At some point in 2007 I came into possession of a demo disco for the Xbox 360. I don’t remember from where it was obtained, although I can tell you that it was advertised as the “Most GRAWesome” thing ever. See, it was ostensibly a trial for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (aka GRAW 2), but I only played that demo once or twice. It was the second preview on the CD, a timed introduction to a Realtime Worlds sandbox called Crackdown, that I played until the disc wore out. Then I bit the bullet and picked up the full game.
Longtime readers may recognize that as the second time I’ve busted out that story, but it so perfectly illustrates the power of a strong first impression. The immediate and primal enjoyment that characterizes Crackdown is evident from the first steps you take out into Pacific City. As an unnamed government Agent, it is your one and only objective to take down the gangs that run the metropolis. You are dumped into the streets on your own recognizance, with only superhuman powers and an armory of devastating weaponry to get the job done.
It should go without saying that Crackdown strongly influenced the trajectory of open-world gaming. Titles like Just Cause 2 and Saints Row IV crib from it shamelessly, emphasizing freedom and exploration over all else. Other genre entries like Prototype and inFAMOUS clearly take some cues from it, although they refined the formula in service of their plots. It would almost be accurate to say that Crackdown completely forgoes a narrative altogether, but it somehow manages to have both no story and one of the generation’s most memorable plot twists. Let’s just say, “Would you kindly clean up the streets of Pacific City, Agent?”
Of course, the less said about Crackdown 2, the better.
You can find more articles in our 25-in-25 series over here, and stayed tuned tomorrow for another look at a great Xbox 360 title!