Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's a number 2 all right

My review of Crackdown 2 is up now at thephoenix.com.

I liked the first Crackdown even before it was cool, with the added cred of not having played it to get a Halo 3 beta code. Time has been kind to that game: in my mind, it's grown in stature to be one of the best of this generation. Three and a half years later, it's just about the only non-new game I still take for a ride once in awhile. I'm still hunting for that last freaking agility orb.

So obviously, as a raging fanboy, I'm a candidate to love the sequel. Or, wait, am I a candidate for being unnecessarily critical? I can't keep these things straight. I'm even sympathetic to Lewis Denby's thesis on sequel syndrome, that sequels definitionally cannot be as good as the original because they lack the element of surprise. (Even though his primary example of BioShock 2 is one of the worst he could have given. That game rocked.)

In every big way, Crackdown 2 is identical to the original. None of the major mechanics have been overhauled. And there is that twinge of familiarity, especially since the game takes place, once again, in Pacific City. Isn't it strange, though: when I play the original Crackdown, familiarity is exactly what I want. It was new once, and it isn't now, and that's what I still like about it. When I played Crackdown 2, I didn't exactly feel thrilled to be back, but neither was I disappointed.

There are lots of tweaks to the sequel though, nearly all for the worse. Contra Joystick Division, I didn't feel the game was too open; I felt hemmed in by the hands of the designers. I felt like they (or their surrogates, like the narrator) were constantly butting in. In the original game, if you couldn't reach an agility orb, you knew because it was too high to reach. In the sequel, you might see a message onscreen that you need to be at a higher agility level. Thanks for bursting my bubble.

At one point, I grabbed something called an "ultra assault rifle," and laid waste to an underground horde of mutants. Nice. Then I took it back to one of my tactical locations so that I could store it for later use. Sorry, some onscreen text informed me, you need to be at a higher firearms level before you can store this weapon.

WTF?

This I don't get at all. If I'm not powerful enough to use the weapon, find a good reason not to let me use it. Don't arbitrarily prevent me from saving it. What's the concern here? That I might become too powerful too early? Isn't that the point of the game? This stuff never happened in the first Crackdown.

5 comments:

Kirk Hamilton said...

You'd think that since the sequel is pretty much the same game as the original that it'd be tailor-made for me, the dude who didn't play the first game but always kinda wanted to.

I gave it a bit of a go-round earlier this week, and I ran out of patience pretty quickly. Something about the way that objectives blinked on the map coupled with the constantly jabbering narrator... it made me feel like I wasn't ever free to go off and explore.

And I've yet to play an open-world game like this with a building-climbing mechanic that worked (Assassin's Creed and Infamous were both imperfect, to be sure), but it's particularly bad in CD2. Infamous's magnetism was annoying, but CD2 has the opposite problem - like my guy is repelled by the walls he climbs. And it seems so inconsistent, like I can grab something once and then not grab it the second time. And often, I'll climb all the way up and then get stymied by the upper lip of the building and sent all the way back to the ground. Maddening.

There's something refreshing about the game's simplicity, though. It's so narratively barren that I can just pop in and out without having to remember what's going on. It almost feels like an XBLA game.

Mitch Krpata said...

There were quirks with the climbing in the original Crackdown, but it definitely worked better. Much harder to identify handholds this time around, and yes, you bounce off them all the time. It's ridiculous.

You may still want to try the original. It really reminded me in spirit of 8-bit run-and-gun games. So unpretentious and refreshing.

Kirk Hamilton said...

I just might do that. It's certainly cheap enough!

It's weird - the sequel feels like a game made by fans, what with all the achievement meta-humor and the ridiculous amount of orbs... so it's kinda surprising that they managed to blow what made the first game good.

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Jebus said...

I think the biggest problem with the climbing this time around is by ruining the city they broke a lot of the nice angles and handholds that Realtime Worlds obviously spent a lot of time thinking about. They also broke a lot of the roads, which makes driving a huge pain. I still love the game, and have played the crap out of it since it's release, but I only love it because it changed so little. I'd say pretty much every change was a small move in the wrong direction.

Though the Wingsuit is kinda fun once you figure it out. I'll give 'em props for that.

It's a shame. It could have been truly excellent.