Microsoft Game Studios has been ridiculously quiet since the Xbox 360 launch and there isn't all that much to show from their publishing stable on the 360. Microsoft does have major support from third parties however which has allowed them to do this and the wait is most definitely going to be worth it. Next out from these guys is Crackdown, a sandbox style game which puts you in the role of future policemen who can increase their abilities to take criminals down. If this sounds like GTA,
then you are on the right track as some of the designers from DMA Design, the original GTA developer, are working on Crackdown. We recently went hands on with a preview build and we can assure you that while the Halo 3 Beta is coming with this title, it will easily stand on its own.
While we don't know too much about the storyline yet and probably won't until the final game ships, we do know that you will join a futuristic police force having to take down perps and generally kick some arse in the city that you patrol. Interestingly a main character is not defined by the game and you have a few characters to choose from. There is no difference between them initially so the developers have missed an opportunity to add some more replay value there.
The game most definitely plays like a futuristic GTA3 except there are a few notable differences which make the game not only a different gaming experience, but perhaps sometimes a frustrating one as well. Basically, unlike GTA, you are given missions as you go around the world to take down criminal bosses. To do this, you drive to their location,
take down a heap of perpetrators and then get the boss. It sounds fairly boring when you put it in simplistic terms like that, but in practice it's an incredibly appealing game as the world that Crackdown is set in looks to be something special.
Basically the more you play the game the better your character becomes, and in turn the more enjoyable the game becomes. It is a game that you will need to be patient with as the first one to two hours could be lackluster until you jump around and shoot enough to level your character up. Plus, it is also sometimes difficult to know exactly what you are doing. After you defeat the boss character, you get a debriefing, but then nothing else until you drive around for a while and the game decides to give you another mission.
This is the main concern we have for the game because other than that it is a heck of a lot of fun. The draw distance is absolutely stunning - you have never been able to look so far in a game with such luscious graphics and no frame rate impact. Obviously there will be more variety in the final game but the time we have had with it really didn't stray too far from this which is a little disconcerting.
[quote]Basically the more you play the game the better your character becomes, and in turn the more enjoyable the game becomes[/quote]The driving engine isn't exactly the best either, however we are putting that down to the fact that driving is most likely one area where your character levels up. If you expect to jump into Crackdown and control cars like in GTA, you will be horribly disappointed. However, there is a variety of cars to choose from, and being on the police side, generally you can get away with a lot more without getting the heat on you than in GTA.
As mentioned before the graphics of the game are looking incredible. The draw distance allows you to see right out to the horizon with no pop up whatsoever. Jumping up to the tallest building and looking around gives you an incredible view and points to the high level of detail the developers have put into the game. Also, the comic book style of the game works really well. It's not cell shaded but it's half-realistic, half-cartoon. It is obvious that this technology has allowed the developers to put some incredibly detailed environments in without impacting the frame rate.
Multiplayer is also going to be innovative with drop in/drop out gameplay available like what is seen in Star Wars Lego. This means you can be playing in multiplayer, and your friend can drop in and then drop out of the game any time without impacting the action.
Crackdown is a game that only recently started to gain a real big level of hype and Halo 3 is no doubt partly responsible, but the game can stand on its own two feet and is now one of our most wanted. There are a few concerns but we have confidence that these will be ironed out by the time the final game ships next month. The fact Halo 3 Beta is coming with it is only a bonus and not the primary reason to buy this game.