Review: Crackdown – Xbox One/Xbox 360

Man. I remember playing the hell out of Crackdown a decade ago. Back then I was just a scrawny teenage boy living in my parents’ house, saving up my money from my part-time job. Crackdown was my go-to game after a long shift at McDonald’s. Hey, don’t knock it. I ate as many free McFlurries as I could get away with. It was a decent job for a kid.

Now here we in 2018 and Crackdown is my crack again. I’ve actually been sitting on a copy of the game since E3 2017. I’d bought it in the hope that Microsoft would make a surprise announcement that the game would be backwards compatible. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed. Until a couple of week ago.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I never actually completed Crackdown when I was a kid. I had too much going on and I wasn’t as dedicated to finished games as I am now. I’ve since completed Crackdown and I’m only four agility orbs away from having the full set of 500. Which is weird, considering I have much less free time for gaming these days. I’m a father, a store manager, and I juggle three gaming websites on a daily basis. Odd…

If you’ve played Crackdown before, you’re not going to get anything from this review. This review is for those who somehow managed to miss the game’s original release on the Xbox 360, but have found themselves interested in the game due to backwards compatibility and the upcoming release of Crackdown 3. We can all just forget Crackdown 2 happened, yeah? Good. Moving on.

Crackdown is an open-world game where you can do whatever you like. There is a structure and a loose story to put your chaotic actions into context, but it’s rather light. Your task as an agent from The Agency is to clean up the streets of Pacific Bay, one gang boss at a time. But how are you, a single agent, supposed to kick so much arse? Skills for kills, of course!

You start the game with whichever character you choose. There are several options, but I always – without fail – choose to play as the black dude on the game’s cover. I don’t know why. I’m not black. I’m whiter than Weird Al, but the black agent is by far the coolest. It’s just a shame, then, that he has no dialogue. None of them do. You’re a voiceless agent who speaks through his actions.

Once you’ve gotten the low-down from the director of The Agency, you’re given free reign to go wherever you like, as well as having a choice of three agency vehicles to choose from. The Agency serves as the central hub. It’s here that you’ll be able to pick a vehicle and go to any of the game’s three distinct districts. However, you must bear in mind that if you head straight to the district that the Shai-Gen gang calls home, you’ll be torn apart within minutes. You need to level up and get your skills to a certain point before you go gung-ho on the top dogs.

It’s vital that you explore every district thoroughly in order to increase your agent’s skills. You’ve got four core abilities that can be improved over time; Agility, Driving, Explosives, and Firearms. As you can probably imagine, using your guns to kill enemies will improve your gun use. Use them to kill innocents and you’ll stunt your progress. It’s the same with the other abilities, too, though agility can be improved by collecting the now-famous green orbs, or by completing rooftop races. Driving skills can be improved by using your vehicle to kill enemies, or you can take to the streets in races.

Leveling up is satisfying, though it can be a bit of a grind. For instance, you’ll breeze your way through the firearms and agility skills through regular play. But given that leaping from one rooftop to the next is more enjoyable than driving a car, and that explosives only have a limited amount of ammo, it’s easy to fall behind on some core skills.

The main bulk of the game will have you running around each district in an effort to locate the leaders of each gang. Once you’ve located a leader, you’ll be told your odds of success by the ever-present Agency director. He’s always yapping, this fella, but it’s nice that he gives you words of encouragement every now and again. I like that. I respond to positive feedback. I only wish more games took the time to tell me how great a job I am doing…

If the odds are against you, you’re better off finding a softer target or improving your core skills. What’s interesting here is that taking out certain gang bosses will have a knock-on effect. So, for example, if you take out the gang boss who is in charge of supplying munitions, you’ll find the gang won’t be as well stocked with decent guns. This is two-fold, mind you, as it means if you run out of ammo while taking on a mob boss, you’ll have to pick up some crummy gun. It’s a nice touch that’s present throughout, and it’s not just limited to guns; it can be explosives, cars, and even enemy health.

Crackdown is definitely a product of its time, though it’s still surprisingly accessible by today’s standards. The controls are tight and responsive, though the lock-on aiming system could have been a little better. It still works and it never hindered my enjoyment of the game, but it does feel a little dated in that respect.

Graphically, Crackdown is still a really, really nice game to look at. If you’re playing on original Xbox One hardware, or the Xbox One S, Crackdown will look much as it did back in 2007. The comic-book aesthetic hasn’t aged a day. If a game was released looking like this today, I wouldn’t hold any ill-will towards it. However, if you’re playing on a souped up Xbox One X, you can expect some nice enhancements. I’ve only managed to play Crackdown on an Xbox One X for a short period, yet in that brief time it was immediately obvious where the improvements have come from. Frame rates were more stable and the image quality was top-notch on a 4K telly. If you can play this on an Xbox One X, I’d suggest you do so. If not, it’s still a cracking game otherwise.

Crackdown’s beauty lies in its simplicity. There are no complicated crafting menus. There’s no RPG mechanics where they aren’t needed. It’s just straight up fun. You have your city, your guns, and a license to kill just about anybody. Well, I say anybody but if you go nuts and start killing the Peacekeepers or regular civilians, you’ll have a small army of Peacekeepers chasing you. Until you launch yourself to the top of a building…

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