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Preview: Crackdown 2

A hands-on preview of Crackdown 2 at TGS last week came with a catch: deathmatch only. No matter how much potential for greatness a game might possess, it's hard to gauge its true character when limited to a boring multiplayer mode. That's not to say that my time with Crackdown 2 was entirely boring -- it wasn't -- but simply playing the most generic mode of all didn't raise my enthusiasm beyond a mild passing interest.

While I wasn't able to play the game's single-player campaign, I was shown a rough portion of it in action. Ruffian lead designer Steve Iannetta and producer James Cope showcased the game's new weapons and enemies (the mutated citizens of Pacific City that were simply referred to as "The Freaks"). Unlike the deathmatch portion of the preview session, this part was interesting.

Gallery: Crackdown 2 (TGS 2009) | 14 Photos

While players will still have to contend with gangs throughout the city, the Freaks come out at night -- and increase the tension. According to Iannetta, this new enemy type has been added so that players no longer feel as though they are the most powerful thing roaming the streets. The Freaks -- which look like a cross between Left 4 Dead's zombies and Halo's Flood -- attack in swarms that litter the streets whenever the sun goes down.

I was also shown Crackdown 2's newest piece of artillery, the Magnetic Grenade. Using the weapon, players can tether objects together. During our demo, Cope attached one grenade to either side of a street and a final grenade to a parked vehicle, grabbing the vehicle and using it as an explosive slingshot to stop an incoming enemy assault.

Sadly, deathmatch wasn't as interesting. It's Crackdown ... versus other players. While perhaps a welcome diversion for the franchise, deathmatch failed to demonstrate the possible scope of Ruffian's ambitions for the sandbox title, and the preview was limited to the confines of just a few locked-down areas of the map.

The game was performing well (even in this early build), and many of the standard Crackdown abilities have returned. Players can scale buildings, target individual points of an enemy's body and get in close for a melee kill. According to Ruffian, melee is getting a substantial upgrade to make it more of a go-to option during battle.

Additionally, scattered throughout the deathmatch arena were glowing panels that sent my fully-powered agent flying into the air over rooftops (think: Halo 3's Man Cannons). It's a fun device that speeds up the pace of a game that, frankly, felt a little slow and was noticeably absent of vehicles.

It's the pieces that make Crackdown 2 an exciting title. The new additions look to address the laundry list of requested improvements, with the end goal being to make a great game even better. And there's plenty of time to pull that off before the game's 2010 release.

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