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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2010

Game On: Crackdown 2 ***

BY JUSTIN HOEGER
McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

Crackdown delivered a dose of fantastic open-world action, with its overpowered supercop rampaging through the various gangs of Pacific City.

The game ended on a cliffhanger, with the Agency behind the player's pumped-up protagonist revealed to have engineered the fall of those criminal gangs to take control of the city for itself.

Ten years later, the city is worse off than ever. In Crackdown 2, zombielike mutants called Freaks rule the streets by night, and a new mega-gang called Cell patrols during the day. The Agency is just getting its supercop program back online with a new generation of clones, and the player takes control of the first success.

Freaks don't just hate sunlight - it burns them to ash. The Agency plans to install a series of beacons that will emit bursts of sunlight into the Freaks' underground lairs, destroying them all. The Cell is throwing a wrench into this plan, however, by taking over the power generators meant to feed energy to the beacons.

The player's main mission is to activate all nine beacons. A beacon is vulnerable to the Freaks while being activated, so the Agent must protect each as it comes online. It's also wise to suppress the activities of the Cell and bury the Freaks' emergence points, and there are numerous other side activities.

Crackdown 2 is fun, but rehashes the original too much in some ways and not enough in others - the new game is just as repetitive as the first, but hunting down gang leaders was a more interesting goal than is activating the beacons.

The first game let players team up with a friend over Xbox Live. The sequel allows up to four players to share the same Pacific City in pursuit of the game's objectives or just to run amok - among the game's weapons, gadgets, and the Agents' powers, the potential for hilarious chaos is extreme. A handful of competitive online modes are also introduced.

As in the first game, the player's Agent gains levels in five attributes by exercising them. Finding agility orbs (usually placed high up) and running rooftop races increases his Agility level.

Hand-to-hand combat increases Strength skill; fancy vehicular moves increase Driving skill; blowing stuff up boosts Explosives; and shooting enemies improves Firearms.

Each new level includes a dramatic increase in power for that skill, and often a new weapon or vehicle to play around with.



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