Like Geeking Out (new installment forthcoming), 120 Minutes is another blog brainchild I had awhile back. I play a ton of games (reviewers do…it's part of the gig), but I don't always review everything I play. Hell, I don't even talk about half the stuff I play. I don't know why this is, so don't ask.

Anyway, 120 Minutes is something I pretty much ripped off from Attack of the Show on G4. Kevin P used to do a little segment (I don't think they do it anymore) called "The First 50". Basically, he spent 50 minutes with some new hot game and gave his early impressions and whether or not he felt it was worth buying. 50 minutes seemed short to me (probably because I play a lot of RPGs and 50 minutes in the span of a 50-60 hour game doesn't even guarantee you'll see the first dungeon), so I upped mine to 120 minutes (which was also the name of MTV's old alternative video show–most of you are probably way too young to remember that).

Now that we've cleared that all up, here's my 120 minute impressions of Crackdown for the Xbox 360.

Crackdown

Despite being a "well-informed" gamer who knows what he likes and dislikes about games long before they ever hit retail, I'm as prone as anyone when it comes to getting sucked up into hype. Crackdown, which I first read about eons ago when it was featured on the cover of Game Informer magazine, didn't really interest me much at the time. It was sort of a cel-shaded GTA clone, only you played a cop wreaking havoc on the criminal element of a fictional metropolitan area instead of a hoodlum. It looked ok, but this was at the height of the "cel-shading will change graphics forever!" phase of gaming, and well, I was kind of tired of the whole cel-shading thing even then.

Anyway, the game was one of the big guns of the 360 line-up, only it got delayed. It hung around on the periphery of everyone's radar for awhile, and finally came out last month. Before the release, MS put out a downloadable demo (which I didn't play) that a lot of people really liked. After reading what seemed like pages of various message board posts talking about how great the game was, I changed my mind and decided to grab a copy.

A lot of people probably picked up the game because it comes with an invite to the Halo 3 Beta that will become active at some point. I can assure you this had nothing to do with my purchase, though, because the idea of playing in the Halo Beta with 30,000 other alpha gamer douchebags makes me break out in hives. I bought this solely for Crackdown…so, what's the verdict at the two-hour mark?

First, the positives:

Despite having a cel-shaded main character, Crackdown sports some pretty nice graphics. It definitely looks better than any of the GTA games, although design-wise, the two titles are pretty similar. It's a world of urban sprawl with lots and lots of buildings (many of which are strip clubs it seems). Like GTA's of old, most of the buildings can't be entered. Doors are only around for appearances–all the action takes place outside.

What's different from GTA is that the game is really into vertical playing. Your character, a sort of cross between RoboCop and JC Denton from Deus Ex, can climb buildings thanks to his bionic abilities (which are leveled through use–players can improve their agility, strength, driving, firearms, and explosives skills). Each agility increase makes your avatar run faster and jump higher. Agility, unlike the other skills, mainly increases by finding various orbs hidden around the city (500 in all). So, there's some collectathon action in your sandbox gameplay.

Controlling the character is a lot of fun and really the place where the game shines. Anyone developing a super-hero game should be emulating Crackdown, because playing this guy feels more like playing Superman than actually playing Superman in any of the shitty games they've made based on that license. Leaping thirty feet into the air is just cool–blasting away bad guys while you're on the way down is damn near transcendant.

Now, the not-so-good.

Like GTA, the targetting seems off in this game. It's nowhere near as frustrating as it is in GTA (probably because it's a lot harder to die in this game), but you'll often find yourself locked on to a car or some corpse instead of the guy you're trying to blast into smithereens.

Second, the game feels like it's very short. At the two hour mark, I've already found almost 200 of the 500 agility orbs and cleared the first area. There are three gangs in the game in total, so if it stays at this level of difficulty throughout, we're looking at a six hour game. $10 per gaming hour seems a little steep.

Finally, the game is really good at what it does–letting you control a cybernetically enhanced cop as he wreaks havoc in a city–but that's all it does. Gameplay at the five minute mark is really no different than what it is at the two hour point. Sure, you'll be a little better shot, able to lift a few heavier things, and aim a bit better, but the core gameplay is the same as when you started. Replay value looks pretty low–once you finish off the gangs you could find those last few orbs for achievements, but that's about it.

So, Crackdown is a good game that feels like it was rushed out the door before it was totally finished. What's here is fun, but I can't shake the feeling that there should be something more–like this was a glorified tech demo for a cool game that got released instead of the actual game itself.

120 Minute Verdict: Rent or Buy

If you're really into sandbox-styled games, Crackdown will give you a few hours of entertainment. If you don't mind shelling out $60 for 6-10 hours of gameplay, then by all means buy it. Everyone else though would probably be best served renting this one. It's entertaining, but once you've seen what it has to offer you're not likely to play it again.

Keep in mind that this is a look at the game at the two hour mark, so it could change dramatically as things progress. However, at this point, it's hard to recommend as a purchase. Definitely worth playing, probably not worth owning.

Mike Bracken

Mike Bracken

Mike Bracken is a 43-year-old writer and bohemian living in Florida with a mountain of movies, books, and video games.

A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.

Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.

In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.
Mike Bracken

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5 Comments on "120 Minutes: Crackdown"

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Gene Park
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I’d keep coming for the 120 minutes idea. I played Crackdown for about two hours too, and all I’ve heard is that the game doesn’t ramp up in anything later. I don’t understand how a game can be nothing but doing the same first two minutes over and over again. This is one case where, I think, the price would be a huge factor in the final review and rating. $60 is too much for this game. $30 for the ability to jump really high and blow stuff up for a few hours is a good deal. This should’ve been… Read more »
Mike Bracken
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Heh, steal away my good man. I really liked Gears of War (it has the distinction of being the first game in ages that I beat, then went back and played again on a harder difficulty), and I kind of like Crackdown, but I think Crackdown is more of an example of the great mechanics but no game theme. I mean, to me, GoW was still a shooter if you took out the cover mechanics. I don’t really know what Crackdown would be without the super-enhanced cyber abilities. That’s an interesting theory about the development costs and online content. Crackdown… Read more »
Brad Gallaway
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Hey Mike, i like the new 120 Minutes bit… pretty cool. Since you ripped it off of G4 and MTV, i may have to rip it off from you. ; ) Shame about Crackdown, but the “great mechanics but no game” syndrome seems to be pretty common these days. i felt the same about Gears of War and a few other recent titles. When Dan and i were talking the other day, i commented that perhaps rising dev costs and the crutch of “we’ll add content online later” is leading developers down the path of releasing things they know aren’t… Read more »
Mike Bracken
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Heh, man I was hoping it wouldn’t really only last six hours–but I had this nagging feeling that it was really gonna be that short. The difficulty never really ramps up, so I figured it was two hours per island.

I’m all for games that don’t last an eternity, but six hours is pretty lame.

Daniel Weissenberger
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No, six hours is a pretty good guess. I’m not going to spoil the ending (I’ll save that for the review), but at the end of five hours, a movie played that made me think “Aha! So now the preliminaries are over, and the real story starts!” But then the movie ended and it turned out that no, there wasn’t a better second half to come, it was just a bit of a rip-off.

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