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

Played the multiplayer demo at PaxEast and thought something was off. Thanks for the comparison, really shows the lack of vibrant colors and textures from the first. I'm not a graphics whore, but they should at least be able to be on par with the original.

I can't help thinking that all anyone who wants to re-live Crackdown needs to do is wipe their save.

I must admit you all have me thinking. I loved the first one so much - but after playing the demo several times I am very undecided.

I honestly think that the backlash has been a little overcompensating for this game. The strangest part of the whole thing is that somehow everyone feels slighted for having this game set in the same environment. In my mind, I honestly remember so little about the environment in the first game that they could have lied and said it as a new city - I wouldn't have known any better.

What makes Crackdown 2 a different story than any other "lazy sequel" is a solid gameplay foundation from the first game that is further solidified by incremental streamlining. If there is literally zero improvement in the graphics, story, and style, I won't mind if the cars drive better (which I feel they do), the enemies are diversified (which I feel they are), the objectives are mixed up a little (which I suspect they are)... well, you get my drift.

The whole point of sequels is taking the splendor of the first and helping you relive it. Sure, Crackdown 2 doesn't seem to be... here it comes... "reinventing the wheel", but it does seem to help me go back to that first experience and still have fun.

Without too much elaboration, I'll toss out this idea. Perhaps as a community, we're collectively feeling a sense of "amazing sequel-itis". With recent titles like Mass Effect 2 and Assassin's Creed 2 our mind, could our expectations be a little high for every sequel that comes along?

JonCole wrote:
Without too much elaboration, I'll toss out this idea. Perhaps as a community, we're collectively feeling a sense of "amazing sequel-itis". With recent titles like Mass Effect 2 and Assassin's Creed 2 our mind, could our expectations be a little high for every sequel that comes along?
Sort-of agree with this point. There are a lot of awesome games coming out, that when something like this comes along it does have a hard job competing. That said, throwing the first game on the photocopier and giving it a new coat of paint is lazy by comparison to other sequels done for a quick buck. Most 'phoning it in' sequels would take you through a new campaign in new environments with the original weapons (or etc.) expanded and any flaws in the original polished out.

I don't feel "slighted". I just think the game is unnecessary as currently developed.

Given that both games are set in the same city, it makes sense to have continuity between the two.

That's a hell of a given.

Crackdown 2 wouldn't have to be a triple-A to earn my money. There's practically no competition for its release date.

I don't think most of Crackdown's original gameplay elements were that solid. The driving, gunplay, and melee combat were actually piss-poor. To ratchet up those elements an increment is about ten increments too few to garner any interest.

The solid foundation of Crackdown was the orbs and the vertical environment. To this they have done very very little. The city's a little banged up, there's some orbs that run away from you, and a flying squirrel suit. Now, a squirrel suit could potentially be flippin' amazing, but I played with it in the demo and it's crap.

DSGamer wrote:
I don't feel "slighted". I just think the game is unnecessary as currently developed.

I'd say the same for all but maybe 3 major releases each year.

This is why we can't have good things good ads any ads.

One negative to Crackdown trying to do this is that it has minimal plot, you're given a list of targets and given free reign to take them out. The best example I can think of something like this working is GTA4:Episodes from Liberty City, where they put wholly new characters and plot into the existing city. I can appreciate it the way GTA4 uses their setting, because it's just a setting kind of like many films being set in any given city. It didn't make sense for Rockstar to start over and make a new city as that's not the focus of EFLC, but a story told within that city.

This sure puts last year's fuss about L4D2 into perspective doesn't it?

I recall reading somewhere that this wasn't going to be 360 exclusive (it may have been on one of Elysium's "this week" columns), but now I see it is. Color me disappointed. I would have been fine with a rehash of the last game if it meant I could play it on my PS3. I'm interested in playing it, but not interested enough to drop a couple hundred bucks for yet another game system to do it.

It's published by Microsoft, it'll be a cold day in hell before it hits the PS3, and there's precious little evidence that their rediscovered 'love' for PC gaming has lasted past the announcement of PC port of the 360 leading Fable3

pignoli wrote:
This sure puts last year's fuss about L4D2 into perspective doesn't it?

Yeah, gives a lot of power to the ominous question: "how can this get much worse?"

It all depends on whether people buy it, it is after all a business.

The more ominous question is the cost of making high quality content for games, and what kind of reuse is 'acceptable' at in what sort of packaging and price levels. If this was a major Crackdown1 DLC, and there was a 'Crackdown Gold' game to buy I don't think anyone on would have a problem, but the whole direction of the content would be different.

One thing that strikes me is that Ruffian are a new studio, split off from RTW, and C2 does come across as a quick, easy and cheap first title for them progressing from an established C1. If there was a middle tier of games at a lower price point then C2 would be more attractive, but there seems to be an unwritten rule that everything has to be a first class title. This falls down when every game is competing in the same league, and some are quite obviously of a higher caliber.

Scratched wrote:
It all depends on whether people buy it, it is after all a business.

The more ominous question is the cost of making high quality content for games, and what kind of reuse is 'acceptable' at in what sort of packaging and price levels. If this was a major Crackdown1 DLC, and there was a 'Crackdown Gold' game to buy I don't think anyone on would have a problem, but the whole direction of the content would be different.

While I feel like this would be a more ideal scenario by far, I honestly think that the marketing pitch for a "gold" product that you speak of really wouldn't result in a lot of sales. Thinking about this realistically, I feel as though Microsoft may have even considered this for a second before thinking that a full-on sequel is far more marketable. Sure, it's a cash grab, but the company does exist to make money.

Expansion packs delivered as DLC haven't really been successful as far as I know, with exception to GTA: Episodes of Liberty City. These two products can't really be compared in any reasonable way, however, as Crackdown doesn't have even a modicum of the cachet of the GTA series.

pignoli wrote:
This sure puts last year's fuss about L4D2 into perspective doesn't it?

It does for me, but probably not like you mean. It begs the question — What's better? To bring out more of the same (C2) or to risk ruining the fun of the original game by making tons of small changes (L4D2)?

I'm not sure L4D2 is a brilliant comparison, it has slightly expanded core mechanics (better melee, more weapons, more zombies) in a wholly new environment with new characters. There will be reuse in there, a brick wall looks the same in Pennsylvania or Georgia/Louisiana, but it's not the same environments.

I'm somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Saints Row 2, yet. They tweaked a few neighborhoods and added some islands and a little landmass around the edges of the city, but it's still the same Stilwater- enough so that I was able to navigate the city using only landmarks the first time I played.

Scratched wrote:
I'm not sure L4D2 is a brilliant comparison, it has slightly expanded core mechanics (better melee, more weapons, more zombies) in a wholly new environment with new characters. There will be reuse in there, a brick wall looks the same in Pennsylvania or Georgia/Louisiana, but it's not the same environments.

And I think they broke L4D2 with the new mechanics and zombies. Or, to be more charitable, they turned it into a different kind of game than the first (harder, more tactical) which, for me, took a lot of the fun out of it. So, maybe just doing "more of the same" in C2 will be preferable over making changes that take away from what made the original fun.

ruhk wrote:
I'm somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Saints Row 2, yet..

That seems like a really good point. Saints Row 2 had so much content I don't remember it ever being an issue that it was set in only a slightly upgraded version of the city.

ruhk wrote:
I'm somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Saints Row 2, yet. They tweaked a few neighborhoods and added some islands and a little landmass around the edges of the city, but it's still the same Stilwater- enough so that I was able to navigate the city using only landmarks the first time I played.

I'd have probably had a problem with Saint's Row 2 if I'd played the first game. Even then, I got the second game because of the coop. The jump to two player is a lot bigger than the jump from two to four player.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:
I'd have probably had a problem with Saint's Row 2 if I'd played the first game. Even then, I got the second game because of the coop. The jump to two player is a lot bigger than the jump from two to four player.

I had no problem with the recycling of real estate in Saints Row 2. The city was basically the same as the first, as were the game mechanics, but there was so much new content in terms of story and gameplay that the scenery didn't really matter. At this point, I'm not holding it against Crackdown 2 for re-using the city, because that's not what matters. I'm withholding my final judgment until I see what content Ruffian has put in place to take advantage of the city. The demo was not encouraging, but I've seen enough demos to know that they aren't always as representative as they should be, so I'm trying to remain agnostic on the issue until the actual game is spinning in the console.

That's a harsh assessment. I can't really argue, though. You're right, it is just more Crackdown. The fact that I want that doesn't make it any more than that.

I will buy.

To explain, to me it's not a $60 cash grab. On launch day I will get the game for $30 thanks to a nice sale, and it really will feel like Andrich said in the podcast. It will feel like an Oblivion expansion. If others in the comments could get a better price with a little research would that change some minds?

xrayzwei wrote:
I will buy.

To explain, to me it's not a $60 cash grab. On launch day I will get the game for $30 thanks to a nice sale, and it really will feel like Andrich said in the podcast. It will feel like an Oblivion expansion. If others in the comments could get a better price with a little research would that change some minds?

This is something that probably bothers me more than it should. I think it's funny that gamers (not the GWJ guys in particular, just the "hardcore" community in general) who are even moderately tuned into things would use the terminology "$60 game" when it's so easy to get them at a reduced rate. With the hugely competitive preorder deals from places like Amazon and the even more competitive price drops a few short weeks after the release of most games, if you pay $60 for a game, the only thing you have to blame is your own laziness.

xrayzwei wrote:
I will buy.

To explain, to me it's not a $60 cash grab. On launch day I will get the game for $30 thanks to a nice sale, and it really will feel like Andrich said in the podcast. It will feel like an Oblivion expansion. If others in the comments could get a better price with a little research would that change some minds?

To me, the value proposition is whatever the cost is versus four player cooperative. As the cost goes down the propositions swings towards attractive again. If a $30 expansion came out for Crackdown 1 that altered the city a bit, added new objectives, and added two more players, I think I would be cool with that, so likewise I'd be cool with a $30 Crackdown 2.

Regardless of how frugal you are, isn't it the Recommended Retail Price? Microsoft are selling it as a full price product, it's the retailers who are making it more attractive. Really that's what this is about, changing a few variables, how much you charge for how much and what type of content, to see how many buy it. It's the same with any game.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:
ruhk wrote:
I'm somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Saints Row 2, yet. They tweaked a few neighborhoods and added some islands and a little landmass around the edges of the city, but it's still the same Stilwater- enough so that I was able to navigate the city using only landmarks the first time I played.

I'd have probably had a problem with Saint's Row 2 if I'd played the first game. Even then, I got the second game because of the coop. The jump to two player is a lot bigger than the jump from two to four player.


Saints Row was never "about" the city, though. Crackdown was about jumping and climbing all around the city while I just drove through Stillwater. The whole idea of the environment was much more important to the original Crackdown.

Scratched wrote:
Regardless of how frugal you are, isn't it the Recommended Retail Price? Microsoft are selling it as a full price product, it's the retailers who are making it more attractive. Really that's what this is about, changing a few variables, how much you charge for how much and what type of content, to see how many buy it. It's the same with any game.

I guess I was poking at something without really saying it, and your comment sorta bridges the gap. I really think that if people are really bothered by this Crackdown 2 situations, prices will adjust to compensate. As much as I'm sure I'll enjoy the game, you guys are right - it's not offering MUCH more than an expansion. I imagine this will suffer a price drop very soon after release to $40, at which point I hope it kinda gets a retail comeback from the hardcore.