Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reading Between The Lines in Videogames - by Syko Shadow

I just wanted to write this in a quick response to magx's Crackdown 2 Post , seeing as how I'm probably a bigger fan of the first game than even him, and hopefully my thoughts on the game will help my friend magx in his spiritual quest for gaming enlightenment. First things first though:

I fucking called it, Crackdown 2 sucks the sweaty bald spot on the bottom of a man's ballsack, at least when it is compared to the first game.

Now, I'm nowhere near forgiving when it comes to videogames. In fact, my judgement can be harsh and overly-critical at times, but we're talking about the sequel to one of my favorite games this generation! I was wanting this game to make me all moist in my trousers, so it wasn't through lack of hype that I realized this game would not be very good.

I simply read between the lines.

Before the game came out, my two biggest complaints seemed small and petty to other people. I was beefing on the game for having a crap soundtrack and poor character design in the case of the Agent. Now, things like that matter to me more than most other people in the first place, but it does tie in to the overall game in some subtle ways. I was mainly beefing on the inclusion of a Johnny Cash song to the Crackdown 2 soundtrack. Most people would argue that you can't judge an entire soundtrack by one song.

I say you can, as long as you read between the lines.

Personal taste aside (i.e. I think Johnny Cash is shit), the addition of country rockabilly music to a game like Crackdown is just plain wrong. That'd be like adding gangsta rap to Portal, it just would not fit with the game whatsofuckingever. And no soundtrack has ever had only one song of a particular genre, so I knew there would be more country and rock-n-roll where that came from. Turns out I was right (as usual), seeing as how the full soundtrack list also boasts names such as Bob Dylan and Blue Oyster Cult.

Not to mention that the addition of this type of music would say further things about the entire soundtrack, and even perhaps the game beyond that. After all, anyone stupid enough to add rockabilly to Crackdown 2 must not be very good at compiling a good soundtrack. Lo and behold, I was right again! Whereas the first Crackdown boasted a songlist of over 100 tracks, all from great underground electronica and latin musicians, the list of songs for Crackdown 2 is a pitiful 50+ songs, consisting of a honey-nut clusterfuck of songs from random genres that not only fail at fitting the setting of the game, but don't even mesh well with the other songs. Because Public Enemy goes so well with Bob Dylan, don't it?

And to think I deduced all of this from one song on the list. How did I do it?

I read between the-- ok you get the idea.

Another early complaint I had about the game was the fully-armored look for the Agent. Again, some of it was pure personal preference, but most of it was because I saw the new Agent as a complete downgrade from the original. The first Agent in Crackdown looked the part perfectly, a super-powered law enforcer, like Judge Dredd on steroids. What does Crackdown 2's Agent look like? Well, he looks more like a third-rate Master Chief clone than anything resembling a cop of the future. So what does this say about the game once you "read between the lines?" Well, for starters it, like the soundtrack, showed that Ruffian, the developer of Crackdown 2, cared little, if at all, about the setting and tone of the Crackdown universe, as laid down by Realtime Worlds, the people who made the first Crackdown. It also showed a game design downgrade, as now the character customization would be less than the first game, and less is never a good thing in terms of sequels.

Whereas in Crackdown 1, you were given a multitude of unique faces and identities to choose from, in Crackdown 2, you get to choose from a limited list of palette-swaps for the color of your armor! Awesome! Oh, and whereas Crackdown 1's character selection featured very unique-looking characters of various origins, including Viking, Goth, Awesome Black Guy who's on the game cover, and others, Crackdown 2 boasts a total of 4 selectable characters, those being generic white guy, generic black guy, OTHER generic white guy, and generic Asian guy. The character models themselves were downright hideous, which actually made me appreciate the fact that your very first skill upgrade covers your Agent's head permanently behind a helmet, never to be seen again, which of course makes selecting character heads in the first place completely fucking meaningless.

What does this have to do with reading between the lines? Well, if they fucked up this bad on something as (relatively) simple as character design, and render entire portions of their own game design moot, what hope is there for the more intricate and complex parts of the game?

I'm just saying, ignoring even the littlest bits of info will cost you dearly once the game's release comes around the corner and you have to decide whether or not to blow 60 bucks on the game. By the time of Crackdown 2's release, I had already prepared for a game that was far inferior to its predecessor, and thus when the demo came, I expected it. Of course, I was right again. Reviewers be fucked, a game cannot be forgiven for the number of fucked-up bullshit this goddamn game had, just in the motherfucking demo. Magx said he had fun with the demo, so he must have downloaded the Crackdown 1 demo by accident or some shit! A lock-on system as broken as hell that seemed to have an intense fixation with empty stationary vehicles, manual aiming that does jack shit, continuous grinding mission objectives, it's fucking horrible, and had I not been expecting all of this before the demo's release, I might have tried to convince myself the demo was somehow wrong, seeing as how I actually did want this game to succeed, and thus I would have wasted 60 bucks on a sequel far inferior to the game I already own. This game isn't the godsend I thought it would be a year ago, it's a Cthulhu-send. I'm guessing magx wasn't so ready, hence why he has become so traumatized by the conundrum of Crackdown 2 not being a gift from the god neither one of us believes exists. It's ok, I'm here for you magx... and your wallet, but nevermind that for now.

Some people say never judge a game until it's released, that's bullshit. I had already expected the game to be less than I hoped before the demo came out, not because of the information about the game given at the time, but more so the information that wasn't directly stated, but could still be deduced from what they did say outright. As I said:

Read between the lines!


  1. Like I said before, you were just being pessimistic but it turned out you were right.

  2. I feel like you're being me, and I have to tell me that he's right, but, like me, him being right isn't enough, he has to go a tiny step too far and overlook the good ;)

    Are you right? Almost unequivocally. The only small corrections I would make are that many of the RTW people are at Ruffian, the aiming system is wonky but it was wonky in CD1 as well. Also, there were a few postive additions to the game. Other than that, yes, everyting I said in the post you are responding to, and everything you have said, is true. There is a lot wrong with the game.

    That all being said......I bought it. Well, my wife picked it up for me, being the sweetheart she is, but I bought it just the same. I was a day late trying to rent it, due to illness, and then, predictably, it was out by the time I got there. And so I went home empty handed, and not having it was eating at me. I mean, goddamn it, it's fucking CRACKDOWN! and other people were playing it. Sure, people were ragging on it, but other peopel were also playing co-op and doing all that shit that makes Crackdown so great, only now with 4 people. And so, there is now a copy of it in my house.

    How do I feel about that? Mixed. The coe gameplay is still intact, but this really is a shitty sequel. Fun, but very bland. This gen has been fucking disappoitning in terms of sequels for me. Ninja Gaiden II, Fable II, DMC4, and now Crackdown II. Ah well, I'll still get 40-60 hours out of it, like I did those other disappointing sequels (at their core, I still like them) and I'll hope, just like Ninja Gaiden III (fat fuckin chance now....sad face), Fable III(HA! ya right, based on the lastest word....sad face again) and Devil May Cry 5 (I hope), I'll sit back and hope the next one wows us all.

    Great blog, you're mostly right, but don't miss out entirely. At least rent it; there's still fun to be had and it's already a fuckload beter than that disappointing piece of shit Prototype, and it's a fuckload more fun than GTA IV. Not beter per se, but more fun.

    And yes, the missions fucking suck, as I said in that blog. So far all I have done is fuck around in co-op and level up. I tried the multiplayer, it's okay. Kind of fun but co-op is where the fun is at imo.

    Great post.

  3. Oh, btw, don't forget to tell your readers over at GT you're blogging here!

  4. @Psuedo: Nuh uh! I'm very optimistic! In fact, I'm optimistic about becoming even MORE optimistic! that's how optimistic I am, dammit!

    @magx: As confusing as that first sentence was, I think I saw what you meant... who's "he" again though? lol. It's not that I'm overlooking the good, it's that all the good in this game is also in the first Crackdown.

    I was aware that a few Realtime Worlds devs were at Ruffian, but apparently it wasn't the right ones, because as we can all see, having them there didn't help much. As for the aiming, I don't see what people are talking about, I had no problems in Crackdown 1's aiming. But Crackdown 2's lock-on is a fucking joke. As I said, it locked onto unmoving empty cars parked 10 feet from the guy I was trying to aim at way too often.

    Manual aiming is, as it was in Crackdown 1 as well, fucking broken. The reticule bloom is insane when not locked on, it's horrendous. Also, a small nitpick, but I much preferred Crackdown 1's aiming reticule over Crackdown 2, which uses the standard plus sign reticule. I especially hate that shrinking pentagon thing that shows you when your aim is tightening.

    And as for you giving in and buying it... you crazy, mang. Reeeaal crazy. Although I do want to address what you said here:

    "I mean, goddamn it, it's fucking CRACKDOWN!"

    That's the main thing about the demo that turned me off to the full game. It did not feel like Crackdown to me. It looked and felt more like InFamous meets Halo. I know I keep harping on this, but the music went a long way to solidifying the atmosphere of the first Crackdown, while the soundtrack for this game was, in all respects, pitiful as shit. Not just the music, but the city itself looked like shit. Before, it was bright and colorful, with a vivid palette of colors. Now it's back to GOOD OL' DYSTOPIA BROWN AND GREY! Even when palette-swapping the color of the Agent's armor, you get standard Agency blue, and then 3 different shades of grey. God, I love grey. It's such a great color this generation. Gunmetal grey, dirt brown, and blood red. So pleasing... FUUUUUUUUUCk D:<

    Honestly, I hope you do enjoy it (especially after spending 60 bucks on it, je-YESUS). After all, all the things I say about the game are purely subjective (except for the goddamn aiming, which nobody can deny eats balls), and I can't stress enough how much I wanted Crackdown 2 to succeed. It just failed miserably in my eyes.

  5. Well I never played the original Crackdown, I've got the idea that the game got 50% of it's sales from the Halo 3 Beta invitation, but from the sounds of it the second far is significantly inferior to the first.

    It seems that the first game of new franchises always tries something innovative which reviewers hate but a small, loud, minority of the gaming community love. Then the second game, because of criticism from critics, follows a more generic and safer method to gain praise from critics but hate from the community.

  6. Ya, but Syko, I already told you that in Crackdown, music means nothing to me as I listen to custom soundtracks. Death metal and random chaos/orb hunting=bliss.

    As for th eaiming system, perhaps I am incorrect in my assertion, but I feel like the system was busted in CD1 in the same way (I love the shrinking ret box/select a limb system though, and don't forget the time to lock onto that headshot decreases as you level up). This still burdens them with the issue of WHY DIDNT THEY FIX IT!!!

    However, there's an answer you don't seem to know. It's not satifactory, per se, but it's true: They only had 8 months to work on the game. MS pushed them to release it now during the lull. Also, they are adding pallette colors as part of the free DLC.

    Still, much of what you say is valid. I like flawed games, what can I say. I'll get waaaaaaaaay more hours out of this than the typical AAA games.

  7. I know I'm in the minority when it comes to the music in Crackdown, that's why I stated everything I say is subjective. Still, death metal? In Crackdown? Weirdo...

    You know me, I just care about that sort of thing more than most. Music, art style, atmosphere, I thrive on all that artsy shit. Raw gameplay isn't enough to make me love a game as much as I love Crackdown 1. I could honestly go on for hours about all the stuff in Crackdown 1 I love, and I wouldn't even have to mention the gameplay.

    I just didn't have the same problem with the lock-on in Crackdown 1, and I haven't heard too many other people mention it for the first game either, but when I played the Crackdown 2 demo (like 5 times), the lock-on just kept fucking up, and seeing as how the game relies on lock-on, since manual aiming is trash, it's a major problem, and not one that can be forgiven in my eyes, seeing as how the game is almost nothing but shooting.

    I'm well aware of the lack of time they had to develop the game, seeing as how it was only announced last year with a CGI trailer, but I don't judge games based on how much time it took to make them, it just doesn't factor in. So maybe if Ruffian had more time, they would have presented a better game, but they didn't get more time, and they didn't produce a better game. I can't really give them an A for effort.

    And lol, palette colors as DLC, that's just sad. I'm sorry but it is. Who's going to pay money just for different-colored character textures? I'm sure it wouldn't have been so difficult to just have a palette wheel to customize the color of your Agent's armor anyway, seeing as how it's such a basic and elementary customization option. It's not like we're allowed different models of armor, or anything like that. It's a texture swap! Now I'm actually interested in seeing the price for a DLC palette pack, if it's any more than 160 MSP, I'ma laugh my ass off.

    And you wanna talk about liking flawed games? Bitch, one of my favorite games of all time is Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, and that's about as flawed as you can get while still being playable lol.

  8. Oh wait, I just re-read your comment and I saw the "free" part of the DLC thing for palette swaps. Still, it seems like alot of effort on their part for something so basic, when a palette wheel would have worked much better.

  9. They said the lack of colors is story related.

    Don't ask, I dunno.


    And if it is story-related (god knows how), then why add more colors later and contradict themselves? GAAH! Realtime Worlds would have never made these mistakes! Damn APB for making RTW miss out on Crackdown!


    *hugs Crackdown 2*

    Fuck I dunno. What a shitty launch, sequel, the whole thing. Ah well, still fun, unlike that lying sack of false advertising shit Prototype.....

  12. *hugs Crackdown 1* Mine is better than yours >.>

    And lol, you really have a thing against Prototype, huh.

  13. Amplify your disappointment in Crackdown 2 by 1000.

    Also, I still have Crackdown 1, noob ;)

  14. Going a bit backwards here, reading Syko's review first, but I have to admit that I am not impressed by Crackdown. To me it looks like Dynasty Warriors. With guns. And ugly. So I'd rather take a different game altogether than either Crackdown 2 or Dynasty Warriors. Ninety Nine Nights 2. And fuck me, is that game challenging! Not Ninja Gaiden challenging, mind you magx, but challenging nonetheless.

  15. My buddy rented N3 and he said it was really tough. I think he's actually given up on it.....the pussy ;)

    I tried the demo and just didn't like it. Those games aren't for me.


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