Microsoft was pushing Crackdown 2 at their booth at PAX East, and boy were we glad. Eight stations each were set up for Rocket Tag and Team Deathmatch. We braved the massive line twice just so we could give you our impressions on both. The fact that we also got to have a blast blowing up fellow PAX goers was just a happy side effect.
The controls will be familiar to you if you have ever played the original Crackdown. The leaping character stats seemed to be maxed out for us, though whether such will be the default for multiplayer or if it was just a convenience for the demo was never established. There were a few new maneuvers. Because you can hardly be expected to try to avoid falling damage, there is now a glide maneuver that accelerates your flight speed and gives you far greater control over your fall. Alternately you can just rain death from above with a ground pound.
The Team Death Match plays magnificently. They had us set up on a shipping yard level. Stacks of shipping containers and giant overhead cranes were the perfect playground for a group of murderous super cyborgs to duke it out. Lock on is very important in the game now, with lock distances varying by weapon. The shotgun locks only at very close range, while the sniper can lock at easily half of the distance of the arena. Some weapons, like the homing rocket, are only truly useful when locked on. Firing off the hip sends an unguided projectile at your target, which helps not at all when you are aiming at a character than can run 50 miles per hour. Locking first sends a homing rocket that is virtually impossible to shake. Other weapons are best used from high above, carpet bombing the ground below with splash damage. Scattered about the map are additional weapons and orbs with a variety of effects. We encountered invulnerability, invisibility, and quad damage, just to name a few.
Scoring is weighted to favor more skillful, more difficult kills. A normal weapon kill nets your team 10 points, while a melee or ground-pound can be worth 30-40. The result is a game that can quickly turn almost surreal as a team far behind starts raining down from the sky with their fists to make up ground. As always, suicide will lose your team points, so be careful with those explosives.
Rocket tag is another thing altogether. An orb appears on the level and there is an initial scramble for it. Points are scored for getting the ball, and big points start to roll in if you can hold onto it until the orb timer hits zero. It is twenty seconds that seems like 20 minutes. Why? Because the instant you've got the orb you are the new target for every player on the board, all of whom spawn with the aforementioned homing rocket launchers. Often if you get too close to the orb bearer while in hot pursuit, people gunning for the golden boy will lock onto you instead, The result is you unintentionally serving as a meat shield for the very man you are trying to kill. Taking down the man with the orb causes it to drop and scores you some points, but picking up the orb takes some serious balls, since it will be at the center of a giant fiery ball of explosions more or less constantly as people blind fire in its general direction to take down those foolish enough to go after it. The game type is a recipe for sweet, sweet chaos.
All told, I waited for perhaps an hour total to play 20 minutes of Crackdown 2, and I say it was a bargain. The game play is simple and familiar enough to pick up almost instantly. I got second place in rocket tag, baby, and there is no shame in that, since I was knocked out of the number one slot by our own Phawx, This little appetizer has got me starving for the release date, and you should be too.