Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst

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            As the Windows Phone 7’s Xbox LIVE enabled catalogue steadily grows, a number of games are beginning to appear on the format that have been specifically designed to take advantage of the unique features available. The Harvest delivers an almost unparalleled visual fidelity on a mobile handset, and OMG: Our Manic Game is an inspired take on the classic Shoot-‘Em-Up genre that promotes inventive use of the touchscreen. Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst however, is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated of all the exclusive titles, and the most intriguing in it’s use of Windows Phone 7’s unique features also.

            The basic premise of Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is that of a Tower Defence game. While developers Seed may have you believe it’s a ‘home defence’ game, Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst sees the player choose aElectronic Theatre Image placement for their base, before establishing defensive turrets in the positions which they think offer best coverage of the paths which enemy units will travel down. There are many variations in the basic rule set of the genre, most notably in that of the upgrade system, but nonetheless the roots of Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst are the same as that of South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! and the classic Rampart.

            At first placing a base, the player will be able to establish three turrets in the local surroundings in order to fend off the encroaching freaks and Cell units. A variety of weapons are available on these turrets, from machine guns, rocket launchers and flamethrowers to laser cannons and rubber duck launchers, and mixing-and-matching is often crucial for success. Once constructed, the player can upgrade the defensive and offensive capabilities of their turrets (limited by the overall level the player has reached in the game) as long as they have the available resources. Finance never particularly appears to be an issue, but often special components are needed which can be earned through eliminating high value targets.

            In terms of the additions to the formula bought about by its host format, turrets in Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst can be manually aimed simply by placing your finger against them and pulling away from the target or pressing on it, depending on which weapon is mounted there. The connection function with the Xbox 360′s Crackdown 2 has been surprisingly played down, but is just as enticing as many GameCube/Game Boy Advance titles that promoted the technology, only without the mess of cables. Of course, it’s the placement of a player’s bases that is the most impressive aspect of Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, being that the position a player can choose any location on the available map, and that map being offered viaElectronic Theatre Image a connection to Bing Maps. Practically any populated location on planet Earth is available for you, as the player, to create a unique base to defend. Enemies will only travel directly down roads and wide paths, though some can leap buildings and other will occasionally attempt to make a break across fields or along railway tracks. Obviously there are rules that can be learned in order to make your job easier or more difficult: picking a remote field in the English country down a long and winding road will mean that there is literally just one point of entry for your enemies, whilst opting for a position in Manhattan or Downtown LA whilst see freaks pouring in from near-every angle.

            The visual appeal of Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is of course largely dependant on the location you choose, but in terms of the amount that is animated it’s certainly delivering on theme. The freaks are presented in three varieties, each of varying strength and intelligence, while Cell agents arrive in buses, vans and other armoured vehicles. Each active element is very well presented and easily distinguishable on the map, and a player’s turrets and bases are immediately identifiable even in the heat of an assault on a challenging high value target.

            Not only is Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst unique as genre piece on its host format, but it’s also treading new ground for that genre in its own right. Exploring and redesigning rules with the advent of new technology as the best games do, Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst will be remembered as a title that cemented Windows Phone 7’s place as a unique step for new videogames hardware, whether it eventually ends-up as a successful one or otherwise. The first true killer app for Windows Phone 7’s Xbox LIVE enabled catalogue, Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is a credit to the format as much as it is to the development team’s ingenuity.

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