What I appreciate the most about Crackdown is that it’s almost the complete antithesis to Grand Theft Auto 3 despite being, basically, yet another take on the whole GTA3 “open city” concept.
Gone is the faux gangster aesthetic, what all the other GTA3 clones focused on, and in its place is a stripped down, bare bones sandbox. There is no real story here. No real characters. No Chatterbox Radio or imitations of it. And, above all, no linear mission structure.
For all the talk of the “nonlinear” gameplay, Grand Theft Auto was remarkably straight-pathed. You had to follow the mission tree to progress, to open access to the rest of the city and to end the game. There might be a choice between two or three missions at any given point, but they all had to be completed anyway. Crackdown, instead, just drops you into a city with some bad guys scattered around and lets you have a go at them.
The downside to this approach is that Crackdown‘s city feels sterile. It lacks personality. It’s less of a living, virtual city and more of a deliberate videogame conceit (here’s an industrial area, here’s a skyscraper area,
here’s the ice stage). It might make the game less endearing in the long haul, but for the moment it works because it nicely complements the super hero abilities of the main character. The city is designed for the agent’s “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” skills. It’s like a GTA-inspired platformer, with hidden orbs and spawn points carefully strewn across rooftops. The city is designed for that accessibility first. The simulated reality comes second. In Grand Theft Auto, it is the other way around.
It’s not better or worse, it’s different, and after all the me-too clones of GTA3, “different” is welcome.
Beyond GTA, the one game that Crackdown reminds me of the most is the first Tomb Raider. There’s a lot of climbing in this game. A lot. Many times you find yourself standing on the ground staring up into the sky, eyeing a glowing treasure of an orb hanging off a distant rooftop, wondering “ok, how do I get up there.” It’s very reminiscent of the first Tomb Raider and its many distant, but tempting, ledges.
Also Jumping Flash!
MTV Games’ article on Crackdown and its creator David Jones