The original Crackdown was probably one of 2007′s biggest gaming surprises. Not just ‘the free game included with the Halo 3 beta’, Crackdown was the kind of game that reminded you, if you had ever forgotten, just how goddamn fun videogames could be. Crackdown is something of a cult classic on Xbox 360 and as such, messing with the formula of collecting orbs, jumping off rooftops, and levelling up your Agent for its sequel would have be a huge mistake. Developer Ruffian Games have walked a fine tightrope between innovation and familiarity with Crackdown 2, ultimately deciding to concentrate on the latter. If it aint broke don’t fix it. Crackdown 2 isn’t the most innovative or pioneering game you’ll play this year but in retaining the original Crackdown’s core gameplay values, it’s certainly one of the funniest experiences on any console in 2010.

It’s been ten years since Agents we’re last called in to rid Pacific City’s streets of its serious gang problems. Crackdown 2 reintroduces us to a Pacific City at the mercy of mutated zombie type freaks and bloodied by gratuitous vigilante violence from splinter group ‘The Cell’. There’s an antagonistic three way struggle going on here, it’s the Agency against the mutants against the Cell. The story is a little thin on the ground and much like the first game, Crackdown 2 and whatever story it does have and how it’s told isn’t the priority. Crackdown 2 is all about the gameplay. Although the impetus is on curbing the threat posed by The Cell and eliminating the mutants by exploding bombs in the city’s sewers and tunnels, how you do it is much more fun than why you do it.

If you’ve played the first Crackdown then you know exactly what to expect from the outset. It’s essentially a third person shooter in an open world environment. Pacific City remains intact from the first game. The Cell come out during the day and the freaks are the issue at night. Depending on how quickly you want to finish the single player campaign, you can exploit this. Cell hotspots are easier to approach during day. Tackling mutant hubs for the main project sunburst missions is much easy at night, given that this is when the freaks take their chance to roam the streets. The single player campaign is somewhat superficial. Missions are repetitive, with little or no variation and you will find yourself running around Pacific city for 12 odd hours performing the same tasks over and over again at tedium. It’s all about restarting generators and defending sunburst bombs underground until they explode basically. The single player experience really suffers as a result and Crackdown 2 is certainly not a game you want to be playing on your own for too long. Visually the game doesn’t exactly redefine anything, but it’s very sharp and nicely presented with rich colours and some nice character models.

What it does do well is collecting orbs and levelling up. There is a genuine sense of achievement and progression. The more orbs you find, the more your Agent will be able to do. Orbs are your best friend and are carelessly scattered around the city. Finding them is as much fun as the skills and ability’s they induce. The more orbs you accumulate, the higher you’ll jump, the faster you’ll run, the stronger your agent will become. You can level up your agility, firearms, strength, explosives and driving. Levelling up happens quickly but the real fun comes when you hit Level 5. There’s a real incentive to spend the rest of your life finding each and every orb on the map including the new renegade orbs that roam about of their own free will and can be tough to snag.

Negotiating you surroundings is simple. You can jump into cars and helicopters but most of your time you will stay on foot, scaling buildings, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and gliding your way to new heights and new areas of the city. Getting around can be quite painful sometimes though. It’s not as smooth or as uninhibited as it is in Infamous for example and can be extremely frustrating. Combat is as you we’re from Crackdown 1 and Ruffian has struck an excellent balance between actually getting round and actually engaging your enemy. They are some pretty cool weapons to get your hands on and taking out an underground cavern of mutants with UV shotguns is indulgently entertaining. There’s a lock on system included that is actually useless when fighting large hordes of enemy. Instead of locking on to the nearest enemy, you’ll find it locking on to a random explosive canister or barrel at the back of the room or other end of the road, leaving yourself open to attack and not really fulfilling the purpose it’s intended for. All guns a blazing is probably your best bet. Sure, you’ll exhaust your ammo quicker, but you’ll probably get the job done quicker too. Leave the lock on for distant foes. There’s also close quarters combat at your disposal, providing a swift and definite killing technique.

Where Crackdown 2 really comes into its own is in its co-operative multiplayer options. Crackdown 2 allows for 4 player co-op and it is by far and away the best way to play the campaign. Heading into mutant lairs and intense cell hotspots just makes so much more sense with other players over Live. It adds another level to the gameplay and goes some way to redeeming the little niggles and annoying aspect of the game’s single player experience. The game comes into its own over Live. The city has no limitations when you’re tackling the skyline with friends. If you have a supped up agent then you literally have the potential to create some truly memorable online experiences. There’s also a bunch of competitive multiplayer modes like team deathmatch and rocket tag. Playing with others also allows you to collect unique live only orbs that again provide a wealth of additional benefits. If you played the original Crackdown you’ll know just how creative, chaotic and sheer hilarious Crackdown’s multiplayer experience is. Crackdown 2 beefs up the multiplayer but retains everything that made the first game’s multiplayer just so brilliant to begin with.

If you’ve never played the original Crackdown, then Crackdown 2 is definitely worth a look. If on the other hand you’re a Crackdown veteran, you may well feel somewhat underwhelmed by Ruffian’s efforts, particular when it comes the game’s superficial single player experience. It’s by no means a bad game and its multiplayer merits should be enough to hook you. It’s just such a shame that it doesn’t really offer anything that the original Crackdown hadn’t already given us three years ago.

TGL Score 7/10

Format:  Xbox 360

Release Date: July 9th

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Developer: Ruffian Games