The last new game I played this summer was, well, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (a fun homage to beat-’em-ups of yesteryear I had the pleasure of reviewing). Because my attention span continues to diminish these days, what should have been maybe a two or three hour trek became a weekend of beating up punks and leveling up across seven stages. Still, I felt I breezed through the game rather quickly, and the only other new game I had left to experience was Transformers: War for Cybertron, which I briefly wrote about entries ago.
Two days ago, I finished the Autobot campaign, which I quite enjoyed. War for Cybertron is probably the best Transformers game out there, and yet it can still be better. I understand the game is set on a planet made entirely of metal, titanium, and other alloys, but maybe next time the developers could put a little more effort into making Cybertron look vibrant, even in its obviously war-torn condition. I would have absolutely no objections to a cel-shaded game that shot for a look of the many animated series over the years. I also appreciated its storytelling to an extent, setting up the events and motions that lead the Autobots and the Decepticons to Earth. I always knew War for Cybertron was telling that story, and yet I was still relieved to find Megatron was not, in fact, the final battle. Now I’m working my way as the Decepticons, although I clearly picked a strange route, as the Autobots make up the second half of this tale. The game opens up with the Decepticons’ side of the story. I expect to breeze through that campaign pretty quickly, and that’s it until Halo: Reach.
I came to a realization over the summer that I have too many games and DVDs (some of which I switched to Blu-ray disc), and so I actually sold a number of them. Most were games I had played to death (Quantum of Solace, Lego Indiana Jones), games I played through but had no interest revisiting (Tomb Raider: Underworld), and then there was Crackdown 2.
Where do I begin? Crackdown is one of my favorite Xbox 360 games and I had considered it the second-best game of 2007 behind Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Portal was number three if you’re curious). I played it to death with friends, and hunting for all of the agility and hidden orbs was a sick sport. Killing gang members in the most extreme ways on a clear day in Pacific City was just a luxury. Once I had exhausted just about everything the game offered, I shelved it, waiting for a day where I am in the mood for some open-world destructive brand of justice. The studio that developed Crackdown, Realtime Worlds, went on to another project called APB, an online game that I didn’t even know had actually made its way to retail until looking up the Wikipedia entry this very second. It seems to have mixed reviews. Anyway, it was apparently unsure whether Crackdown would be a bankable franchise despite its high sales (I imagine mostly due to the Halo 3 beta participation included). Sure enough, a sequel was officially in development, and in the rare occasion I get excited for a sequel, I squealed. I didn’t look up any information on the game. I’m actually not that type. I don’t follow screen shots, trailers, and written previews.
Somewhere along the way, I had either blown an excitement gasket, or I stumbled across reviews that gave the game a so-so, “it’s okay” reaction. Okay, people felt that way about the original Crackdown, but I loved Crackdown, it would only make sense that history repeats itself. I played the timed demo once with a friend, but something about it was so off. Then I finally got my hands on my copy that I ordered from Amazon. I played it for about four days before I decided I didn’t like it. First of all, I was put off that Crackdown 2 apparently had to be set in a post-apocalyptic version of the original game’s city. I was strangely bothered by the polluted, orange sky. I remember the original game’s weather usually being clear, gray, or night. I’m sure there was a dusk, but everywhere I went in the sequel, I felt claustrophobic. I am in an open city inside too many nooks and crannies. As usual, I was enjoying the orb hunting and desperately wanted to become harder, better, faster, stronger, Daft Punk style. Then night arrived, and the Agency disembodied voice warned me about the freaks that take over the city at night. Oh, boy. I remember them from the demo. Crackdown 2 plays into the trend of zombies, now officially joining the ranks of Survival Modes*, Omaha Beach, and the Battle of Hoth as the most overused game design modes ever.
*For the record, I enjoy survival/”Horde” modes, especially in Gears of War 2. Hoo, boy.
So, because killing terrorists isn’t enough, I have to deal with freaks, who serve as a big part of the game’s story. If the strange claustrophia was the first mistake, and the freaks were strike two, then strike three is Crackdown 2 attempting to have a narrative. Granted, the first game’s “Kill these gang members because you’re an enforcer of (ambiguous) justice” qualifies as a plot of sorts, but why in the sequel am I collecting audio tapes about how these freaks came to be? About the quarantine placed on certain neighborhoods of the city? Do we really need another “The government is screwing with poor people keeping their illness away from everyone else with no cure” scenario that we saw last year with Prototype? The freaks being there is only half the reason I am displeased. There are just too many of them and they are completely irrelevant. I always liked the serene moments the city took pleasure in before I decide to blow up a truck filled with crooks and start a war. Now, in Crackdown 2, it’s all chaos, all the time, and it just isn’t fun. There is the main criticism I have: Crackdown 2 is not fun. I’m sure down the line there will be an open-world sandbox zombie apocalypse game that will do the idea justice, but they just don’t belong here.
As much as I enjoyed the Agency’s chief voice in Crackdown, I was actually getting tired of being reminded not to slaughter innocent people who get caught in the crossfire of the many terrorists and freaks I kill… with my car… with explosives attached… and then I use a rocket launcher just to make sure. Don’t give me explosives if you want me to be careful with them. It was then I had decided I did not like Crackdown 2. I have no intentions of ever experiencing it again, and if I were ever in the mood I would happily, joyously pop in the disc to the first game. My heart was broken, because a game where I found greatness in something that really isn’t that great for this generation spawned a sequel that feels like a science project your kid needs you to make the night before the science fair.
And so with my having to set Crackdown 2 free, I am left with Transformers: War for Cybertron, and whatever I go back to until I buy Halo: Reach on September 14th. I haven’t even checked out the big Xbox Live games that were out this summer except for Limbo, which I enjoyed, but I tend to realize that there will be a day where these games will be an Xbox Live Deal of the Week. I’ll be able to snag something like Limbo, Castlevania: Musical Lexicon of the Human Emotion (“WHAT IS A MAN??”), or Lara Croft and the Not Tomb Raider. I’ve been looking at my PS2 with an apologetic sentiment lately. It’s dusty, and there are a few games I need to play on it, namely Sly Cooper 2 and 3. Of course, I bought Sly Cooper over the spring, and what happens? An announcement that the trilogy will be remastered in high definition for the PlayStation 3. Jerks. I’ve also been in the mood for Silent Hill 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3. You would think with my Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3 name-drops I don’t own a Wii at all. I was looking at it the other day with a sense of disappointment. The reviews for Metroid: Other M went up yesterday, and while they’re mostly positive, a few of them were quite critical of Team Ninja’s take on the Nintendo franchise, most notably G4′s review. Whether you agree with it or not when the game drops, leave it to gamers to take a criticism for a game and make it a personal attack on them.