Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Crackdown

Following a dream that's at least as old as Robocop, the gang-ridden city in Crackdown has turned to a new kind of policeman: genetically rewired, utterly anonymous, and easily replaced, the new Agents have the brainless brawn to take back the city. In the open sandbox of Pacific City, you'll chase down gang members, and each stunt and shootout makes you more powerful. In no time, you're jumping 60 feet in the air, scaling giant buildings, and throwing trucks off bridges. If only they'd thrown in invisibility or laser-beam vision, this would be a spectacular superhero game.

Crackdown nails the violence of a gang-warfare game, but somehow feels underdeveloped. The designers have built an immersive city that's great when the bullets are flying, but empties out when the action's over. The panoramic views from the rooftops don't make up for how faceless it looks at street level, and aside from the better boss fortresses, it's missing the subtle "ah-hah" moments that give you reason to linger.

Beyond the game: Amateur ethnologists take note: the Latin gang drives hot rods with giant subs in the back; the Asian gang, run by a guru with a Fu Manchu moustache, boasts lab-coated scientists and flashy cars; and the Eastern Europeans belong to some kind of weird labor union. We can't wait for Crackdown 2: No, Put A Cap in YO Ass!

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Worth playing for: The strength superpower ultimately disappoints: Throwing cars at people gets old, and so does killing henchmen with a single roundhouse kick. But take the time to boost your agility. The super-high standing jumps and the leaps from skyscraper to skyscraper are the best parts of the game.

Frustration sets in when: If the civilians don't want to get run over, they should get the hell away from your car. Or at least off the sidewalk.

Final judgment: A great place to strafe, though you wouldn't want to live here.

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