Future-cop shooter, Crackdown, prides itself on nonlinear, sandbox play. It's set in a sprawling city with many areas to explore, and I had fun wandering through a pre-release version at a recent meeting with developer, Real Time Worlds.
The game is violent and visceral; you play a Judge
Dread Dredd-style super-cop with no moral ambiguity. Every criminal you kill is a victory, and any bystanders that die between you and the baddies were just doing their part for their city. This premise is sure to appeal to the adolescent boy in all of us (and actual adolescent boys). But for a game that gloats about its open, let-the-gamer-decide play-style, I thought that the violence was sometimes too mandatory and too realistic.
I had fun with Crackdown, and I want to play more. I enjoyed the sandbox elements -- blowing up parts of the city, jumping between rooftops, and driving cars -- but those activities didn't always help me progress. It seemed like I needed to keep killing thugs to advance through the game, and that repetition may violate the sandbox ideal.
To Crackdown's credit, the Xbox 360 game doesn't take time to dwell on its blunt-instrument kill-the-enemy-gangs premise -- it even approaches it with a crooked smile. And the game's frenzied pace doesn't pause for soul-searching or deep social commentary; gamers will pick it up for its action, not nuance.