David Jones, he's the GTA creator you know.
From the moment I heard that Grand Theft Auto creator David Jones would be the brains behind the free-form urban action game, Crackdown, it was safe to be excited about the prospect of a video game world that would apparently offer the first “truly 3-dimensional persistent playground”. My main concern was how closely it would mirror the Grand Theft Auto series and whether it would essentially be a clone of GTA with a new skin. But, the truth of the matter is that, despite there being a number of similarities to the series, Crackdown offers a unique style of presentation and throws plenty of new ideas that I’ve never before encountered in a free-roaming video game.
As a futuristic law enforcer, with an arsenal of special abilities under your belt, Crackdown’s sandbox-style gameplay allows you to explore every inch of the neighbourhood, ultimately with the aim of searching for and destroying the violent gang leaders who have taken hold of the city. From scaling buildings in the search for agility orbs to commandeering a vehicle and taking it for a spin around the island, the Pacific city is yours to explore at leisure. Despite the huge world, the missions in Crackdown can be completed in around 12 hours, but there is far more entertainment to be had through causing as much mayhem as you can muster in as many entertaining ways as possible and levelling up special abilitie s in order to unlock more powerful weapons and skills.
The influence of Jones’ work on GTA is clear to see from the moment you step out onto the busy streets of Pacific City. The stylized city environment is similar in design and look to the GTA series, but the cel-shaded graphics of the characters and vehicles create an impressive visual contrast to the backdrop. Real Time Worlds has saved some of the raw power of the Xbox 360 by creating these cel-shaded animations and in return we are treated to some great gameplay physics (shoot a tyre on a vehicle and watch it swerve and skid across the street), visually impressive and fast paced shoot-outs and a city that is packed to the rafters with pedestrians, gangs and cars. The result on the saving is a bustling city and a game that has consistently smooth frame rates, no matter how frantic the action gets.
Aside from the visual style in the game, Crackdown’s strength lies in the mayhem you can cause as you run around the streets of the city. The storyline is fairly ‘old hat’ and the ‘find the baddies and kill them’ missions make up most of the campaign mode, but I’ve spent far more time away from the main objectives exploring the huge city in search of street races, agility races and hidden orbs. Crackdown’s main draw is the freedom to experiment, letting your imagination run wild and discovering just how much you can push the boundaries within the game.