Upon revisitng Pacific City, does the gang busting game on Xbox 360 deserve to stay in my top 10 Xbox 360 games of all time? Lets find out.
High: The Upgrade System
Certainly the best aspect of Crackdown is how much your character grows during your adventure. There are five main skills that you can level up upon doing certain actions, and all of them benefit you in the long run. Agility dictates how fast you run and how high you can jump, and when you start upgrading it, you really feel like a super hero while traversing the city. Strength dictates how much you can lift and throw, plus the more you level it up, the farther you kick people, which is always satisfying. Driving makes handling cars easier, plus you can upgrade it by mowing down a bunch of enemies so get that road rage flowing. Explosives makes your explosions bigger and badder, and once you find the rocket launcher, this skill becomes so easy to max. Finally, we have Firearms, which is upgraded just by doing what you do best, shooting things. Each time you rank up in a skill, you really get to see the result right away, you WILL be able to jump higher, you CAN lift up that car now, your explosions ARE bigger. It creates a situation where I always wanted to be working towards an upgrade, not because it is necessary to beat the game, but because it was so satisfying to see my progress as I went along.
Low: Driving Is Unnecessary
I did say that each skill benefits you in the long run, but there is certainly one of them that doesn't feel too relevant among the group, driving. Driving can be leveled up through two methods, running over gang members in a car, and doing road races. Both are incredibly hard to do in the beginning because each car handles like crap. They are floaty, their turn radius is either super wide or too sharp, and most will explode from a few bullets. Even as you level the skill up, it becomes clear that making cars feel natural and responsive was not high on the developer's list of things to do. What really makes the skill unnecessary is once your Agility skill gets over one star, you don't ever need to hop in a car. By two stars, you will run faster than most cars you will come across, and you can get across the city much faster by just jumping from roof top to roof top. One skill makes another completely worthless, and that's not something you want to see if you want to fully upgrade your character.
High: The Collectibles
Now I'm not a guy who traditionally likes to go out of my way to find all the collectibles I can, especially as I've been getting older and had less and less time to really put towards optional tasks like that. Crackdown is one of the few exceptions I've come across, where finding all the orbs in the game isn't just fun, it also helps your character grow. There are two types you will find, Agility and Hidden. Agility will always be found on some part of a building, whether it be a railing halfway up, or at the very top. The more you upgrade Agility, the easier they are to collect, and it feels so good jumping from rooftop to rooftop collecting a new Agility orb every couple of seconds. Hidden is a lot harder to come across (clearly) and is a reason why you shouldn't try to 100% the game, even though the collecting is fun. Some of the Hidden orbs you come across are in the most hard to reach or far out of your way areas in the game, and while it was cool to accidentally stumble across one, devoting time to finding all 300 is not something I would recommend. Regardless, Crackdown does collectibles right, making them not mandatory to collect, but certainly providing you with a benefit if you do.
Low: The "Boss" Fights Are Underwhelming
The game had a real chance to make each gang member fight feel memorable, but every single one plays out the exact same way. You find their base of operations, shoot through wave after wave of enemies, reach the gang member, and kill them like you would any other enemy. There isn't a feeling of intensity when storming an enemy base, and that's something the encounters sorely needed. The only thing that makes them stand out from one another is where they are located, and while some are memorable, like a quarry full of explosives or a huge tower you have to shoot your way through from the inside, most areas feel the exact same. Even the kingpins of each gang don't feel different from their underlings, they just have more cannon fodder than everyone else. For a game that is solely about finding these crime lords and taking them down, it's disappointing to see how similar each one is to each other. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
High: It's Satisfying As Hell
From beginning to end, there was one feeling that wouldn't go away as I played Crackdown, satisfaction. There is something so fun about jumping from roof top to roof top collecting orbs or shooting a rocket into a small group of bad guys. Even if the encounters themselves aren't super memorable, storming an enemies base and, sometimes literally, kicking the crap out of them is something that constantly brought a smile to me face. Plus, it's cool to see yourself actually weaken an organization one kill at a time, so you have a better chance of taking down their kingpin. Hell, just the animation for upgrading a skill is satisfying, as your character starts to glow and then erupts in power, actually sending nearby enemies flying. From traversal, to collecting, to blowing away hordes of enemies, this game get's it's hooks into you fast and doesn't let go until you've taken down them all.
Low: The Ending
Congratulations, you just spent many hours filling bad guys with lead and taking down criminal organization after criminal organization. What's your reward? An unnecessary twist that actually puts a whole damper on your adventure. See, the entire game you think you are apart of an organization of justice, wiping the grime of crime and tyranny away from a peaceful city. You find out at the end, though, that that isn't the case. The Agency itself funded and supported all the gangs you spent so much time taking down, all in some stupid attempt to show the people of Pacific City what true peace is like. It's a plot revelation that has no real impact on the game, and was probably implemented to give the player a "Ohhh man, I'M helping the bad guy" kind of jolt, but the whole twist sucks some fun away from the game. Now instead of having a satisfying feeling of seeing all the good you've done for the city, it's now tainted by the revelation that the place you work for started all the bloodshed from the very beginning. This is one of those few times where I would say removing a twist from a game would actually make it better.
There was a prevailing thought in my head the entire time I was playing Crackdown, "This is the best non-super hero, super hero game ever made." A week after beating it, I still agree with that thought. You constantly feel like an overpowered badass, storming facilities and taking down crime lords one at a time. Since the story is very light for a majority of the game, I constantly found myself making up my own stories and situations as I approached an upcoming battle, and that added another layer of fun to the game. Sure, it's not perfect. Driving feels pointless in the end, the boss encounters are underwhelming, and hell, the games idea of a difficulty curve is just adding in more generic enemies to shoot at you. Regardless, I had an absolute blast playing it, and really feel like it's an underappreciated gem on Xbox 360. If only they managed to get the sequel right *shutters*.