Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Crackdown On the 360 - Yay Or Nay?
Posted by Diggler - 10/3/2007 16:43

Click to enlarge
Crackdown's a futuristic, freeform crime fighter in which you play a super cop - essentially working for OCP - tasked with taking out hits on high profile gang lords
Like Crackdown itself, I'll keep this short. We have a ton of other games to discuss after all. Real Time World's new crime fighter is still deserving of our time and attention however, in that it's - to my eyes - the greatest GTA style game I've played in a bloody long time. Sorry Saint's Row.

To compare to GTA or Saint's sells it a little short, mind. Although created by Dave Jones - the mastermind behind the very original GTA titles before they went 3D - Crackdown could be considered his twist on how the series should have gone when it made that jump to three dimensions. While it boasts the same wide-open world, the ability to jack traffic, and best of all cause as much chaos as you could ever possibly imagine...this time the freedom's been ramped up considerably on top.

There's no linear series of missions, there's no unlockable districts, there's no real story, even. You're simply a super cop sent out to clean up three cities, and that's about it. This essentially just involves whacking three gang leaders - which you could in theory bugger off and carry out immediately, thus completing the game in a mere 20 minutes - but it won't be easy. A far smarter and safer method would be to take out these evil empires from the ground up. Attacking their various generals - arms dealers, recruiters, etc - has drastic effects on how the organizations work you see, so wiping out their vehicle depots for instance, will result in less cars on the streets, while nabbing the aforementioned recruiters will thin out their overall numbers and lighten the load when you tackle those big bad bosses. Your ability to even the odds however you so wish is a fab concept, and really makes the world feel alive, reacting to your every action.

"I Can See My House From Here!"

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Platforming proves a huge part of Crackdown's draw, boasting Hulk-style skyscraper leaps with Prince of Persia-esque wall-hanging
While these crazed assaults on heavily armed enemy outposts make up pretty much the bulk of Crackdown's gameplay though, they are far from all there is to it. Leveling up your character is arguably the true driving force behind the entire game in fact. A mixture between Robocop and The Hulk, your enigmatic toon - referred to solely as "Agent" - is just as flexible as the mission structure you see. By using nothing but weaponry, your firearm skills increase, while beating on gang members with your fists bulks up strength. Hell, by dedicating your life solely to running dudes over, you can even beef up your driving skills. As well as improving speed, skill, accuracy and so on, these attributes come with graphical alterations too. Your character will bulk up physically as his strength does for example, while a driving expert will be able to transform his cars into humungous Batmobile-looking motherfuckers that can scale vertical walls.

Best of the bunch for me though, was working on my agility skills. By tracking down hidden "orbs", your character's movement speed - and far more importantly, jumping height - increase exponentially you see, and it's a fab feature that proves Crackdown's most unique and original addition to the genre. As your leaps start to rival buildings in height, it becomes all too clear that antiquated vehicles mean absolutely nothing in this game - getting from point A to point B becomes far quicker (not to mention immeasurably more fun) by simply leaping and hopping across rooftops. It's like The Matrix, only cool.

The search for these illusive orbs became my fave past-time in Crackdown. High above the world, far from the hustle and bustle of traffic jams and gang-shoot outs below, the game really starts to show its strengths. Hopping from factories to office blocks to gigantic oil rigs without touching the ground becomes a genuine joy, and you find yourself getting so high on occasion, full-on vertigo starts to kick in. I can honestly say, I've never experienced that in a game before. Quite simply, Real Time Worlds have - perhaps unintentionally - crafted one of the coolest platform games in years. This affects the assassinations as well, as leaping and springing across buildings to find the most direct and less conspicuous route to your marks can prove a surprisingly tactical, if under-stated affair. It's like Mario 64 and Spider-man 2 inseminated Mercenaries' combat system...and I must say their resulting fetus holds together surprisingly well.

"What is Your Malfunction, Agent?!"

Click to enlarge
Although the comic-book look won't rev everyone's engine, the sheer spectacle of the draw-distance is truly mind-blowing. My god...
Of course, it ain't all good news. As refreshing as the freedom is, and as flat-out fun as the exploring and combat prove, variety ain't Crackdown's strongest point. Platform diversions aside, you're essentially doing the same thing from beginning to end here; shooting lots of dudes, with lots of weapons. I yearn for a Crackdown sequel that takes these basic ideas, then weaves some far more interactive and interesting missions into the proceedings. There's one target here who's only accessible by manually blowing up three computer consoles adorning the perimeter of his base, and even such a simple and bare-bones addition makes the world of difference in this one scarce instance. Sadly it's never followed through or repeated again for the rest of the game though. How about some escort missions next time? Perhaps some stealthing? Even a bomb defusal level...just something. Anything. Sadly your finger seldom leaves the trigger.

While the freeform ability to tackle the three bosses by any means and order you so please is also kinda cool, this freedom sadly results in the distinct lack of any sort of cohesive narrative or flow. Tossing my final target off the top of his ludicrously tall skyscraper to the distant blur of a ground miles below was a feeling of genuine exhilaration...but hardly the climactic ending I was hoping for. The game just sorta ends out of nowhere as a result - a "Rainbow Six Vegas" as I call it - and you really feel like it's missing a final act to cap it all off in style.

This of course leads us onto Crackdown's biggest prob; it's ludicrously short length. When coupled with the double-edged sword of being hugely addictive, Crackdown becomes one you could quite conceivably polish off completely in a weekend.

"Bitch!"

Click to enlarge
Crack's two-player mode is a mammoth addition to the game - and genre - plus one with pleasing freedom, in that you can work together as little or as much as you like
Fear not however. With all bosses taken care of, the game rolls on regardless, allowing you to max out your toon, engage in some mildly fun race challenges, and of course track down every last one of its 800 odd hidden orbs. Thrown in with some inspired Achievements, the promise of downloadable content, and the all-too-pleasing co-op mode, and Crackdown thankfully grows some extra legs, ones worryingly lacking in its main campaign. That two player mode especially adds a freshness to this game never really explored in GTA titles previously, letting you and a pal tackle your targets with some more forethought and tactics simply not there in solo play. Plus, of course, blowing one another up and chucking your buddy's car into the river proves never endingly hilarious. It's a welcome addition, and the sort of thing Rockstar better be taking notes on for GTA4.

There's other stuff I could praise too. The physics are hilariously over the top, the music's fab, and the tutorial voiceover guy is so ludicrously funny, only Wario Ware's recent counterpart manages to better him in the pant-wetting department. Forget all that though, it's the graphics I gotta chuck the most dick-love at above all else; the cell-shaded look may not be for everyone, but its simplicity affords Crackdown the ability to display officially the largest views ever seen. You can literally stand atop the Agency HQ in the center of the map, and see the entire bloody game. There's no fogging, no pop in...and most impressively of all, no damn slow-down. It truly is a spectacular sight, and real next-gen shit you couldn't have imagined five years ago.

I never would have guessed the big 360 game for Q1 of this year would have been Crackdown over Lost Planet, but Real Time Worlds came through with a most pleasant surprise here. Its lack of missions, poor lifespan and Marmite art style drag it down from the realms of classic status, but it is a damn solid, immeasurably polished and most of all flippin' fun game that deserves to be bought solely on its own strengths...as opposed to just "that game with the Halo 3 beta".

(Pictures courtesy of Xbox)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

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Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

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Matt Robinson, 2011

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