When the third installment in the Crackdown series was announced at E3 a number of years ago I was a little bit hesitant. I had fond memories of the first game, but I never played the second game because the critical reception was mired with negativity. Which fate would befall the third entry? As an additional worry, the Crackdown series has had a different developer for each of the games. But as I thought more about the first game in the series I remembered how much fun the game was and how much time I spent playing it. If you know me well, you know that I don’t typically enjoy most open world games. I like a more precise experience that is designed with the gameplay first and foremost. I would rather game designers focus on providing a specific (and great) experience for the player rather than just provide them a big world with lots of things to do. This is why I own two copies of Grand Theft Auto V, but I have literally played less than an hour of the game.
But Crackdown was different. I do not remember the world being expansive or particularly interesting. In fact there wasn’t even that much to do outside of the main story content. The world was a big city that tasked you with taking down all of the crime bosses. In order to take on each zone’s crime boss the player had to first defeat all of the underlings in an area. Each one posed a different challenge and increased in difficulty as you got closer to the top. Once you defeated all of the bosses, the city was free and that was the game. There were no bowling alleys or strip clubs to visit, this was a straightforward mission oriented game.
The best feature of Crackdown were the ability orbs that were scattered around the city. As you performed specific abilities, like driving, shooting, and jumping you would level up. Shooting and driving were easy because you did them so often over the course of the game. But jumping had specific orbs that were scattered on rooftops and other difficult to reach places. As you collected the agility orbs your jump height would increase and as a player you would feel the in game character grow stronger and stronger. Eventually you could leap over the tallest building with ease and smash into the ground on top of your enemies.
I believe that Crackdown was built with great gameplay mechanics in mind. The designers made driving, shooting, and even jumping fun. So that I looked forward to turning the game on because it was fun to play. Too often with gaming I feel obligated to complete a game in order to find out how the story ends, not because I look forward to actually playing the game.
Crackdown was initially included as a demo with every purchase of Halo 3. So effectively everyone who played on an Xbox 360 had a copy of the demo. The demo sold me on the game. I was never a Grand Theft Auto or open world explorer, but I wanted to cause mayhem in Crackdown. The achievements encouraged a lot of fun behaviors. They included things like climbing to the highest point in the map, rolling a large statue down a freeway, and skeet shooting enemies from a ledge. Just fun things that you could do outside of the game’s story. The achievements acted like side quests in the game. Nothing except the achievements told you to do these actions, but getting the achievements were so much fun – it was my first true taste of achievement hunting. Something that too few games adopt these days.
I remember one specific night playing Crackdown with a friend and drinking energy drinks. We weren’t doing the story or missions, we were just roaming around the world running over civilians and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. My heart was beating outside my chest because of all the caffeine and laughter. Crackdown created the world and we were just playing in it. The first Saints Row offered a similar sandbox, but the gameplay was not as well fine tuned in that game for it to be included on this list. I really hope that Crackdown 3 hits the mark.
Tomorrow we continue our journey with the story driven game with unlimited ammo, Mass Effect.
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks