Crackdown might not be a game that some consider to be “retro”, and that’s something I can understand. However, here on Gaming Respawn, we’ve always gone off the rule that once a game is more than ten years old, then it qualifies for Retro consideration, and with the first Crackdown game coming out way back in 2007, it would certainly qualify under that criteria. I’m sure there are those reading this who might even think of Crackdown as a game that reminds them of their childhood, which is somewhat terrifying for me seeing as I was already at university by the time I first played it.
Crackdown does represent an important milestone for me personally though as it, along with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, was one of the first times that I’d ever really forayed into online play. Indeed, the most fun I had with Crackdown was playing it online in co-op mode, and getting the chance to play it more regularly played a big contributing role in us updating to wireless internet for the first time as it meant I wouldn’t have to unplug the modem to go online with the game.
I traded in my copy of the game many years back, however, possibly in order to get money off another release, but it returned to my consciousness within the past year or so when I heard that the third game in the series was due to be released for the Xbox One. Sadly, Crackdown 3 would fail to tickle the gaming public’s fancy as it slumped to a mere 60 score on Metacritc (along with an even worse 4.1 user score), but hearing about the game getting a third episode moved me to give the original one another look.
Thankfully, I was able to pick the game up for a mere £1.50 from CeX, so it was hardly hurting the bank to journey back. Thanks to the Xbox One’s selective backwards compatibility, you can actually play Crackdown on that system as well, but I went over to the PS4 for my eighth gen gaming needs, so I played it on my old 360. It’s good that it’s still quite easy to play this game though, especially as I believe it was the most highly rated of the three Crackdown releases.
Set in the dystopian fictional metropolis of Pacific City, the plot of Crackdown sees you playing as a scientifically altered super cop brought in by the mysterious “Agency” to help the embattled “Peacekeepers” fend off a citywide crime wave. Your character has no real backstory or character development but is essentially just an interchangeable grunt that can be regenerated upon death and respawned at the nearest Agency stronghold. Simply known as “Agent”, your job sees you journeying between all three islands of Pacific City, cleansing each one of crime by taking on the resident gangs that control them.
The three gangs you have to take out are the Central American-themed “Los Muertos”, the Eastern European “Volk” and the East Asian-inspired Shai-Gen Corporation. Each group (all absolutely dripping with tasteless stereotypical attire and gear) has its own hierarchy, with smaller leaders all answering to the main kingpin. Whilst all the lieutenants to the kingpin are alive and active, it will be incredibly difficult to take the big cheese down.
As a result of this, you are encouraged to work your way through the gang pyramid, taking down each of the support members so that you’ll be able to get a better chance at terminating the leader and bringing their gang under control of the Peacekeepers. Normally before tackling the hideout of a gang member, you’ll get a report telling you the probability of success, which is a good way to weigh up whether you’re ready for it or not.
As well as defeating the support members of each gang to give you a better shot at finishing their boss, you can also upgrade your character by collecting orbs hidden around Pacific City and competing in races. Completing a roof race will increase your Agent’s agility, making it possible for you to leap high into the air and make some frankly ridiculous jumps, whereas completing street races in a car will raise your driving stats. Be careful in the latter though as mowing down pedestrians will cause your stats to lower (you are supposed to be a member of law enforcement at the end of the day, so running over civilians will be a tad frowned upon).
You can also improve some of your stats through combat, such as punching gang members to death to improve your strength rating and shooting them to improve your gunplay abilities. Improving your strength not only means your punches and kicks will carry more weight, but it will also give you the ability to lift cars high above your head like Superman so that you can fling them at those who get in your way. As gang activity tends to be pretty high in parts of the City where you haven’t properly started clearing out the lieutenants yet, the overwhelmed Peacekeepers could often require some help now and then, which will give you a chance to grind away and make your Agent stronger.
And you will need to grind as well, especially as even the henchmen in some of the gangs are mercilessly tough to take down sometimes, and that’s before you get to taking down their bosses. Completing the races and collecting the orbs isn’t an optional thing to do for fun, you really will need to do it in order to have any chance of success as the game progresses, especially as there isn’t any kind of cover mechanic found in the likes of GTA IV, which came out roughly a year after Crackdown hit the shelves.
Bringing another player in to help you in multiplayer co-op play will make things a bit easier, and it’s generally the best way to play the game, in my honest opinion. It was certainly the aspect of the game I enjoyed the most way back in 2007. Having someone to lend a hand makes the task of taking down the gangs somewhat less daunting, and it’s also a good way to have fun in the game world itself.
Graphically, the game looks decent for an early seventh gen release, and the soundtrack is pretty great as well, with good music to listen to on the car radios and a really great tune that plays in the menu screen. There’s also some good voice acting from Michael McConnohie, as he plays the role of your contact at the Agency who keeps you abreast of developments and will also chastise you if you start acting outside of the law.
Crackdown is by no means a perfect game, but it’s playable and well worth the mere pittance you’d have to pay in order to play it these days. Sadly, the series didn’t seem to kick on and fulfill the potential that was shown in this first release, which is a real shame as the first Crackdown feels like it could have had some really great sequels if the gameplay had been refined and the story had evolved. As it is, Crackdown is probably the peak of the series, but it’s good, affordable fun these days and an interesting look at the early stages of the seventh gen.