morphs it into an a special agency version of the same car. Will this always happen, or will we have to work our way up to super cars? Can we get Spy Hunter type vehicles that shoot missiles? Marketing material also mentioned that players can customize their character's progression and specialties, but this wasn't shown at E3.
If all Crackdown had going for it were using cars as bowling balls and being able to leap from building to building it would still be near the top of our must buy list, but it's packing a lot more. Right now the hype surrounding this game is pretty low, but expect that to change in the next few months leading up to what we expect to be a late 2006 worldwide release of true "GTA-killer."