The original Crackdown was one of the first tastes that gamers got this generation of what a modern open world game could do. It followed only 2006's Saints Row and Oblivion as major sandbox experiences, and was praised for innovations in online co-op. The game gained considerable exposure in part from its early release this generation - February 2007 wasn't the busiest time for game releases - and the Halo 3 beta code didn't hurt. That being said, Crackdown by all accounts was a very solid game. From the mind of David Jones, one of the creators of Grand Theft Auto, the design emphasized freedom to experiment, and above all fun. A little over three years later, the environment in the gaming industry has changed significantly, Crackdown 2 now faces competition from all sides and doesn't have the beta bonus. Will it be as successful as its predecessor?
Crackdown 2 will most certainly face a much bigger challenge this time around to grab peoples attention. Since the original was released in 2007, there have been a number of strong, direct competitors such as 2008's Saints Row 2, 2009's inFamous and Red Faction: Guerilla, and very recently Just Cause 2, to name a few examples. Saints Row and Just Cause both produced the fun loving playground atmosphere that Crackdown was so revered for. inFamous was a strong challenger in the superhero arena, and Red Faction's destructibility won it substantial praise. Not to mention competition from other established franchises, Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed immediately come to mind. It's quite possible, outside the core Crackdown fan base, that open world fatigue has begun to set with some mainstream gamers, who are still completing what they already have.
There is also the question of whether changes to the Crackdown development team will affect the end product, although this appears unlikely from what we've seen. Crackdown 1 was produced by David Jones' Realtime Worlds studio, who have now moved onto making APB. However, the new studio tasked with making Crackdown 2, Ruffian Studios, is made up of a large share of the former Crackdown team. Base on what Ruffian has shown so far, it looks like they have a fairly strong vision to expand on the strengths of the original.
The focus of the previews has been primarily on Crackdown 2's freedom of choice in the campaign, and the enhanced cooperative multiplayer. Executive Producer Peter Connelly describes Crackdown 2's campaign as consisting of an "uber mission" that can be accomplished any way the player sees fit. The objective is to spread light around the city to help eradicate the virus that has infested Pacific City and created "the freaks." Once a small section of handholding sections to introduce the core mechanics has been finished the city completely opens up. Players have full control over where they visit, in what order they complete missions, and how they go about it. New additions such as the wing suite (gliding powers), and helicopter provide efficient ways to travel. The name of the game in Crackdown 2 is providing players with a fun, addictive playground and letting them decide how to use it.
Co-op was another selling point for the original, and as such Ruffian has tried to expand the functionality in Crackdown 2. One major criticism of Crackdown's co-op was that it wasn't very user friendly. For instance, if somebody joined or left your campaign, a load screen would end the current session - it was pretty frustrating. With a better online infrastructure, Crackdown 2 is able to have up to four players, instead of two, seamlessly join and play through the campaign. Balancing issues were also a problem in the original if the players' skills weren't relatively equal. It's still unclear what solution Ruffian has for this, but expect them to have something up their sleeve.
While Crackdown 2 appears to be on the right track to build on the foundations of its predecessor, it will no doubt face much steeper competition this time around. The open world genre has taken great strides since the beginning of this generation, so Ruffian really has to step up their game to ensure gamers take note of the sequel. The game is out in North America on July 6th, so stay tuned for more in the coming weeks, and at E3 in June. What do you think Crackdown 2's chances of success are like?