Crackdown 2: Return of The Lazy Sequel

The Crackdown 2 demo was giving me some serious déjà vu as I jumped from ledges to rooftops collecting agility orbs. I played the first game when it launched back in 2007 so it’s been a while ... but man did those buildings look familiar. Turns out there’s a reason for that – it’s the same city. It’s not even a radical a new take on Pacific City. It’s the same place we explored to death three years ago with some architectural wrinkles.

Gametrailers does a good job highlighting this in their latest comparison between the first game and the upcoming sequel. You should watch it. Go on, I’ll wait.

I’ve often said I don’t mind sequels because they give developers a chance to do amazing things with the tools they spent years developing. Uncharted 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2 made great strides with a couple years and a mature platform to work from. Infamous 2 looks to do the same while moving the game to a whole new city. Crackdown 2 is different. When asked in a recent interview on Gamasutra how long the game has been in development, Ruffian mission designer Martin Livingston was forthright. “We've been working hard solidly, fully ramped up for a little over a year. It's a short space of time. It's been a very fast-process game.”

Realtime Worlds, the developers of the original Crackdown, were too busy working on APB to do a proper sequel. It fell to the newly formed Ruffian Games to crank out a new game on a short time table. It’s tricky enough to do it when you’re established -- doubly so when you’re forming a new studio at the same time. “It's been one very fast push with not too many problems. It's gone pretty smoothly,” Livingston tells Chris Remo. “It was hard work, but that was offset by the fact that everyone loves what they're doing.” That's a bit like a chef saying he loves reheating and serving dishes he made three days ago.

The end result appears to be the original Crackdown with support for up to four players coop, the added benefit of everyone going off to do their own missions and a few other light features and tweaks. This would sound pretty good to me if it were a big DLC expansion for the original game. At a $60 retail release it’s the kind of cash grab EA would have pulled in the late 90's.

A new game franchise can be a fragile thing. Most publishers have figured this out and often spend more resources on sequels than they did on the original games. After a mere 15 months in development, Crackdown 2 has passed certification and should hit shelves on July 6th. It remains to be seen if the game that surprised everyone back in 2007 can still delight gamers who just paid full price for nearly the same experience they had three years ago. I was pumped when they announced a sequel to a game I loved. Now I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Comments

I'm going to get a big bucket of buttered popcorn to watch the banter between you and Sands when this drops.

I got the exact same vibe from the demo. All the little changes are fine, and I wouldn't even begrudge someone for spending an extra $60 to add four-player coop to a game they love, but it's a hard sell for me when I could just pop in the original and start hunting orbs.

I love open world games. Exploring new worlds is the primary motivator.

Calling this "lazy" is kind of an insult to lazy things, isn't it? Take the original environment and re-skin parts of it. Tag on co-op. Call it a new game. I was incredibly pumped for Crackdown 2 when it was announced, but just not feeling it at this point.

It seems a little early to judge the game. I mean, it's just a demo.

A short development cycle certainly raises flags but Assassin's Creed 2, for instance, was developed in 18 months. The new AC game will probably have an even shorter cycle, as it's coming 12 months after AC2.

And one thing missing from the article that I think is pretty important is that Ruffian Games was created by former Realtime Worlds employees who wanted to work on Crackdown 2 instead of APB, so the game is mostly being created by the original team.

I'm going to get a big bucket of buttered popcorn to watch the banter between you and Sands when this drops.

Prepare to be as disappointed in this as I was with the demo.

Massa wrote:

It seems a little early to judge the game. I mean, it's just a demo.

A short development cycle certainly raises flags but Assassin's Creed 2, for instance, was developed in 18 months. The new AC game will probably have an even shorter cycle, as it's coming 12 months after AC2.

And one thing missing from the article that I think is pretty important is that Ruffian Games was created by former Realtime Worlds employees who wanted to work on Crackdown 2 instead of APB, so the game is mostly being created by the original team.

Couple points:

- The Assassin's Creed 2 development team was roughly three times the size of the first game. Around 450 people. Even subtracting Q&A, that's a massive team.

- Ruffian Games is about 50 people.

Yeah, it's just a demo. But they've been very up front about the feature set of the game and if people are thinking about buying it day one ... a little context doesn't hurt.

I honestly might had shelled out the cash for a glorified explansion pack during the summer doldrums. Might have. But beyond the re-heated feeling I get when playing through the demo, this is a game I find horribly unattractive visually. Looking at the Gametrailers comparison puts it into sharp relief. I'm not a graphics whore by any stretch, but when the 3 year old game you are essentially reskinning looks markedly better, something has gone wrong. Here's hoping there's something not in the demo that makes this worth picking up. I might just go plunk down $10 or so to re-buy the original used. It's cheaper, it looks better, AND since I really only want to hunt down orbs and blow up tractor trailers on bridges, why not?

Wow, that video comparison really was shocking. To me it seems like the sequel has new graphics features, but not as high quality art direction. The new version approaches more photorealism, but that makes the dark outline and cell-shaded look stand out as incidental rather than a core part of the art direction.

I'm very disappointed, but will play the demo for myself before making a purchase decision.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:

I got the exact same vibe from the demo. All the little changes are fine, and I wouldn't even begrudge someone for spending an extra $60 to add four-player coop to a game they love, but it's a hard sell for me when I could just pop in the original and start hunting orbs.

I love open world games. Exploring new worlds is the primary motivator.

This is my problem. There are tons of worlds I haven't explored nearly enough. New Austin, Panau, Viccy France. Way too many great open worlds to visit to spend $60 on this when I could get arguably the same experience for $8 at my local game shop.

I don't get it, you guys are surprised/annoyed that two games set in the same city look similar save for a variety of small changes in the second one?

Crackdown 2 takes place about 10 years after Crackdown 1 right? So what the hell do you expect the place to look like?

It's a sequel! There's a new storyline, new setting (minus the locational part), new enemies, new features both singleplayer and multiplayer, and more. Considering a lot of the 'sequels' that come out now it looks pretty damn good to me.

You don't get it? Crackdown could have been you fighting The Agency in another city. There you go, I've changed two variables.

Their mistake was setting it in the same city.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:

Their mistake was setting it in the same city.

Indeed. I think the graphics look atrocious, but if you take the game as is and put it in another city at least I don't have direct 1 to 1 comparisons I can make. At least I'm not jumping around the same city wishing I was in the old game and thinking of firing it up instead. I think this game will be taught in classes down the road. How not to make a sequel.

Wow, video really said to me its the same game with worse art direction.

FedoraMcQuaid wrote:

It's a sequel! There's a new storyline, new setting (minus the locational part), new enemies, new features both singleplayer and multiplayer, and more. Considering a lot of the 'sequels' that come out now it looks pretty damn good to me.

Most people (including me) ignored the story in the first game. The enemies seemed mostly all the same and sort of filler as well. With just added multiplayer and some other changes, it's hardly a new game. Crackdown was still a lot of fun single player, the only way I played it, and it doesn't seem like 2 is giving much more to this.

I'm fine with them setting it in the same city. I've been a big proponent of more top quality games "licensing" their game worlds for new games (e.g. fuel, GTA, Oblivion etc.) and new experiences. However, these official mods should never be full price.... it's just disingenuous.

Does it surprise me? Of course not. This is just the direction the industry is taking.... it's just funny that i've been outraged about it for a lot longer than most people

PandaEskimo makes a great point. The enemies don't matter to some extent. The real star of Crackdown was the world. That's what made it fun, the jumping and the climbing and the destruction. So putting it in the same world with different targets? Meh.

I suppose it comes down to the perspective (or maybe the price point?) in which you've been introduced to the game.

Having never played the original, I downloaded Crackdown 2's demo with an open mind after hearing so many great things about the first. After one play-through I was hooked and decided to grab the first game on the cheap, which I've promptly spent the last five days devouring. With a $20 credit from pre-ordering Red Dead Redemption waiting to be used at Amazon, I figured $40 for Crackdown 2 is very much worth it.

I for one like the art direction the sequel has taken but I'm a sucker for destroyed, post-apocalyptic type environments. Watching the shots of the second in the comparison video puts me in mind of Red Faction Guerrilla while some of the other preview videos remind me of Just Cause 2 (helicopters!).

$60 for both + completing them for the first time back-to-back + evolution of a clean world to a destroyed one + a new Gold account letting me play the sequel online = absolute win for me.

“It was hard work, but that was offset by the fact that everyone loves what they're doing.” That's a bit like a chef saying he loves reheating and serving dishes he made three days ago.

I share your skepticism concerning Crackdown 2, especially after playing the demo myself. But your analogy is very weird! How is hard work made easy by the fact that you love doing it in any way the same as reheating a dish? To me it seems you're really looking for a reason to not like the developer or their approach to creating a sequal. I'm not gonna dismiss it just yet, Crackdown was overlooked too when it came out...

Despite all this, I still really want to play Crackdown 2. The original Crackdown was such a pleasant surprise and now that more of my friends have xboxes this time around, perhaps I can actually enjoy some co-op.

I honestly think putting a demo out for this was a bad idea as this was a game I was previously excited for and now will rent at best. Ugly (I'm curious what tech they're running since you can't license RenderWare anymore), virtually no gameplay innovations and some of the same annoyances from the first game (i.e. the damn announcer won't shut up.) Microsoft made a hit out of a title that was on no one's radar with the original by packing in the Halo 3 Beta. They built up a lot of goodwill towards the brand that way and to do a rushed out sequel like this will probably end up hurting them. That said, every podcast I've listened to has been high as a kite on this game despite everything Certis just said.

I played a lot of single player in the original but I seem to remember kicking to death a random person who joined my game. What's the difference between that and the sequel?

The original was quite hard at times and the thought of going back to the oil rig or the big dome with lots of cars in is not a pleasant one.

The thing that puts me off the most is the too-dark-to-see-what's-happening vibe in the clips.

Sometimes the apple falls a bit too close to the tree. And hits a rock on the way down. And then a cow comes and #2 on it.

It really doesn't look good. Suits keep making bad decisions. Not everybody can be Blizzard/Bungie/Valve, but haven't these companies shown that it pays to invest good time and money in sequels?

I'm still going to pick this up on the cheap a couple months out. As soon as I'm done with the Transformers co-op, probably.

Is there much else out in terms of co-op?

I think the Crackdown brand had a lot of good will that they have squandered. This was really an opportunity to make a AAA sequel that a lot of gamers were looking forward to, and instead they deliver a half-baked rehash of the original game. Even though I was not among those enamored with the first game (mainly due to the atrociously lame lock-on gun combat, which of course is back in the sequel), it is still disappointing.

Well, it is set in the same city, so I can keep an open mind regarding the similarities with building layout etc. The assets are similar but different, same with the geometry. Not sure it wouldve made sense to change its fundamental geography too much. There could be a good deal of engine improvements that we just dont see in those snippets like draw distance, more mayhem etc. I should try the demo.

I want more Crackdown. Well more missions, combat, explosions and orb hunting will do me just fine. The vehicle racing and stunt aspects of the first game just weren't my thing.

It's not a day one purchase this time around. I have too heavy of a backlog, but I'm looking forward to it eventually. If only they had figured out splitscreen coop for round 2... that would've been a cool addition.

Elysium wrote:
I'm going to get a big bucket of buttered popcorn to watch the banter between you and Sands when this drops.

Prepare to be as disappointed in this as I was with the demo.

Drat.

I pretty much conur. Demo soured me on it, as it felt like a three-year old game that I've played before.

Might pick it up when the price drops to $20 or so. I'm kinda hoping that there'll be an influx of Goodjers to Pacific City at the same time as me.

Put me in the rent or wait until it's in the bargain bin list. The comparison video truly was an eye opener. I just don't think there is enough new to warrant a full price purchase but I may be tempted once it goes on sale.

Now if someone would do a proper Cyberpunk/Bladerunner/Shadowrun style sandbox game I could be happy.

Never played Crackdown, but playing the Crackdown 2 Demo I was thinking 'This looks like an early present-gen-console game'. Now I know why also seems very empty to me for what is supposed to be a city. Myself, I'm skipping this title.

Having not played Crackdown or the demo for Crackdown 2, I have to say that I actually rather liked the similarities on display in the GameTrailers video. Given that both games are set in the same city, it makes sense to have continuity between the two. I really enjoy the way that video games allow players to explore spaces; I imagine that if a game that I love were given a similar treatment, I'd have a lot of fun just running around looking at what had changed since the last time I'd been there.