Friday, February 16, 2007

Crackdown - Retail vs Demo

I spent a good four or five hours with Crackdown last night and thought, since MS was nice enough to send me a copy, that I should go ahead and let everyone know how it plays and how it compares to the version we all downloaded from XBOX Live Marketplace. The biggest difference from the demo is, of course, that it saves your progress. After playing through the demo several times I promised myself that I wouldn’t play it again because it almost feels like you’re wasting your time. No longer a problem!

Another big difference from the demo is that the entire city is open to you from the start. Just drive out to Los Muertos, hit the bridge and drive to any one of the other three islands you like. Just understand that while you can go there, I don’t recommend doing so right off the start seeing as how the baddies are a lot more powerful. If you’re looking for an easy ride you might want to pop into Volk, snag a rocket launcher (the best way to get your explosion rating up), and then continue on with your campaign in the starter islands.

While the demo both accelerates and caps your skill progression, the full retail version finally allows you get to the third and fourth star rating for your skills. After playing for a few hours and vigorously hunting down green and blue orbs, the only skill I’ve managed to get to three stars are agility and explosive power. Individual results will probably vary, I did take some time out to just explore the new environments and didn’t focus constantly and feeding my need for orbs.

While I was taking it slow, apparently the game had other ideas. The first island was cleared out very quickly, indeed too quickly even. To make matters worse after you kill off the general of the island, all the baddies disappear. While this does let you hunt for orbs and complete races unimpeded, it doesn’t do anything for your combat oriented skills which can now no longer be upgraded until you head off to Volk to continue the story. For me this indicated that I should really stop playing the story in Volk and strictly focus on upgrading my abilities before continuing. It’s not really a problem mind you, it was just a little unexpected.

I think my favourite aspect of the game is how you can really affect the world around you. For example, if you take out the car thief, the enemies will be driving beat-up vans instead of sweet sport cars. If you take out their recruiter, suddenly there are less guys on the street. The difference is noticeable to a point. Taking out the sub-bosses doesn’t necessarily make the game too much easier, but a little easier for sure… especially when it comes time to take out the main island general.

All said and done, I’m really going to enjoy clearing out the last two islands and working on some of those more interesting achievements. You’ll be able to pick up Crackdown for yourselves mid next week.