Crackdown [*****]

…you might as well throw the thing out.

Recently I’d gotten tired of shooters. I’d beaten Saint’s Row, plowed my way through the Call of Duty games, Gears of War, Hitman, etc… I went as far as renting both Cars and Sonic The Hedgehog from Gamefly thinking that maybe I needed a respite from the genre for a bit.

When I’m right, I’m right – and when I’m wrong… oh MAN am I wrong.

Yesterday a fresh copy of Crackdown appeared in my mailbox, as it was a shooter I waited a bit before cracking it open since I had already planed on a long evening of hedgehogs and race cars… I fire it up, and from the very first moment I was at the START POINT I was having an absolute blast. Be clear, the graphics are oustanding. They’ve got a slightly cell-shaded feel to them giving the environment a nearly surreal vibe. Effects are good enough to wake the neighbors, and my single solitary gripe is the music… something I can easily overlook.

You’re a cop – genetically enhanced – to fight the near state of Anarchy in Pacific City. The bad guys are everywhere – fully armed – tough as Hillary Clinton’s jockstrap. From the moment you clear the subterranean parking garage for “the Agency” you are in a firefight. Not nearly as irritating as Gears of War where your armor can be improved by slathering cream cheese over it – you can punch, kick, shoot, run over, or CRUSH the bad guys. Most importantly, depending on HOW you kill them, one of your core skills will be improved… Agility, Strength, Shooting, Driving, Explosives, etc… After about an hour of game play I was able to clear the roofs of small buildings in a single bound, toss cars 200 feet into a crowd of gang members, and pick them off with a Halo-esque sniper shot from my pistol.

The game does have some slow points, especially after taking out all the crime bosses on your dossier. Roaming the city however will bring new opportunities to improve your core skills, compete in various races (like jumping rooftop to rooftop ala the Matrix), and when in the vicinity of another crime boss – you’ll get to take them out too. One thing that’s pretty cool, is as you approach the hideout of a crime boss – you’ll be notified of the odds you have of actually taking him or her out. The game will openly warn you if you stray into a higher level area that’d likely get you taken out.

The development of core skills almost has a feel similar to developing a character in an RPG. You get to pick a starting character who looks increasingly bad ass as the game progresses toward an inevitable fight with one of the 3 kingpin characters. It’s a pretty simple equation – kill gang members until you’re strong enough to take out the crime boss – kill crime bosses until you’re strong enough to take out the kingpin. There are 3 territories, 3 kingpins, and tons of absolutely FUN action.

Crackdown is a perfect example of how an open environment shooter should be done.

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