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On Crackdown

January 30, 2007 ・ Blog

Some games just creep on you. They might be labelled with a genre that you’re tired of, or generally disregard. They might be styled in a way that turns you off. They might seem hyped up too much, or sold on misleading premises.

For me, Crackdown was guilty of all of these. It’s a Grand Theft Auto-a-like free-roamin’, drivin’ and shootin’ sandbox, a genre that has barely been able to improve on GTA’s original template, despite its many faults and annoyances.

It’s set in a creaky future dystopian city, filled with stereotyped factions (colourful Latino hoods, sly corporation Chinese, thuggish industrialised Eastern Europeans) - just the sort of scenario I think games need to leave behind - and you play a buffed, brutal, militaristic meathead.

And, when it goes on sale, copies will be laced with a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style Golden Ticket to be able to partake in the Halo 3 multiplayer beta. If that doesn’t sound like a desperate attempt to inflate sales, I don’t know what does.

So when the demo came out on Xbox Live, I couldn’t help but download it to confirm I was right. Naturally, I wasn’t, because Crackdown is wonderful.

One of GTA’s irritations is how miserably slow and awkward it is to wander around its cities on foot. Crackdown, which was created by GTA co-designer David Jones’ studio Realtime Worlds, transforms that experience by putting you into the shoes of a massively augmented superhero, who is able, once powered up, to do things like leaping up and over entire buildings.

If GTA is, like the cities it satirises, built around the cars you spend most of your time driving, Crackdown is built around the joy of unfettered bodily movement, up, down and through its concrete geometries. It’s an amphetamine-crazed amplification of the principles of buildering and parkour, and it features on-foot races across its rooftops and over its boulevards to prove it.

Crackdown also features a cooperative multiplayer mode that allows you to barrel around the city with a friend, picking them up in the car they’re driving and throwing them into a river, and fearlessly racing around its characterless (at least in comparison to GTA’s Los Santos, Liberty City and Vice City) urban playground.

In short, Crackdown is pure exuberant fun, a pure take on the promise of videogames to transport you to a body with powers that far surpass reality, and a place that allows you to wield them in any way you see fit. And that’s just the demo. Full game available on February 23.