Thanks to expensive flops from “Cleopatra” through “Godzilla” and “The Island,” most people in Hollywood have learned that the best effects and most lavish sets can’t draw audiences if there isn’t a decent story or characters. But the videogame industry — so often immature when it comes to creativity and originality — hasn’t caught on yet, or doesn’t seem to care. “Crackdown” is another in a long line of games that have impressive technology, but a generic storyline, setting and set of challenges that will bore anyone with deeper interests than running around a city mindlessly killing ethnic stereotypes and collecting orbs.
Gamers will mostly recognize “Crackdown” as an attempt to merge the “Grand Theft Auto” series’ open-world concept with the ability to “level up” characters from role-playing games like “Final Fantasy.” But the “GTA” titles each had a specific influence that could be felt throughout the game, such as “Miami Vice” or “Scarface,” as well as a storyline built around the main character.
Aside from a vaguely “Robocop”-esque feel to the proceedings, in which a supercop cleans up a decrepit futuristic city, “Crackdown” is completely bland. The setting, Pacific City, could be any urban area besotted by crime, while the main character is just a random guy given superpowers. While some might consider the ability to choose the main character’s appearance a plus, it also demonstrates how completely generic he is.
Gameplay is an exercise in repetition, as players eliminate an escalating level of crime bosses until they wipe out each of three woefully stereotyped gangs — Latino, Russian and Asian — in Pacific City.
It doesn’t take much thinking to figure out how to kill each gang leader — the only difference is how many thugs surround them and how many bullets, kicks, or hurled items it takes to bring him or her down.
For those who don’t get off on mowing down bodies, there’s always the not-well-hidden back entrance leading directly to the boss.
Use of bright colors gives a fun comic book-ish feel to the graphics, and it’s impressive that players can run or drive from one end of Pacific City to the other without any load times. Sounds are mostly limited to unremarkable explosions and a voiceover actor who issues instructions to the player in a voice so gratingly loud that it sounds like he’s calling down contestants on “The Price is Right.”
There’s a co-op mode allowing players to clean up Pacific City together, but it’s completely unnecessary, and feels tacked on as a way to take advantage of game publisher Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.
The only fun in “Crackdown” comes from collecting orbs, running races, and other exercises that help players turn their cop from mildly superpowered to a demi-god who can throw a truck and literally leap tall buildings in a single bound.
But that’s hardly worth $60.