Crackdown was one of the 360's real surprise packages when it launched in 2007. A look at early code at Microsoft's X0 events hadn't left us particularly impressed, but we should have known better.
With designer Dave Jones (of GTA fame) on board, the game evolved to add layers more polish, explosive gameplay and become the first Xbox 360 sandbox smash with its huge game world, action-packed law enforcement and hyper addictive orb-chasing. In the vernacular, Crackdown did indeed lay a pretty hefty smack down.
Ten Years After
Now a much anticipated sequel is just one short week away and although development duties have been fallen to Ruffian Games rather than original creators Real Time Worlds, there's every indication that Crackdown 2 will be a more than worthy successor. So what's changed in the intervening ten years and how does Pacific City look like in this new era?
Crackdown 2 is set a decade after the original game and after a short lived period of peace free from crime and gang warfare, Pacific City has descended into anarchy. Familiar streets and landmarks from the original game are now battered and broken shells with whole districts burning or dilapidated. The city is slowly sliding into chaos and the remnants of the Agency and the Peacekeepers struggle to impose order on the troubled streets.
How did this come to pass? Well the architect of Pacific City's present malaise appears to be one Catalina Thorne, an embittered ex-Agency scientist gone renegade. Thorne is believed to have sabotaged the Agency labs, undoing years of research and cutting off the supply of new genetically enhanced Agents to police the streets.
Even worse than that, Thorne is also blamed for unleashing a complex virus which has resulted in an outbreak of hideous mutants known as the Freaks, which have overrun the territory formerly controlled by the Shai-Gen and who now stalk further afield under the cover of darkness.
If the days are hard, then the nights are hellish, but fortunately the Freaks are vulnerable to Ultra Violet light and the Agency has a remedy: Project Sunburst, a series of massive UV bombs planted throughout the city to finally eliminate the mutant threat once and for all.
But also opposing the Agency are the Cell, a collection of radicalised ex-citizens who believe the Agency is hiding the cure for the virus and who've seized control of the generators needed to power Project Sunburst. Thorne, not content with creating the mutant problems in the first place, is also now manipulating the Cell to gain terrible revenge on the Agency who rejected her. But is everything quite as it seems? In the conspiracy-laden world of Crackdown 2, it wouldn't be a surprise to find, as many have speculated, something darker and even deeper going on beneath the surface.
A Darker Tomorrow
So the scene is set, for a brand new tour of duty in a strange yet familiar environment, but what other new features can fans old and new look forward to? Well, for a start Pacific City itself is set to be one of the stars of the show, with its new cel-influenced - if not shaded - look and a much darker, more oppressive feel. The day-night cycle has a major influence with the Freaks operating mostly at night (mostly) give or take the odd daylight outbreak, adding new dynamic tension to the game.