Crackdown is an enjoyable sandbox game with many original features however it is also flawed. I feel as though it suffers from many of the same issues as APB (or more accurately, it is evident that many of APB’s issues were in Crackdown and RTW never learned).
So what do I dislike about it? Primarily there were a lot of annoyances and frustrations that led to my death in game as well as the tutorial / initial user experience, messaging and that bloody arsehole that keeps nagging me. I’ll delve into a little more detail…
So what was killing me and was is me or the game? Well for the first, the open world anarchy sandbox, poor camera behaviour in confined areas and a targetting system that preferred locking onto harmless targets rather than the guy right by shooting you. As for me or the game? Bit of both. I do tend to get frustrated if I feel as though a death wasn’t my fault, which leads to me being a bit edgy and lacking composure. Anyway. All too often you spawn into the game and get dragged into a gun fight. You may have a personal objective upon spawning such as a mission or collecting orbs but even without opening fire on anyone, you can find rockets & bullets flying at you constantly. As a result you have to fight your way to your mission, losing ammo reserves along the way. Then if you die, you respawn with someone waiting with a rocket. Much of this comes from the fact that enemies spot you too easily in Crackdown and will just engage you. Some times you are just minding your own business and a gang member some distance away will look to take you on and during missions the enemy just doesn’t let up trying to kill you whilst you are in cover. The latter may not seem annoying, but imagine winning the final boss mission because the enemy was trying to kill you with grenades and rockets despite being well hidden, taking themselves out. Yes. The final boss was killed by friendly fire whilst I recharged my health ahead of an assault on them.
The camera was pretty poor when dealing with collisions. Often when involved in combat within a confined space the camera would shift and you would no longer be able to see your character. At first I assumed it was into the player’s head, however now I’ve no idea where. Seemed to be infront of the player’s right shoulder, which makes no sense. All too often I’d be trying to shoot someone, not realising that I too close to a wall/prop (just like APB, the player is generally unable to stand by a low wall and fire over it) or a “freak” was killing me off camera with the player assuming they are being shot. Other issues were noticeable when trying to scale a building. I never found any way to zoom out so all too often I’d have to make a leap of faith, often suicidally.
The final gameplay annoyance that I’ll go into any detail on was the targeting system. As a PC gamer I dislike them in general but this was poor. About 70% of the time it was fairly decent for figuring you that your crosshairs are near an enemy and it would lock on. Maybe not the exact guy you wanted, but it was good enough. However the remaining 20% of the time it might lock onto something ridiculour. Dead enemies & civilian cars were deemed excellent targets, even if I could also have been aiming for that guy shooting at me. I often got myself in a world of trouble forn seeing a peacekeeper and gang member in close quarters, trying to quickly lock onto the gang member and take him out resulted in a dead peacekeeper and suddenly EVERYONE is shooting me. Also if you are roughly in the middle of aiming at a guy 10m away and 100m away, it should be apparent which is the intended target.
So i future, please give me a “safe period” before spawning, show the player character when in a confined space (I’d rather see myself and not be able to shoot than the enemy and not be able to shoot) amd use a priority system for selecting targets as no one in their right mind will choose to shoot a dead enemy with a live one firing rockets at you.
The tutorial is very poor. At no time was I informed of any of the controls and I learnt about things by witnessing the messages and the sound bites. Whilst some of the voice over instructions are handy, many are just all too vague. I’m often left frustrated, yelling at the screen “Yeah, but HOW?”. A key example of this is the game informs you that you can return vehicles (although why isn’t entirely clear as a bog standard LC car sucks ass) but the game provides no directions. The entrance isn’t even on the map! I figured it out but still, this isn’t sufficient. Of course you do have have videos to watch which show the player doing all kinds of cool stuff. The actual video footage is pretty good but again, it shows you what is possible without telling you how. I know that if I stopped the game and went off to check the controls I could figure most of this out, but surely when it tells me to jump is should tell me how! Would it have been that hard to include the button with text at the bottom of the screen?
Voice over: “Remember to press the Reload button”
Me: “and that button is what exactly?…”
It really does remind me of APB’s rubbish tutorial (which yes, I worked on but once most of it was built!). Everything is just hints as to what you can do and it is always very brief. The game takes no time or effort to really show me the basics of jumping about, how to engage in combat or what collecting all these vehicles is for. Actually I’ve still not sussed how to use my sniper rifle, but a video did show that I can zoom in… just didn’t show me how.
/rant about tutorials
Next up is player messaging. Generally it is okay but what REALLY annoys me is the huge music player messages I get when entering a vehicle. Not only do I not care but there are three messages, forming a queue for anything that is actually relevant to me. FOAD please. Finally we get to the voice over dude. I find it really frustrating when I am nagged in games and he tends to do it a lot. When running around trying to find a route to climb he’s there nagging about helping out the peacekeepers and when I’m desperately avoiding death, he is having a jolly good time telling me that my health is low. Sure, it is a warning system but how about something visual instead? After all in the heat of battle you aren’t going to listen to someone prattling on to you…
The plot was very weak with background provided on bosses when you found them. The videos were fairly interesting but after the first few videos, I tended to skip them. Having the mission appear when you located a boss was a nice feature to encourage exploration, however they way you found these locations was by finding an area with lots of enemies. This of course means you are mid combat when your focus is taken away. Sure, there was a warning that the intel would appear on screen but it wasn’t just about me losing control but I just don’t want the distraction if I’m in a big battle. As a result intel was ignored and I never fully appreciated what the game was trying to tell me. The same applies to bosses being defeated. Upon killing them you are told that the building has been taken over and is now under peacekeeper control but this is distinctly not true. I am still getting shot at and the game wants to witter on to me.
Crackdown does provide numerous minigames. Orb collecting is by far the most enjoyable, jumping around rooftops looking for both agility and hidden orbs. It provides an excellent means to explore the environment, however I found that especially on the later islands the chaos going on around you could interfere a little too much. The rooftop races are hit and miss. My main issue here is that a start point looks exactly like a checkpoint and during a checkpoint race, start points are still visible. This was often misleading when your path took you directly via a start point. Really start points should be disabled once you are already on a race.
There are vehicle races that are designed to increase your driving ability but ultimately, they are flawed. Naturally you want your Agency car as the ones off the street do rather suck, however in order to get there you have to drive through a city in chaos, often damaging your vehicle or stopping progress altogether. As such leaving them till later seems logical, but you need to complete them to get your skill levels up. This is rather minor, especially compared to the main issue. Skill levels are the main reason for completing these races. Killing civilians has a negative effect on your skill level. Races send you on a route that invariably leads to killing civilians, one even took me through an area SWARMING with pedestrians. See the issue? The gain of completing these is somewhat negated by the fact that many of the races have poorly thought out paths that have you ploughing through pedestrians and harming your score.
So do I hate Crackdown? Not at all. I enjoyed the game even if it does frustrate at times. The orbs collection is nice and fun side activity plus the core gameplay was enjoyable to play. Some of the missions were very exciting and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a few quid to spare and fancies a game for the weekend. The sloppy minigames, dodgy targeting & camera as well as the frustration of some spawn areas being right by enemies with heat seeking rocket launchers holds back what otherwise could have been a truely excellent title.