The protagonist of “Crackdown 2” is a SWAT cop whose most distinctive skill is a vertical leap that lets him scale the sides of skyscrapers.
However, once you’re 20 stories high, you’ll discover that most of the buildings in Pacific City are topped by roofs that jut out a foot or so — just enough to prevent our superpowered hero from climbing on top.
Platform Xbox 360
It’s an all-too-typical flaw in Ruffian Games’ urban adventure, which promises sky-high excitement but continually finds ways to crash to Earth. The original “Crackdown” became something of a cult hit despite similar limitations, but fans who expect a sequel to fix such issues will come away disappointed.
In the earlier game, you fought to wrest control of Pacific City from three criminal gangs. Despite your efforts, though, things have gotten worse 10 years later. The remnants of the gangs have coalesced into a terrorist group called The Cell, and a runaway pathogen has turned half the population into vicious Freaks. The once radiant metropolis is crumbling, but your employer, The Agency, has a plan to stop the chaos.
The essence of that plan, called Project Sunburst, is to expose the Freaks to light. First, you have to seize three generators from The Cell; then you have to drop a beacon into one of the Freaks’ subterranean strongholds and defend it until it detonates.
Pulling off that mission once is challenging enough. “Crackdown 2” asks you to do it nine times — and by the fourth or fifth go-round, you’ll start to wonder when the story gets interesting.
You can break the monotony with vehicular side missions, which require you to drive through checkpoints or pull off stunts, but they won’t cause the designers of “Need for Speed” to lose any sleep. There are also hundreds of floating orbs scattered around town; collect enough and your cop will finally be able to leap from roof to roof (provided he can get on one in the first place).
The rationale behind the scrawny single-player campaign is that “Crackdown 2” is really geared for multiplayer action. You can enlist up to three more agents to assist you, although the missions remain the same: gather at a particular site and kill everyone you see. There’s also a handful of 16-player competitive modes, but they offer nothing that hasn’t been around since the late-1990s heyday of “Quake.”
In the three years since the first “Crackdown,” the multiplayer components in games like “Modern Warfare 2” have evolved far beyond such meager offerings. Open-world adventures like “Red Dead Redemption” have delivered more sophisticated storytelling. And if you just want to climb tall buildings, “InFamous” and “Assassin’s Creed II” will take you higher.
“Crackdown 2” ignores its competitors’ innovations. Fans of the 2007 game may like it — or they may wonder why they should spend another $60 to play, essentially, the same game over again.
Rating: One star out of four.