You shouldn’t read this review, really. Just go ahead and skip to the end, check the score and then go read something else, because there’s absolutely no way this review could be at all interesting. The game we’re writing about is, we’re convinced, possibly the dullest one we’ve ever reviewed. That’s no mean feat.
Crackdown 2 isn’t just dull though, it’s actually depressing. Playing it, we were gripped with malaise. The only times we were inspired to any level of excitement were when we were subjected to the endless story sequences and constant, grating narration. Here the lack of editing and control angered us. Crackdown 2’s premise is deliberately shallow and silly, but for some reason plot is always being crammed down your throat.
Crackdown 2: as fun as a punch in the face
The story isn’t even any good either, which makes it even harder to care. You’re a genetically enhanced super soldier of the most traditional sort and you have to reclaim the blandest urban area ever conceived from baddies. The city is plagued by terrorists during the day, mutants at night. You have to kill them all. Put that way it seems simple and basic, but when Ruffian Games tell it then it somehow involves drawn out cutscenes, needless audio diaries and incessant narration. The constant radio talk from your commanding officer is, we think, supposed to be funny. Really though, it’s as much fun as stabbing yourself in the ear with a rusty corkscrew.
The result of all this is that, before we even venture as far as the gameplay or graphics, Crackdown 2 already has fundamental problems. There’s a massive disconnect between the story and the fundamental appeal of the series. Crackdown 2 should have been like Just Cause 2, pushing you into the open world with some cool toys and a ‘Go, play!’ attitude. Instead, the first hour or two of the game is spent underground or surrounded by crates.
Crates and tunnels. This is indicative of the level of imagination on show in Crackdown 2.
Or falling flat on your face
When you do eventually get let loose then things don’t improve much. The setting, Pacific City, isn’t as sprawling as you’d hope for in a modern sandbox game and what it lacks in size it also lacks in identity. It’s small and samey. There are plenty of landmarks and unique locations, from oil rigs to fairgrounds, but each is so dull that it’s hard to see them as anything more than clumps of game geometry. Pacific City doesn’t feel like it’s full of unique places, it just feels like they’ve made some of the crates really big and put window textures on the side.
Colour is the one place where Crackdown 2 differentiates itself from other sandbox titles. The cel-shaded visuals stand out when compared to GTA’s muted browns or Just Cause 2’s super-lush forests, but a closer look at the stylisation suggests that it’s only being used to mask the dreariness underneath. The environments are all too angular, the textures too plain. And don’t even get us started on the fire or smoke effects, which look so blurrily pixelated that we suspect they were ripped from an abandonware title.
In short, the only thing about Crackdown 2’s presentation or plot that’s at all stunning is how mediocre it is and how rigidly it maintains that mediocrity. It never rises close to brilliance, but nor does it sink to true awfulness. It’s not fun, but it is functional and it won’t let anyone take that away. We’d love to say that it gets better the more you play, or even that it gets worse, but it doesn’t. It is consistent in how unremarkable it is.