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Crackdown (Xbox 360)

Rated: 15

Story: You are a genetically-enhanced law enforcement agent charged with the task of ridding Pacific City of three criminal gangs by taking out the gangs' leaders.

Gameplay: Run, jump and drive round town in third-person, looking for the hideouts of the six generals from each gang, and then take them out. How you do it is up to you. Rush into the lobby guns blazing, ram down the back gates in a truck, go crazy with a rocket launcher or leap across the rooftops straight to the penthouse. Once the generals of each gang are dead, the kingpin's defences are weakened, making a successful assassination more likely.

Increase your speed and agility by collecting enough orbs scattered around in awkward to reach places. Increase your weapon skills and strength by killing enemies. Increase your driving abilities by nailing special jumps, beating time-trials and running enemies over.

Save System: Auto-save whenever you achieve an objective. You can save and quit at any time but stats and progress are remembered not location. Loading a save game means re-starting at a supply point. It seldom takes more than a couple of minutes to get anywhere, though, so this isn't a problem.

Comments: Initially this feels like a basic GTA clone. You drive around a bit, run into a building, shoot some goons and then move on to the next target. Rinse and repeat. There are no proper cut-scenes, not much of a story and no missions exactly. You have to track down likely locations for the gang leaders and then fight your way in. That's it.

Once you've upped your stats a bit, however, things get more interesting. Then you can jump around like a superhero and rain down explosive destruction from above. Exhilarating leaps between sky-scrapers become common place. Frantic fire-fights break out all over.

Your health returns if you don't take damage for a few seconds but so does that of the enemy and they get frequent reinforcements so you can never slowly pick them all off. A mad adrenaline-fuelled dash to the general is often the best approach followed by a tense, chaotic exchange of bullets to see who dies first.

This is much more than a GTA-clone. At times it feels like an evolution of Tomb Raider with nail-biting jumps over vast chasms where you will your agent to reach out just that little bit further. Other times it's like Spider-Man 2 or Hitman. Working out the best way to reach a target takes some exploring and a little thought. Lots of fighting is usually unavoidable, though.

It's where the game tries too hard to ape GTA where things fall down. The 'races' where you have to drive or run through checkpoints in a set amount of time are pure padding. Indeed, driving cars hardly seems worth it most of the time - leaping about can be quicker and is far less likely to get you in trouble for killing passersby.

There isn't a linear set of story missions like in GTA but essentially this just leaves twenty-one assassination missions. That's not very many and some variation would have been nice. Collecting orbs is a good change of pace but any sequel will need fleshing out. Still, Crackdown is excellent entertainment while it lasts.

Conclusion: Great fun but short and occasionally repetitive. Some of the ideas are under-developed.

Graphics: Great. They have a slight cel-shaded look about them which normally annoys me but it's hardly noticeable in the heat of the action. Huge draw distance.

Length: Short.

Rating: 4/5.

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