Failing any other attempt to get into the Halo 3 beta, I was determined not to buy Crackdown just for the privilege. If I was going to buy the game, it was going to be for the game. Fortunately for my Halo itch, Crackdown was well worth the price of admission.
I figure this is probably as close as I'll get to Grand Theft Auto. There are times in this game where I get a little uncomfortable. The characters (bad guys and civilian bystanders) are a little liberal with the swear words, and it can get rather violent as you're beating people up. What makes it fun, though, is the cartoon-like quality to it. The fact that I can run faster than a speeding car, pick up cars and trucks and throw them obscene distances, and jump several stories in a single bound make it just fun.
One thing I found really interesting, on a personal note: the graphics are done in a comic book, cel-shaded style. However, I didn't even notice this for quite some time. It wasn't until I watched videos on YouTube that I realized there was a comic book quality to the game; and then I started to notice in my own game. I don't know if it comes from growing up being used to having to rely more on my imagination than what was actually on screen, or if it has something to do with being more involved with the actions than the looks when I get my hands on the controller; but I've noticed that with several games over the year. Sometimes, if I don't stop and look around a bit, what should be a graphically-impressive game will go completely unnoticed by me. When the Halo 3 beta was launched (to stay close to topic), at first, I felt like I was just playing Halo 2. Mechanically, it very much was. Graphically, it's much improved, and when I see video of the two, I wonder how I could ever say they felt the same. But that's just it. They do feel the same (or similar — I got to appreciate the differences the more I played), even if they don't look the same.
The only issue I have with this game (getting back to Crackdown) is finding things. I don't just mean the agility and hidden orbs, although I have yet to find all of those. But I also don't know where all the stunt rings are. And when I do happen to see one, I'll decide that I need a ramp truck to drive to it, but I can't find one nearby. When I eventually do find one, I've forgotten where the stunt ring was, or where my car was, and then I'm back at square one again. Sometimes, a world can be a little too open. Especially when I don't have many consecutive hours to spend playing a game until I completely memorize its layout.
Multiplayer is something that never really worked out for me. I think part of the problem was that there's only the "campaign", and campaigns in general don't hold a lot of replay value. I saw that in Halo 3 later last year — lots of campaign play in the first couple weeks, and almost nothing after that. Eventually, extra content was released for Crackdown that added some new "versus" modes, including racing and orb collecting, but those just didn't seem to catch on, at least not in my circle of friends.
I still think it's a good single-player game. I played it a couple days in December to do a little orb-hunting and get some progress on the racing achievements, and with more left to finish, I'm sure I'll crack it open a few more times in 2008.