You know the feeling, we all get it. You've had a particularly stressful day at work, your head is absolutely pounding, your feet are aching and all you want to do is tune in, turn on and drop out. So you order a takeaway crack open the first beer of the night and flop down in your favourite chair. But as a dedicated gamer how do you amuse yourself when in this vegatative state of mind, something mentally taxing is clearly out of the question and and anything that involves hair trigger reflexes and uber competitiveness is only gonna add to that headache of yours. So what's the solution? Ideally you want a game that's easily accessible and low on complexity whilst still retaining a modicum of fun and addictive gameplay. Well the solution is here ladies and gentlemen and it goes by the name of Crackdown 2.
Ruffiansp to one of the surprise hits of the first wave of 360 games begins with the most perfunctory of tutorials before you're plunged straight into the sprawling metropolis that is Pacific City. Your mission there is almost secondary as the plotline in Crackdown 2 is shallow to say the least, as a member of the Agency you're tasked with stopping the dual threats of The Cell and the Freaks. The Cell are a rebel group of civilians who's main purpose in life seems to be making your life as difficult as possible at every available opportunity, the Freaks on the other hand seem to have an aversion to sunlight and a blatant disregard for their curfew as they only come out after midnight and generally make a nuisance of themselves by roaming the streets and wailing incoherently at anyone stupid enough to make nice with them. The main thrust of the plot is to get the Agency generators, which power Project Suburst, back online. Project Sunburst is a huge solar powered bomb which the Agency have concocted in an attempt to elimate the Freaks who while away their days in their underground lairs completely oblivious to the heinous fate which awaits them. Unfortunately these generators are defended by members of The Cell and before getting them back online you must eliminate these most stubborn of foes, for each three generators that you revive there is an underground beacon which must also be reactivated and doing this involves holding off an ever increasing volume of Freaks as the beacon fully charges before detonating and destroying everything in its path, yourself excluded obviously. Aside from the increasingly annoying Agent guardian who insists on commentating on your every move,and the occasional audio log which fills in parts of the ten years between this title and it's predecessor,there is little involvement in what you're doing and like I said previously the plot is in many ways secondary when it comes to Crackdown 2.
Once you have landed in Pacific City you are free to do as you wish and in much the manner of a child let loose in Disneyland the results are predictably chaotic. There's no such thing as gradually allowing the player to familiarise themelves with their environment as from the off you are bombarded by all in sundry and find yourself running for cover just to catch your breath. But catching your breath is,I'm afraid,not really an option as the pace of the game is unrelenting and after a while you get used to being in a state of perpetual motion. Whether it be malicious Cell members unnecessarily making your day a misery,or ambling Freaks throwing haymakers at you,there's never even a momentary respite and for those with borderline attention deficit disorder this will make for the gaming experience which you've always dreamed of. Aside from getting the aformentioned Agency generators back online there is a variety of other tasks and travails for you to get your teeth into, both The Cell and the Freaks have strongholds dotted around the city and if you so wish you can make it your business to reclaim these strongholds by calling in an aerial assault and holding off the irked incumbents whilst you wait for support. These missions are rather basic and seeing as they have no real effect on the outcome of the main storyline it's entirely optional as to whether you pursue them. There is also races of either the four wheeled or the two footed type available which can be entered by simply waiting at the start line and going on the b of the bang.
Of course one of the main selling points of the Crackdown series is that the character you control is no ordinary man, in a world where carnage is king it would be grossly unfair to go in outgunned as well as being outnumbered so thankfully you have a few extra abilities to help you on your way. In the beginning, as with most things in life, you are in essence a puny weakling and you can expect to have the bitter taste of defeat in your mouth quite often during the earlier stage of your time in Pacific City. But,as I'm sure most of you are aware, your time as the schoolyard victim doesn't last all that long due to the fact that during each and every second of your existence your Agent is gradually becoming more powerful and proficient in each of the key elements needed to survive in Crackdown 2, these being Agility, Driving, Firearms, Strength and Explosives. You can level up these abilites either by engaging in the relevant activities or by the collecting the many, many, many, many orbs dotted around the city. There is so many orbs and collectibles of all shapes and sizes that it will mean that only the most die hard of gamers will manage to accrue them all, new to Crackdown 2 are the Renegade Orbs which, like true renegades, will attempt to escape your clutches at every opportunity and need to be chased down whether by foot or in a vehicle. As you progress through the game you also unlock more vehicles and weaponry allowing you to create more and more elaborate scenes of mayhem and destruction if you so wish. In a funny way Ruffian have created a game where at first sight it seems like the world is your oyster and you can as you wish,when in reality the true depths and excellence of Pacific City can only be fully experienced with an Agent who has served his time and is ready to hand out some serious payback.
A big factor in any modern day game is it's online play and in particular the co-op modes available to players, co-op is becoming more and more important when deciding what games to purchase and Ruffian have come up trumps with Crackdown 2. Four player co-op mode allows you to play through the campaign mode as normal although only the host player will see his mission progress, but the inclusion of Online Orbs means that there's still motivation to play cooperatively even if you're not furthering your own cause.
This titlethout it's flaws and one issue that began to grate on an all too regular basis was the difficulty in negotiating your way through some of the enviroments late at night, when basked in the midday sun Pacific City is a joy to behold but once the stars come out it becomes a place full of mysterious stubborn walls and confusing layouts, this can also be said of the Freaks lairs and woe betide anyone who falls to the bottom of one of these lairs as getting back to the top requires the patience and navigating skills of General Patton! The repetitive nature of the missions is something which can't go unmentioned also and you can't help thinking that with a bit more creativity and thought the world which Ruffian have created could have been utitilised to much greater effect.
Crackdown 2 is one of those games that it's impossible to dislike but at the same one you could never truly love with all your heart, a bit like the ever willing girl down at your local it's a lot of fun to be with but once you're away from it it rarely occupies your mind. There's an inordinate amount of enjoyment to be had in just visiting Pacific City and I lost count of the amount of occasions whereby I sat down 'just for a half an hour' and found myself still there two hours later having totally deviated from, and nigh on completely forgotten about, my original intentions. But as I progressed through the game I found myself becoming less and less interested in what was unfolding before and I fear that the absence of any real storyline and character development may make this a soulless experience for some, like someone once said 'it's not what's happening that's important but who it's happening to'. It's one real saving grace is the cooperative mode and that alone makes this a title worth purchasing if you can convince three friends to do the same, the level of pure unadulterated fun to be had in co-op is such that I can virtually every sandbox game including it in future releases for fear of being shunned by gamers eager to tear things up with their mates. I think many of us are going to be left feeling slightly disappointed by Crackdown 2 as, for a sequel, it hasn't really pushed the boat out that far and seems to be a risk free venture, but thoughts of that nature were the last thing on my mind as I unashamedly rampaged from one end of Pacific City to the other all the while cackling like a manical loon. The perfect way to forget about the misery of your 9 to 5 I'm sure you'd all agree. 7/10