Like a lot of Xbox 360 owners, I was exposed to the first “Crackdown” because I wanted access to the “Halo 3” multiplayer beta test. Because having a copy of “Crackdown” was the surefire way to get into the beta, I strolled over to my local Blockbuster and rented the game. Over the next few days, I ended up playing a little bit of “Halo 3” and a bunch of “Crackdown.”


“Crackdown,” released three years ago, played like a good guys’ version of the more recent “Grand Theft Auto” titles. You play the game as a super-powered agent of the law, tasked with taking down criminal street gangs in a huge fictional city that gradually opens up as you play. What made the game addictive was its online co-op and gameplay that caused your agent to gradually develop skills as he used them. If you spent a lot of the game running and jumping, it wouldn’t be long before you were hurtling from one skyscraper roof to the next. If you used physical attacks, you’d eventually be able to pick up cars and hurl them at bad guys. In short, you were a superhero, albeit one that worked for a semitotalitarian police department.

Based on what I saw when Ruffian Games’ James Cope and John Noonan demoed the game at X10 last week in San Francisco, “Crackdown 2,” due out later this year, promises more of the same, but better. Instead of two-player online co-op, you’ll be able to play with a group of up to four. Assuming things progress smoothly, the game will also support split-screen co-op, but that will be offline only. During the demo, Cope’s Xbox 360 froze up when he was demostrating skydiving in co-op mode, but he assured us that aspect of the game is still being worked on and is therefore a bit buggy.

Visually, “Crackdown 2” has a cel-shaded look to it, similar to what you’ll find in the first “Crackdown,” as well as games like  “inFAMOUS” on the PS3 or “Borderlands.” In other words, it looks a bit like a comic book. To make the visuals pop a bit more, Ruffian (taking over for Realtime Worlds, which made the first game) has added a day/night mechanic to the sequel. During the demo, we watched a mission taking place as the sun was setting, and it looked fantastic.

As I watched Noonan take out large groups of enemies while Cope talked about the (sometimes hostile) interplay between “Crackdown 2’s” various factions, I found my mind wandering to my favorite parts of last year’s “inFAMOUS,” in which Cole McGrath frequently found himself smack in the middle of a turf war between two warring gangs, left to decide whether to intervene or let his enemies weaken each other a bit first.

In a lot of ways, “Crackdown 2” has quite a bit in common with “inFAMOUS.” As in that game, you’ll be fighting to eradicate your enemies from individual parts of the map as you retake the city. You’ll also do more than your share of traveling around the rooftops looking for upgrades. Heck, you’ll even gain the ability to glide, a late-game power in “inFAMOUS,” as well.

One thing “inFAMOUS” didn’t have, though, is four-player online co-op. That alone should help “Crackdown 2” become a big hit with foursomes who dug games like “Borderlands,” “Halo 3: ODST” and the “Left 4 Dead” games.