Jeremy Parish has written the definitive take on Crackdown, which he calls his favorite game of 2007. I agree with every word. Many games were "better" than Crackdown last year, from an empirical perspective. There were games with more satisfying and thoughtful narratives, prettier graphics, and what Erik Wolpaw referred to as "dicey underwater moral choices." But there was no game that was nearly as much fun from start to finish.
People often say that they play games for fun, which is not a position I wholly agree with. Yes, fun is a component of games, but the kinds of games I usually like aren't "fun" in the traditional sense. They're often grueling, depressing, and, ideally, thoughtful. BioShock was a great game, the best of 2007, but making those dicey underwater moral choices wasn't exactly what I'd call a good time. Fulfilling, yes. But it didn't make me giddy. It left me drained some of the time, awed at others, and when it was all over I felt more a sense of relief than elation.
Crackdown, though? Completely naughty, illicit, guilty-pleasure fun. There's a troubling, not terribly buried subtext to the game that takes the shine off if you look at it too closely, and if the gameplay weren't as exciting and addictive as it is, I wouldn't be so apt to let it off the hook. But the game is loud and dumb, and so reckless in its pursuit of open-world mayhem that it's hard not to be won over simply by its energy. Parish says the musical equivalent of Crackdown is Journey; I'd suggest Andrew W.K.
It's worth remembering that this game was a fairly low-profile winter release, marketed not for its gameplay but for the included invitation to the Halo 3 multiplayer beta test. Lots of people made the joke that Microsoft was selling the beta invite, with Crackdown as the freebie. I've never been happier to be wrong about something. Almost a year later, this game has stuck with me. That's a rare feat.
Oh yeah, it's less than $30 at Amazonnow, too.