Crackdown creates an exciting open world and gives you a lot of cool abilities, but there isn't enough main-game content to truly take advantage of these elements.
Many open-world games offer side missions, and Crackdown is no exception. There are two types of checkpoint races to get into. The standard auto race has you driving cars and passing through gates as you attempt to finish under a certain time. When you finish successfully, you'll earn some driving skill points. Rooftop races are the same, only on foot, and require some acrobatic jumping abilities to pull off. Winning here gets you some agility points. There isn't a ton of either type of race, and they aren't really that much fun, so they don't add a whole lot to the world.
You never really get the feeling that this is a living, breathing city with lots going on. Instead, you feel like the civilians are in your way. Also, your fellow police are ineffective at stopping gang members, and the gang members themselves usually aren't bright enough to take you out, either. Even if you do die, which usually happens because of a lone enemy armed with a rocket launcher or you venturing too close to some exploding barrels while being fired upon, there really isn't any serious consequence. When you respawn, you'll be able to choose from any weapons you've unlocked, and you'll experience some extremely minor setbacks in your skill progression.
Crackdown looks great, though it has a few low points here and there. The city is large and detailed, with many of the buildings having proper names and designs to them. While you'll spend most of your time outside, the indoor areas are also rendered well, and the whole world is streamed in seamlessly, with no pauses for loading unless you die or move to another part of the city. The game's characters and objects have a dark, black line around them, which makes you think of cel-shading, but the characters are textured, giving it a more sophisticated look, rather than the cartoon-like style that cel-shading alone tends to evoke. And the draw distance is impressive. You can climb up to some awfully high buildings in this game, and you'll be able to see most of the city when you do so. The game's frame rate can get low in a couple of spots, but these moments seem to be somewhat rare.
The sound is fairly standard, with all of the explosions and gunfire and such that you'd expect from the typical action game. There's an announcer that gives you tutorial-like advice as you play, and he'll occasionally belt out a line or two when you do something wild. But he never stops talking. You'll get the same not-so-helpful piece of advice the 100th time you play as you did on your first time. And he's often wrong about certain things, like when he starts talking about how you're seeing the best view of the city while you're indoors. He starts out as a nice idea but becomes annoying very quickly. The music only plays when you're in a vehicle, which probably won't be very often, but that's fine, because the music isn't anything too special and the game is sure to pop up a big, gaudy display with the album name, artist, track, and publishing info every time you get into a car. That lame pop-up can't be disabled, even if you turn the music all the way down.
The way Crackdown is designed means that everything comes back to the open-ended nature of its gameplay. If you want to blaze through all the bosses in a hurry, it won't take you more than 8 to 10 hours on the default difficulty--much less if you spend some time early on working on your key skills and manage to find a homing rocket launcher. But just screwing around, blowing up cars for no good reason or kicking people that get in your way, makes for an interesting pastime. The achievements are also nicely thought out and give you some extra things to do. Aside from the requisite collect-everything and beat-everything points, there are also plenty of inventive goals, like blasting a car into the air with explosives and keeping it juggled in the sky for several seconds or climbing to the top of the agency tower and then jumping down into a small pool of water below.
Crackdown feels unfinished. It feels like the developers sat down and crafted a wonderful-looking city and carefully considered how the gameplay and abilities should work, and then they didn't have enough time to plug in enough activities to take advantage of it all. While you'll certainly have a lot of fun playing Crackdown, it's hard not to get the distinct feeling that it was on the cusp of being so much more.
- Downloadable Game