Microsoft’s Crackdown Smackdown

May 10, 2007

As if Crackdown, the game everyone expected to hate, wasn’t already a bundle of fun, the Xbox Live team just announced that in addition to the Halo 3 beta finally opening up next week, Crackdown is finally going to get its mysterious update with the additional achievements worth an overall 100 gamerpoints.

Of course, that’s what everyone thought. It turns out that Microsoft Game Studios, Real Time Worlds, and the Xbox Live team were hard at work at a truly massive overhaul that exists on three separate but intermingling levels: there’s the required update, the free downloadable content pack, and the additional “premium” downloadable content available for 800 marketplace points. Each of these three things promise to deliver a lot of very fun and interesting changes to the game in different, interweaving ways.

While you can find the entire list of updates at Major Nelson’s weblog, here’s a quick rundown. The required update will allow players to finally reset all the gangs, allowing players to replay the game from scratch, though it is unclear if you can choose to abandon your acquired skills or not. This was the most annoying aspect of the original game: once you beat a boss, that boss was gone from your main campaign, and you could only face him again in Time Trial mode. Additionally, orbs have a greater “sound” radius after you’ve collected a certain percentage of each type, making it much easier to grab those last few as you scour the city. Targeting is getting a “priority” update, meaning your player will target live enemies over corpses and the like. There are many more features as well, such as a new ground slam attack, various camera and visibility enhancements, some better driving physics and PvP targeting, and so on. And that’s just the patch.

The free downloadable content pack has less added features, but comparable impact to the overall game. For one, there is a new “keys to the city” mode, which is the one thing in this update that I find most intriguing. Microsoft lists this as the “ultimate cheat mode” but it really seems to be more of a massive debug mode. You can spawn a ramp truck or an agency vehicle anywhere, set character skills to anything desired, or activate the accelerated skill growth those that played the demo experienced. Super Agent Agility and Super Agent Strength will allow players to swim faster, run quicker, jump farther, and throw harder than the ridiculous speeds and distances already granted in the non-debug Super Agent Strength. Add in infinite ammo, and build a pile of explosive drums atop the Agency Tower for some fun with physics – just don’t stand too close when blowing them up. But that’s not all. Now you can also impound your favorite non-Agency vehicles and store them at the Agency by driving them back, a new feature that goes hand-in-hand with a new achievement. Also, co-op trophies have been added as well as a Psychotic difficulty Time Trial leaderboard.

As if all that weren’t enough, and it really is, there is the premium content pack to consider which adds three new Agency vehicles, a Buggy, a Racecar, and an Armored Vehicle, four new weapons, including a harpoon (and one of the new achievements requires you to harpoon five enemies to a single vehicle), and a cloaking device, as well as various competitive multiplayer sports, like new Max-Agility Races and a rocket-arena type game mode, though the arena is the entire city.

In addition, 350 new gamerpoints have been added, rather than the 100 originally promised, and these 350 are spread among the various content packs. New goals include the aforementioned, plus completing all the Time Trials in Psychotic difficulty and completing all the street races with every vehicle. That last bit sounds particularly daunting as there are about forty vehicles per this last update. If that wasn’t enough, though, players are able to try this new content out without actually purchasing it: that’s right, the premium downloadable content pack is temporarily inherited by non-owners via co-op if they connect to someone who purchased that pack. Of course, it can only be played while connected to this person and will not be usable in single player or with someone else until they purchase the pack themselves. This alleviates some of the downloadable map problems seen in various shooters that have had map packs released over the last year plus.

While too much of already existing content is broken (optional DLC that doesn’t work and a plethora of unachievable achievements spread across the Xbox Live Arcade and even some retail titles), this update does, at the very least, signify that the Xbox Live team and developers close to Microsoft are paying attention to what gamers want. It’s hard to see this as anything other than “fan service,” but, looking at that laundry list of amazing new updates, I really don’t care at this point and welcome being pampered to by Microsoft in this fashion.

Crackdown was already mindless fun, and this update won’t change that at all, but with all the new ways to experience the mindless carnage, and the ingenious new ability to essentially try the premium content before buying it by hooking up with a co-op partner who purchased it, this update is nothing short of promising to anyone who owns an Xbox 360, Crackdown owner or not.