Before getting my hands on Crackdown 2's multiplayer and learning about the fun new ways you can use a jump pad, the guys at Ruffian Games walked us through what the game's single-player campaign was going to be about.
This time around, the developers focused much more on creating a city and population that fights back, instead of a stomping ground for borderline superheroes.
The story opens in a world pushed to the brink of extinction by a viral outbreak. After members of The Agency's super police force unwittingly release a virus in the city the general population responds with a civil uprising, forming The Cell.
During the day The Agency, struggling to start over, must deal with the insurgent Cell members and at night they fight roving bands of sunlight-sensitive mutants.
The game opens with The Agency getting back online and you having to start as an entry-level, unaugmented Agency grunt. Ruffian Games showed us a fly through of the city during the day, pointing out how its citizens use the daylight to gather enough resources to survive the mutant-controlled nights. We saw folks wandering through dilapidated buildings and working on vehicles that looked like they were pulled from the Road Warrior.
The section of the game we saw, Ruffian said, was called Hope Springs, something they described as a great new 3D platforming space. The developers said they are working hard on holding onto the elements of a 3D vertical platformer in an open world and that they've "really tuned up" the draw distance in the game.
As the agent progresses through levels they want players to feel like he or she is more like a weapon than a person, they said. Quickly progressing the agent to level five for the presentation made him noticeably taller, bulkier and more armored.
After arming him with a new weapon, the UV shotgun, the developers took him over to a "freak breach". The breach, which looked an awful lot like an Emergence Hole in Gears of War, is the mechanic the game uses to have the mutants come out into the city at night, the developers said.
In the demo, a series of explosions ruptured the ground and a few seconds later creatures began hopping out of the newly formed crevice. The mutants looked like hunched over, slightly deformed humans with yellow pustules on their bodies. Most wore black jeans and no shirts, though a few seemed to be clothed in wife beaters.
The developer-controlled agent picked up a piece of pipe wrapped in a fairly large chunk of concrete and began pummeling the mutants with it. Next he pulled out his shotgun. Blast from the weapon essentially disintegrated the freaks, which when hit flew away from the agent as them evaporated into the air.
These freaks, the developers said, were designed to be able to follow the agents everywhere, so no more bounding away to safety when things get hairy. Ruffian Games wanted to make sure that they player feels like they're no longer the most powerful thing in the city.
After showing a mission that involved an attack on The Cell, the developers flipped the four-player coop game over to the popular opened-mode of gameplay called Keys to the City.
In Keys to the City gamers can drop just about anything into the world and have fun with it. In the first game this led to a lot of great YouTube videos. Keys to the City 2, it looks like, will lead to even more.
My favorite new weapon, shown off during this mode, is called the mag grenade. These magnetic explosives can be used to create some pretty amazing traps and explosions. The grenades attract to one another, so if you attach them to, say, two buildings, and a third to a car, you'll get what looks like a giant explosive slingshot.
In the demo, the developers did just that and then grabbed the car and pulled it back and let go, shooting it across the map to explode.
You can also shoot the ends off of gas canisters, turning them into out-of-control missiles. The canisters tend to rupture before exploding, which means if you have a bunch of them, they can knock into each other and create a series of missile launches.
The developers wrapped up the presentation by jumping up to the top of an enormous brick chimney jutting from a warehouse in the game. Once perched on the chimney, the developers used Keys to the City to fill the tube with gas canisters, grenades and vehicles. Then they got back and set the whole thing off. Cars, explosions and canisters flew from the structure for several minutes before finally burning out.
The inclusion of robust multiplayer, four-player coop and Keys to the City 2.0 seem to ensure that this latest Crackdown will most certainly be better than the first.
After the demo wrapped up I chatted with the developers about the original game. When it first released it included access to the Halo 3 beta, leading some to say that the Halo 3 beta came with a free game.
The developers told me that they were delighted to see how quickly people changed their tune once getting their hands on the original game. The free Halo 3 beta pass certainly helped put the game on the map, they said, and they'd love to do something similar with Crackdown 2, but they probably won't have to this time around.