Taking to the streets of Pacific City with a friend in the first game was a defining moment for the sandbox genre, and Ruffian Games has been sure to build on that success. Perhaps the most important feature that Crackdown 2 brings to the table is four player co-op, which drastically changes the way you might play the game. While some players might patrol the streets as an intimidating quad of uber-enforcers, others are content to simply do their own thing, fighting crime from different corners of the city.
For those that do decide to chum up, there are all new co-op vehicles such as the Turret Truck and Agency Helicopter which can be exploited for maximum carnage. The campaign has been designed around allowing four players to tackle a challenge however they see fit. Again, Ruffian has gone to great lengths to leave everything up to the player – there's no right or wrong way to tackle a mission, just a range of options and alternatives.
Fundamental changes such as four-player co-op aside, Crackdown 2 offers the same eclectic mix of features you'd expect from any other sequel. New environments, new vehicles and new guns are all interesting in their own right, but none of these are particularly worthy of discussion. Mag Grenades, on the other hand, I could talk about all day. By far the most interesting addition to an Agent's arsenal, these sticky grenades form a magnetic bond with other Mag Grenades, allowing players to connect vehicles and other inanimate objects in a web of elasticised magnetism.
The scope of possibility for such a device is vast. Connect a car to a lamppost, for example, and you could pick up the lamppost and swing the car about like a giant magnetised flail. Or, you could attach two grenades to two walls, with a third attached to a car in the middle, creating a slingshot of sorts. The physics that govern the Mag mechanics are perhaps the greatest new toy in the Crackdown playground. I spent far too long messing around with these when I perhaps should have been ploughing through the campaign, but that's the nature of the open world experience; distraction without consequence.
I left the preview event with the same high I might have felt after leaving the playground when I was seven or eight. I was buzzing from the madness of it all; the unscripted mayhem that seemed to follow me around the city. Saying this, Crackdown has had some fierce competition since it was released back in 2007. Games such as Prototype, Infamous and Just Cause all offer similar experiences and innovate the genre in their own ways. In order to remain king of the playground, Crackdown 2 needs to prove that it can keep up the pace. Gamers are intrinsically drawn to the playgrounds with the best facilities for fun, and the standards today are much higher than they were in 2007.
Crackdown 2 is scheduled for release July 9 on Xbox 360