Crackdown could quite easily be compared to the Grand Theft Auto series of games – it offers an entire city to use and abuse as you see fit, a decent number of vehicles to drive or destroy, and it’s packed full of criminals and cops.

The similarities end there, however. For Crackdown isn’t a story-driven game in the same way that the 3D GTA games were, nor is the emphasis on committing whatever crimes are necessary to take you to the top. In Crackdown, you play the part of a genetically enhanced super-cop, created to combat three criminal gangs that are in control of the city and reclaim the streets on behalf of your masters, The Agency.

To that end, you have five core skills – Agility, Driving, Explosives, Strength and Firearms. At the start of the game, you aren’t particularly skilled in any of them, but as you dispatch crims, your skills will rise accordingly until you’re a superhuman that can kick cars 30 feet, leap huge distances and heights, and score a headshot from 200 feet away. This building up of skills is hard work, but offers real benefits as you progress through the skill levels, and (in my case, at least) is one of the most enjoyable things about the game.

Carrying out the missions to advance what little plot there is in the game can be woefully repetitive – go to a point on the map, shoot a few crims, then take out their leader. Do that 7 times for each gang and that’s it, all done. What makes Crackdown special is that the entire game has been designed to offer a “pick up and play” game experience, with real replay value.

If you only want to play for 20 minutes, you can just boot the game up and have a blast. When you’ve had enough, you just bring up the menu and “Save and Quit.” You don’t have to struggle to remember where your save point is, neither are you punished for getting killed – you don’t lose your weapons, and you have an infinite number of lives. It’s rare you’ll be able to play for 20 minutes though, once you get into the game you’ll swiftly find you’re addicted – I couldn’t put the game down once I’d gotten started.

Players interested in online gaming are also in for a treat, as the game supports a two-player co-operative gameplay feature – two Agents in the same city, fighting against crime together like an overpowered Batman and Robin. Any player on Xbox Live can request to join any other player, whether they’re friends or not. This is a great idea, but can get annoying as the requests keep popping up and interrupting your game. Fortunately, there’s an option to only allow friends to join, or to only allow people you’ve invited yourself.

Graphically, the game looks gorgeous as you’d expect from a next-gen title. The city is full of bright and vibrant colours, and the draw distance is nothing short of stunning, especially when you’re looking out over the city from the top of the (absurdly high) Agency Tower. Explosions are a particular highlight – I never get tired of blowing stuff up in the game as it looks so delicious.

The sound and music are also of a high standard. Explosions are suitably beefy, and Crackdown has some of the best gunfire sounds I’ve ever heard in a video game – even gunfire in the distance sounds realistic. A pleasing voiceover from your “controller” gives you hints and tips on what to do, and bumping into civilians makes them talk to you with some choice words. The music is a strange cross between metal and electronic music, which isn’t my cup of tea but does suit the game well. You can of course use custom music using the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

All in all, Crackdown is a superb game and a brilliant way of wasting a few hours. The Achievements for the game are varied and offer quite a challenge – the Achievements coupled with the skills progression should keep me playing the game for a long time to come. Once you’ve levelled up your skills as far as you can, the game might become a little stale, but it’s still fun to pick up and play.

Special mention should go to the orb-related Achievements, as they’re the ones most likely to cause frustration. There are 800 glowing orbs dotted around the city – 500 Agility orbs and 300 Hidden orbs. The former increase your agility skill – orbs that are harder to reach (either in higher places, or in very difficult to reach areas) will increase it more than the easier orbs. The Hidden orbs increase all your skills, but are (as the name suggests) hidden in cunning places – inside caves, on top of bridges, that kind of thing. Collecting all of them is almost a worthy game itself – figuring out how to climb to the top of Agency Tower to get at the orbs up there is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in a game, for sure.

The game isn’t without its problems though – killing endless hordes of crims can get very boring very quickly if the other aspects of the game don’t appeal. The AI isn’t particularly impressive, the gang members essentially stand still and shoot at you until you pick them off, and if you’re unfortunate enough to accidentally kill a civilian or a friendly cop (called Peacekeepers in the game) the other police in the immediate area will gang up on you even though you might have killed ten times as many criminals right in front of them.

I’d still thoroughly recommend the game though, especially as it has now been out for quite some time and can be picked up on the cheap.