It’s not just the futuristic setting that sets Crackdown apart from the gun-ho urban gangsta GTA clones; it’s the fact that it’s not quite so po-faced. This is arguably down to the augmented ability system. At the start you can only lift small objects, jump small distances and throw small grenades. By the end of the demo – which has increased ability speed, incidentally – you can jump around the roof tops like Spider-Man, lob explosives that cause screen-filling carnage and throw lamp posts around as if you’re the Incredible Hulk. Rah!
The commentary is another highlight – we’re sure it’s somebody famous supplying the voice work – giving insights to your next mission, firing off sarcastic quips when you fall to your death or blow yourself up, and advising what your partner is up to if you’re playing co-op online. When hosting a game you can scout for players with certain attributes and also choose if you want quiet or talkative team-mates. It’s quite easy to lose your partner when playing, although any enemy supply depos that you take over will become handy restart points.
What impresses the most is that it’s very user friendly. The controls should feel very natural to those that weaned on GTA, while the on-foot controls – especially the targeting – work almost perfectly. The vehicles also handle excellently, and although there aren’t any motorbikes or boats – at least in the demo – there are buses, trucks and special agent police cars and such. The graphics aren’t amazing but there’s a nice solid feel and the cars and characters have thick black outlines giving an almost cel-shaded look.
The demo is available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace and gives around an hour of play, both online and off. Be warned though – at the time of writing the download speed is very slow due to the number of people wanting to get their hands on it. The full game is out on 23rd February and comes with a sought after Halo 3 beta invite.