Up until recently there seems to have been a lack of substantial information regarding Microsoft’s soon to be released sequel to 2007’s popular action hit Crackdown. With the July 2010 launch date rapidly approaching I was lucky enough to be selected to test drive what Microsoft are calling a ‘beta release demo’ of the aptly named Crackdown 2 and wanted to share those first impressions with you.
First and foremost the sequel features something of a changing of the guard with a new developer at the helm. Whilst the first game was conceived by Realtime Worlds and published by Microsoft, Crackdown 2 is set to be Scotland based Ruffian Games first foray into the console market. Fans of the original will not doubt be reassured to discover that the game appears to be in very safe hands, with many former members of Realtime Worlds now forming the Crackdown 2 team over at Ruffian.
To mark it’s return Crackdown 2 has undergone quite a facelift with a slick cell shaded appearance (think Boarderland) replacing the first game’s colourful mayhem. Whilst not a night and day change the striking new look certainly puts you in the mind of a gaming world that holds little real world limits and as such suits Crackdown 2 perfectly.
The demo itself packs in 30 minutes of action packed gaming with a unique twist. At the time of writing those playing the demo can earn up to 100 of the game’s 1000 achievement points prior to the actual games release – perfect for the ‘over-achievers’ out there! Unlocking all 10 of the achievements available in the current demo would appear to be a tough ask, with some possibly obtainable within the 30 minute time limit – but no harm in trying right? Perhaps confusingly any achievements earned will apparently not show up on your profile unless you actually play the full game when it’s officially released but it’s still a nice touch and quite possibly a time saver later down the line.
As you progress through each mission players will find their character levels up in certain areas. The way you level up, for example becoming more proficient in hand to hand combat or improving your shooting skills, seems to vary depending on how you are taking out your enemies. This nice little touch assists you in playing the game the way you want without forcing you onto a certain path. In addition to levelling up your attributes the demo also enables you a collect up to 500 orbs in and around the map area. The more orbs you collect the better your character’s jumping ability becomes, just as in the original Crackdown.
As a big fan of the first game I would say that Microsoft would appear to have another hit on their hands. Sure it isn’t a quantom leap over the first in terms of gameplay and there have certainly been a number of great sandbox games released since Crackdown first hit the scene three years ago but based on the demo Crackdown 2 is fun, fast and crazy addictive. Just like the recent Just Cause 2 demo which also featured a 30 minute time limit, this demo gives you the freedom to explore the sights and sounds of Crackdown 2 pretty much anyway you choose. Although seemingly more structured than Just Cause 2, I personally feel that once openly released this demo will prove equally as popular and go along way to selling the game to both Crackdown veterans and new players alike. Being able to unlock a handful of achievements early is the icing on the cake and a feature that I hope catches on for future demos.
There are three helicopter landing sites scattered throughout the Crackdown 2 demo. Securing two of the three helicopter landing areas, will unlock more missions the first of which requires you to engage in a little facilitated vandalism by destroying generators. In addition to the structured missions available during the demo you are also able to compete in races, of which there are 15 as far as I could tell. Most of these appeared to be checkpoint based with no opposition trying to stop you, although the presence of heavy traffic and shoot outs around the city made things much more interesting and exciting. As with the leveling up of your character, the more driving and racing you do you the easier you will find handling the vehicles. This is definitely worth persevering with as once your driving skills improve you are rewarded with a slew of upgraded vehicles.
The demo throws players in at the deep end and straight into the action with no tutorial to be found. One of the first missions requires you to secure a number of tactical locations that have been quite literally overrun by bad guys. Those of you who enjoy being under pressure and backed against a wall should be pleased to read that Crackdown 2 likes to bring the pain as I quickly discovered when after calling for backup the area I was in, which was already packed with enemy characters was now absolutely swamped as new bad guys quite literally poured in to counter my attack. All very well and good until I realised my character was as weak as a new born kitten as the demo gave you no opportunity to hone or level up my skills! That said with a little strategy the weapons that you provided with at the start are more than capable enough to take care of anything thrown at you, although the lock on system can be quite frustrating as it struggled to find the correct target on a few occasions and would often snap away and lock on to a nearest armoured vehicle instead.