Dan says that Crackdown isn't an unmitigated disaster—I disagree. For a game that received crazy amounts of hype prior to release and was even granted the coveted honor of being host to the Halo 3 beta, it's an embarrassing, incomplete, and hopelessly botched attempt by a developer that either has no idea what they're doing, or lacked the time, talent, and/or resources to bring their concept to fruition. The idea of being a superpowered police officer works, but nothing much in the game does. It's such a train wreck, I hardly know where to begin—but I'll try.
Taking the concept of sandbox gaming to an unwelcome extreme, the Crackdown play experience feels shallow, repetitive, and lacks any sort of intelligence in terms of progression or craft. The developers seem to think that scattering anonymous bad guys around a map and surrounding them with stupid-huge hordes of snipers and rocket-launching goons is a good substitute for designing actual levels and encounters. It's not. It's not even enjoyable. Most of my time was spent either systematically eliminating gangsters like ants streaming from a hive, or trying to find a quiet corner so my life bar could regenerate. There is no complexity here, and no nuance or balance to the play at all.
Even worse, many of Crackdown's individual components don't hold together. For example, the city's architecture feels incredibly false and only serves to impede the player's movement. In fact, it's frustratingly difficult to navigate without taking the time to purposely increase leaping abilities—so much so that I was amazed the developers even bothered to include cars since driving isn't a practical option. It's much faster and more efficient to jump after leveling up, not to mention the fact that the vehicles handle like junk, height of locations is often an obstacle, and the roads are impossible to get around on. Good luck trying to find an on-ramp or even reaching some of the elevated roadways.
It may land in the genre by default, but I hesitate to call Crackdown a "sandbox" game because there's more to the formula than simply being "open." In Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, players follow a scripted plot line but can deviate from it at any time in order to participate in other activities. Not only are there alternate subplots to follow, there are a number of pastimes which exist simply for the pleasure of performing them, customization, and small goals that may or may not have an effect on the game overall. In Crackdown, the only option is wreaking havoc. Tired of tracking down bosses? I hope aimlessly leaping around the city or tossing cars for the hell of it sounds entertaining because that's about all there is to accomplish unless wasting time searching for stray icons is appealing. Game time well-spent? Hardly.
It's true that gaining superhuman powers and leaping through the sky to deliver fierce justice should be a winning formula—but there's really nothing to do and even less ability to experiment with or influence the elements that make up the game. Aimless and devoid of substance to the point of being pointless, Crackdown is such a raw, incomplete and unfocused effort that I actually feel insulted by the developers' gall in trying to pass this off as a full-fledged product. If I hadn't played Earth Defense Force 2017, I'd say that Crackdown was the worst thing I've played for the 360. As of right now, it's a dead tie.
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