February 27, 2007

As gamers, many of us have gone through periods where we lost sight of the reasons we first got into our hobby. Being a devotee to a specific form of media certainly has its merits, but it also comes with a number of downsides, not the least of which is that keeping up with the latest and greatest games can sometimes feel like a job. Games like World of Warcraft force you to endure a never-ending cycle of repetitive tasks that have a way of straying away from what most would consider a relaxing good time. Then along comes a title like Crackdown, which, while far from flawless in its execution, affirms the deeply held belief that we’re supposed to be playing games to have fun.

Crackdown puts you in the role of a superhuman cop tasked with cleaning up Pacific City by any means necessary. Gangs have overrun nearly every corner of the small island metropolis, and the city’s meager police force is ill equipped to take on the crime bosses in a direct confrontation. And neither are you, for that matter. While your abilities as a supercop are indeed quite super, you’ll need to level up your core attributes through constant use before you can hope to make a move on each of the city’s three kingpins. What’s more, each kingpin has a veritable army at his disposal, and direct confrontation can and will lead to a bloody and bullet-ridden end for your renegade hero. That is, unless you take on the lieutenants first, crippling the support networks that keep them in power.

While Crackdown has drawn numerous comparisons to Grand Theft Auto due to its sandbox nature, it is here where you can see the big difference between the two. The Grand Theft Auto games are traditional linear third-person action games put in the sandbox setting, Crackdown is a sandbox. Once you understand the task set out before you, the game leaves you well enough alone. Outside of periodic intelligence updates on the various lieutenants (including a nifty probability of success calculation), the game leaves things up to you. The sandbox element isn’t separated from the narrative itself. You’re genuinely encouraged to do things as you please. If you want to go for the kingpins and end the story straight out of the gate, the game leaves it open for you to try. For some, this sort of freedom might be a little too much, but for most, the ability to take complete control of your superhero is really a dream come true.

What elevates the game out of the realm of a short diversion or curiosity into A

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.