Despite much moaning and groaning, Xbox has had some smashing console exclusive games during its four generation lifespan. Crackdown was one such game, released in the early years of the Xbox 360 and feeling like a futuristic take on Grand Theft Auto.
This is most likely because the creator of that famous but controversial game, David Jones, was at the helm of this project too. You played as an Agent who was dispatched to Pacific City to take down several crime bosses which inhabited certain districts within the futuristic metropolis.
The regular law enforcement authorities were overwhelmed by the sharp rise of Los Muertos, The Volk and the Shai-Gen Corporation who afterwards had carved the city up between them. You needed to deal with all sorts of criminal menaces from each faction, as well as full on riots. It’s a good job, then, that you weren’t playing as any old bringer of justice.
You were gifted with several super-human abilities to aid your cause, these being enhanced strength, increased range and power for your explosives, boosted agility for getting around and improved driving skills for when you needed to get behind the wheel. Collecting experience orbs would allow you to improve your skills and these would drop from enemies that you gave a good pasting.
However, the type of orb that appeared depended on how you dispatched your enemies. This meant you could tailor your combat type depending on which skill you wanted to boost the most. If you needed to improve your driving skills, simply running down the baddies would give you what you needed. Makes sense I guess.
This encouraged you to get creative, and introduced some method to the madness. Causing chaos in Pacific City was great fun and despite being consistently outnumbered, you were never outmatched. The gameplay was fluid, frantic but so, so enjoyable. As with other similar games, you didn’t have to stick to the beaten track to get the most from Crackdown. Hell, when I think back it was your main objectives which were secondary in the end.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto, you could explore the entirety of Pacific City from the get go. There were no pesky blockades in place until you progressed to a certain point here. You could also go straight after the kingpin of each faction if you wanted to, however this was pretty much guaranteed to end badly. Instead, taking out their network (such as their arms dealer etc) would make your encounter with the top dog much more manageable.
Crackdown was all about offering freedom to the player, allowing them to choose what to do and in which order. In terms of exploration, you could use vehicles to get around, scale buildings or dart along rooftops depending on your preference. For its time, Pacific City looked brilliant and you were treated to some pretty impressive vistas from the right viewpoints.
My praise also extends to the soundtrack in Crackdown, which was an unexpected mix of electronica tunes from mostly little known artists. However, I was pleased to see the masterful Amon Tobin, of Splinter Cell fame, was involved in the audible feast.
Despite being a lot of fun on your todd, playing with others was even better. The Xbox 360 was part of a generation which properly pioneered online gaming, and Crackdown was right at the forefront. Competitive multiplayer was already well established, but playing cooperatively in the same open world? Now that was exciting.
This, for me, was the party trick which made owning Crackdown essential. Replicating that freedom of the single player campaign, but for two players within the same sandbox was something really special and rare for the time, if not unique.
Crackdown remains the best in the series despite two sequels landing on Xbox consoles – feel free to read our thoughts concerning both Crackdown 2 and Crackdown 3. It felt ahead of its time in some ways, but was simply loads of fun to play in others. I’d go as far to say the game is a key part of Xbox history and if you haven’t played it, you really should fix that.
Get over to the Xbox Store if you wish to pick up a copy of the original Crackdown. You can play it on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.