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Crackdown

A combined RPG, shooter, driving game, strategy game all tied into Xbox Live? You won't be able to put it down

You should know David Jones. Not because of the locker, with which he shares an unfortunate homonymy, but because he created both Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings for the Amiga. This is a man with history. (He's an avid World of Warcraft gamer and considered making an adult title staring porn star Asia Carrera; reconcile these yourselves.) He's also the man behind Crackdown (and 2007's gang-MMO APB).

Jones and Microsoft's Craig Evans are talking us through Crackdown. "Basically normal police forces have given up hope", Jones tells us. "So we have this new force set up called The Agency, which is kind of the last bastion of the city." The city in question being Pacific City, over-run by heavily-armed gangs that run everything from transportation to your local kebab shop. Your job is simple - clean up the city.

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Of course, no normal person could hope to go up against the three gangs; but your agent can, as he's a superhuman cloned for maximum law enforcement; a modern take on Robocop, with an astoundingly rapid capability to develop new skills. If you handle firearms, drive, lift objects, fistfight, jump or whatever, you'll gradually get better at it, and this is physically represented in the character. So lift lots of things, and he'll get buffer as his arms grow in size, shoot things regularly and his aim will gradually steady.

You'll need these abilities if you're to take down the gangs. Three run the city; the Volk, Los Muertos and the Shai-Gen Corporation. Each gang has seven kingpins that you'll need to take down to get at the lead kingpin; that's 24 bosses all told. Suprisingly, each one is totally accessible and present in the game world right from the start. But having access to the kingpin and being able to take him out, are two totally different things. In fact, Jones says that anyone who puts enough hours in should be able to complete Crackdown. Even mum. "If she just sits there and plays for a few hours each day, she'll have this amazing character eventually, and she can then decide when she wants to go and take on these kingpins."

Of course, you probably think you can do this a lot better than your mother. Well, we don't know about that; but we know you can go about it in a different way. Each section of each gang serves a different purpose within the group. For example, the Volk are illegal importers par excellence. You'll most likely find their gang members hanging about around the docks, waiting for shipments. Attack them, nobble their kingpin and the other gang members will lose his expertise - if he's in charge of firearms shipping, the gang's effectiveness with guns will be crippled. Before you go for that big boss, taking out his (or her) support network will make him a plausible take-down.

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Another special ability you have is Agent Vision. "Things that the Agency has placed into the world become immediately apparent," says Jones. Messages embedded on signs, billboards and buildings are suddenly readable, giving you hints to the nearest Agency supply point, where you can save, rearm, repair and respawn. Moreover, on the plentiful Agency billboards you'll be able to see all of your friends' latest achievements.

Achievements are key to the game, from the longest fall to your death, to how long you've air-juggled with a rocket launcher. "When you shoot someone with a rocket launcher, they tend to go pretty high," Jones tells us. "We have witnessed people sit there for hours trying to see who can keep a body above ground for as long as possible using the rocket launcher. It's timed, and that becomes an achievement. It's posted on Xbox Live, and we can have the top 20 people and the times they have managed to keep someone in the air for."

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