Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Crackdown (Further Impressions)

I'm not sure how long I've played Crackdown--probably closing in on fifteen hours at this point--but I've gone through three distinct phases of interest with the game.

In the first phase, I thought it was an absolute blast. That lasted for about five hours.

In the second phase, I thought it was a one-trick pony. A fun trick, but only one. That lasted for about five more hours.

Phase two normally signals a death spiral in terms of my interest in the game. It's almost guaranteed. This time, though, in phase three I reverted back to my original opinion: the game is an absolute blast.

Last night, I couldn't sleep because I'm still having sinus problems etc. Of course, these are the glory days for not being able to sleep--I have about twenty fun things I can do in the middle of the night, and playing Crackdown was what I chose.

And what I did for an hour and a half was go to a supply point, load up on weapons, jump to the top of the building, and shoot the Firefly Rocket Launcher at Shai-Gen gang members. It was mesmerizing. Guys would get launched fifty feet in the air and rag doll like pinwheels after getting hit by a rocket. Death squads would come after me and I'd blow up their cars. The explosions are absolutely spectacular, and seeing guys flying through the air--on fire--is not to be missed.

And those little blue orbs. There are a ton of excellent design decisions in Crackdown, but here's one of the best ones: after you kill an enemey, these little blue orbs fly at you from his body, representing your skill increases that you're receiving. And blowing up five or six guys at one time with a missile means this stream of orbs comes at you from their location. It's hypnotic.

I've gone up to the top of the Agency Tower and jumped off. I've found about 380 of 500 agility orbs. I've found about 50 secret orbs. I've done ridiculous stunt jumps with cars. I've kicked bad guys 50 feet in the air. I've gone on agility time trials on city rooftops. I've taken out gang bosses.

And that list is probably short by half. I've done so many things that I can't even keep track of them all.

I've done missions, too, and what negative criticism of the game I've seen has revolved around the similarity of the missions. That's fair, but the game has an incredible variety of things to do and see, and so many ways to accomplish anything, that I think it represents the best game of this genre that I've ever played.

The one real design mistake in this game is that it doesn't show its depth. There many surprisingly deep design elements, but the game doesn't put them on display in any particular fashion--you have to discover them. I think that makes some people question the game's depth, because they haven't discovered any of those elements for themselves.

Crackdown has an absolute ton of play value and longevity, and I think people are going to be shocked by the number of copies it eventually sells, because word of mouth is very, very strong.

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