X10: Crackdown 2 Hands Off Preview - Now With Added Mayhem... and Wings
Written Saturday, February 20, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
“It’s blow shit up, that’s what Crackdown’s about,” mused Crackdown 2’s Producer, James Cope, with a somewhat sadistic grin on his face. The funny thing is, you couldn’t help but grin back as Ruffian Games showed off their latest build of their upcoming sandbox title at this year’s X10. The sequel to the sleeper hit of 2007 was stomping onto consoles sometime in 2010, and this time, Ruffian have a solid foundation to build on and they’re going full steam ahead.
Throughout the short 20 minute hands off presentation, Ruffian were keen to push a few of their main features of Crackdown 2; namely the primary objective of the game, the new enemies, the new features and of course, orbs and co-op.
Crackdown 2 takes place in a familiar Pacific City – think Saints Row 2’s “reimagining” of Stillwater, something I still believe is a cheap recycling of assets. It does have a somewhat darker, dingier look though. In a scan of the local area, Cope points out the new skyscrapers in Unity Heights, a decimated Wang’s Tower, plenty of turreted weapons and new purpose built supply points – that can store weapons, refresh ammo and spawn vehicles now. The city though, thanks to an outbreak that we helped fuel in Crackdown 1, is overtaken by what Ruffian like to call, the “freaks” – think mutated beast, zombie hybrids. And it is these freaks that have cast a much darker overtone over Pacific City. The city is a dilapidated and dank cess pit that’s seen better days. That’s where you come in.
The Agency, after a rough few years, have been assigned the task of something Ruffian are calling, Project Sunburst, which is basically the assembly of this giant energy network in order to create an energy bomb that will put an end to the freak’s reign of terror. “You can assemble that network in any order,” added Cope, saying you can expect the same “open ended Crackdown experience” in the sequel. Variety, which was one of the original’s fundamental flaws, has also been tackled. Cope continued, “Absorption units are the things you’re collecting and organising; some of those are like heavily defended, some of them are blocked, you know, it’s about capture/defend, so it gives more variety than just killing bosses over and over again... It’s a much more central focus to the game.”
Don’t think assembling this energy network it going to be easy though, as you’ll have to also contend with a local terrorist group, the Cell, who are hell-bent on stopping the creation of this weapon. “Day and night is really important in Crackdown 2,” stated Cope, “at night the freaks come out; in the daytime the Cell kind of dominate the areas,” so when the sun sets and the environment is under the mask of night, the freaks come out to play.
“Like Crackdown, it’s about penetrating an area of the environment, destroying the enemy and reclaiming it in the name of the Agency,” said Cope as his Ruffian colleague secured a tactical location from Cell dominance in the very first mission. “Crackdown was a very stylistic game,” he continued, “it was very vibrant... In Crackdown 2 we wanted to keep that vibrancy and really go to town on the fidelity... We wanted to have nice lovely sunsets, great contrasting colours; dark and light play a key role.” Whilst Cope is giving this spiel about the game’s new focus on fidelity, the sun sets on Pacific City’s bay in a little awe-inspiring moment as the first mission comes to a close.
As Ruffian takes the action downtown to show a night time sequence, as the camera pans in, the streets are lined with freaks and the Cell in what can only be described as a mini battle of sorts. What looked like hundreds of freaks ran ragged on the streets in the Unity Heights area – incidentally where the outbreak began – whilst a heavily outnumbered Cell group used all the fire power at their disposal to hold their own. This escalating conflict and battle for territory is something that you’re going to see a lot of in the final version. While stepping in to dish out your own brand of Agency justice will have no direct impact on the story progression itself, there is hours of fun here alone just using the tools at your disposal to cause oodles of wanton destruction.
So what else can we expect to see new in Crackdown 2? Well of course helicopters are always going to be popular, especially considering that they can hold up to a crew of 4 as well, so they’re perfect for planning an assault... or just group sky-diving. Then there is now the ability to glide, like a flying squirrel if you must. “There is a skill to it” commented Cope, “you have to be able to use the momentum, use the lift... It is gliding, not flying. It’s a real sense of super hero action.” Throw in a handful of new weapons, like the UV Shotgun, that is like a powerful pulse rifle that ripples through the air throwing everything out of its path on the way, and Crackdown 2 is giving you more toys for the wide-open, co-op enabled playground.
It wouldn’t be a Crackdown preview if I didn’t spend a minute to talk about orbs – yes, those equally loved and hated humming spheres of joy. They’ll make a return in Crackdown 2 and they’ll be bigger than ever. In our hands off preview we did notice that there will be indeed another 500 agility orbs to collect, but possibly more interestingly, Cope talked about these new “renegade” orbs. Orbs that will actually run away from you as you try to collect them; an idea that actually pleases the orb hunter in me and is a novel Crackdown-esque approach. Cope likened them to the Golden Snitch from Harry Potter, but being a staunch opposer of all things Potter, I had no idea what he was talking about. Just expect them to be “angrier looking” than the other orbs.
Obviously co-op is a huge part of the Crackdown franchise and with its “completely open” environments and a totally “seamless experience,” it’s plain to see how much importance Ruffian are placing on this element. What’s the best way to show off the co-op? By taking to a helicopter and climbing to a ridiculous altitude and then sky-diving down together; taking advantage of the glide and the dive mechanic on the way down. Super stuff!
Admittedly, I was a huge fan of the original Crackdown and if it wasn’t for the mission structure and general repetitive nature of the title, it would rank as one of my favourite games of this generation. It was fun, had co-op and was all-out mayhem. Whilst we didn’t really see much of the new mission structure in action, hearing about it means we’re hopeful that Crackdown 2 is doing what every great sequel has done recently – I’m talking about Mass Effect 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2 especially – and that’s take some interesting ideas, scrub out the things that didn’t work and mould them into a much more user friendly package. Ruffian sound like they’re on the right path and Microsoft must be rubbing their hands together.
Crackdown 2 is scheduled for a 2010 release. No specific quarter has yet to be named.