Crackdown has been one of those games that has snuck under the radar. With Gears of War dominating the Xbox 360 landscape since its launch in November, Crackdown has kind of been in the background. For a lot of people that changed on in mid-January when the Crackdown demo was released on Xbox Live. Immediately people took notice of the sandbox game and it rocked to the number four spot on Xbox Live. We were fortunate enough to get an interview with the producer one of the more highly anticipated game for the Xbox 360.
GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
Hi, my name’s Phil Wilson and I am the producer for Crackdown at Realtime Worlds in Dundee, Scotland. The role of the producer is incredibly varied, interesting and enjoyable…yet largely unglamorous; the general remit, though, is to steer a great game into port via some inevitably uncharted and stormy seas. I’ve been in the industry for 11 years now, beginning as a level designer then moving into a design lead position before, in late ’99, taking on responsibility for the whole dev team…and never looking back. Though the role hasn’t changed on the face of it, the challenges have increased exponentially as development budgets, team sizes and ambitions have exceeded even recent dreams! So the draw has been both challenge and reward, and thankfully Crackdown has now delivered in full!
GamingNexus: Ever since Grand Theft Auto III burned up the sales charts the open world sandbox game has been a mostly single player affair. Can you go into greater detail about the game's cooperative mode? What was the impetus about adding multiplayer to the game?
“Crackdown” will take complete advantage of cooperative gameplay. How could it not? In a world this destructible, players simply can’t imagine the possibilities for wide scale, team-driven chaos. Gamers will indeed be able to tackle the single-player campaign in co-op mode in order to double-up on the damage, offering new strategies and possibilities that couldn’t be accomplished by a single player. The beautiful thing about Crackdown’s cooperative gameplay is that you and your friend aren’t forced to play in a small area. From the get go you’ll have the whole world open to you. You can be on one end of the game world while your friend is on the other end. Conversely you could be riding in the same car. Or even better, you’re driving the car while your friend is riding on top while firing his grenade launcher.
GamingNexus: Outside of the cooperative mode, will Crackdown feature any competitive multiplayer modes?
While Crackdown doesn’t feature any competitive multiplayer modes, we have seen many of a cooperative session move into a hilarious, albeit unsanctioned, me versus you battle. I mean you do have a weapon in your hand and so does your mate…
GamingNexus: From the screenshots and movies that are out the game has a very unusual art style, what was the reason you decided to go with the style you did?
When Dave Jones explained the concept and sheer scale of Crackdown to the team it became abundantly clear that we needed to make the game’s styling as over the top as the action he wanted. Everything he talked about was turned up to 11 so a world of drab grey and brown tenement buildings didn’t seem to be the best way to stage this. It was obvious to us from the start that the best reference point for this type of game already existed in comics and graphic novels which, despite having a variety of visual styles, all have the same fundamentals in common… they aim to depict a mixture of great drama and intense action in every page and often with an exaggerated palette that accentuates it all, which has turned into an extremely unique and compelling look for Crackdown.
GamingNexus: Other than cars, can you talk about the kinds of vehicles we can expect in Crackdown?
You’ll have dozens of vehicles at your disposal. Of course any motor vehicle that comes whizzing by is yours for the taking. Often you’ll need to take the vehicle out of the hands of a civilian or a criminal, but since you are an agent of justice it’s all in the pursuit of peace after all. ;)
As far as the vehicles go, they range from beat up old sedans to buses to dump trucks to supercars. Finding the right vehicle for any given activity isn’t all the difficult. The Agency (your employer) also provides you with access to three Agency vehicles. The Supercar, the SUV and the Semi-Truck. These vehicles performance and appearance actually change with your Agent’s driving abilities. For example, if you are high level driver, the Supercar will do upwards of 200mph and you can shoot anything in your path with the hood mounted machine guns. In the case of the Agency SUV, roll over nearly any obstacle in your path and at it’s highest level you can actually ‘hop’, due to its spring mounted suspension, over objects, walls, crowds, etc. Finally, the Agency Semi-Truck is a 10-ton wrecking machine. If you’re in the way of this thing, you’re day just got really bad…especially if I just hit turbo.
GamingNexus: Can you talk about the influences of Pacific City? What kind of movies, comics and TV shows was this fictional location influenced by?
There were also a number of movies that influenced our design; ‘Batman’ for the inimitable Deco/Gothic style of Gotham city, ‘Equilibrium’ for its austere and foreboding buildings, ‘The Fifth Element’ for its bold palette… and a Mange movie called ‘Blood – the Last Vampire’ for its sumptuous lighting. As far as our lead Agent goes, not every superhero is tall, dark, handsome and white. In our efforts to make the Agents as diverse and complex as possible, we drew our initial inspiration from the popular comic book character, Blade. Before we had made any decisions on the character’s race, Blade was featured heavily in our reference material. He’s a super-hero with a very dark side and the sequences of him jumping from building to building in the first Blade film were key to what we were trying to accomplish with our own characters. We suppose that the streaks on the side of our character’s head at level five are in homage to Blade’s famous hair styling.
GamingNexus: I love the idea of playing this type of game with superpowers, but will the characters earn the different moves over the course of the game or will we have access to all of the powers from the get-go?
As you play through the game you’ll be able to increase your Agent’s abilities across five core attributes – Firearms, Agility, Strength, Driving and Explosives. Each time you level up in one of these attributes you’ll see changes in your Agent. These changes will affect your physical appearance but they also affect your abilities in the fields. For example, a high level explosive expert can create explosions of great magnitude. The same goes for a high level agility Agent. You might initially only be able to jump up one floor, but as you ramp up your skills you can jump three or four stories…or even jump great chasms across city blocks.
GamingNexus: I've heard that the Japanese version of Crackdown will have a completely different protagonist, is this a character that American gamers will be able to access or download at some point?
Crackdown and Riot Act will offer all the same Agents for play. The marketing team in Japan has simply chosen to feature the Asian agent in their marketing communications.
GamingNexus: How diverse are the different missions? Are there any that stand out in your mind and really define what you are trying to do with Crackdown?
The missions themselves are organic in that they change dependent on what gang bosses you’ve taken out previous to any new mission. So for example, if I remove the weapons officer for a gang, you’ll see that any future boss fights (for the same respective gang) the gang members will have reverted to less powerful numbers. The same thing happens if I remove their recruiter before taking on another gang boss; in that you’ll see their numbers dissipate. You can try to tackle the kingpin straightway, as all 21 gang boss missions are open to you from the beginning, but you’ll likely get smoked until you take out some or all of his underlings. The locations of these missions also very greatly – from tackling a gang boss stationed on an oil rig to taking out a gang boss hiding away in the bowels of chop shop. As far a variety, how you accomplish the mission is up to you. That’s certainly one of our differentiators. You don’t have to go from point A to point B or escort this or snipe this person and then that person to finish the mission. Instead it’s up to you (and perhaps your co-op Agent) to decide how best to tackle any given mission. You might swim in, you might come in thru a back door or you might come in the front door, Rambo style. It’s up to you, but your Agent’s earned abilities may (or may not) complement your chosen method.
GamingNexus: Will players be able to customize their character, or there a pre-determined character you play all the way through?
Your play style will customize the character. If you are a character who is keen to use his strength, you will see your character begin to put on some serious mass. If you focus on your Agility, you’ll probably look more like a gymnast. If you are focus on both, you’ll probably end up looking a bit like a male version of Mary Lou Retton. ;)
GamingNexus: Can you talk about the various Achievements in Crackdown? What are some of the more memorable achievements you created for the game?
There are over 40 achievements. Two of my personal favorites are “Base Jumper” and “Global Impact”. With Base Jumper you have to climb to the top of the Agency tower, the tallest building in Crackdown, and then survive a jump into the water below. Easier said then done. With “Global Impact” we’ve placed a certain object in a certain location. You need to find this object and then beat down 15 criminals with it. There are a lot of unique achievements in Crackdown. I could go on, but I’d rather you discovered them for yourself.
GamingNexus: About how large is Pacific City? Are you considering adding more areas later as downloadable content?
Pacific City is 10 square miles of landmass and includes 8 miles of freeway. The city’s tallest building would rival the Empire State Building at 364 meters tall. The key thing to keep in mind is that this game has been built for vertical exploration as well as horizontal exploration. Much of the action is going to take place on rooftops, ledges, balconies and even underground. Feel free to take a swim too.
We’d like to thank Phil for taking the time to answer our questions as well as to Steve for helping to coordinate the interview.