Three years after the first instalment gave us that open-world arena, Crackdown is back in the aptly named Crackdown 2. But has the game improved, does that open-world still impress, and is it still as much fun? We managed to sneak in a couple of hours playing the new offering before the official launch on 9 July.

Following the same rough storyline as before, you play a cop on the hunt of a group of dissidents, called "the cell", while at the same time trying to avoid a horde of flesh eating zombies called "freaks" beset on destroying what is most dear to you: the city you live in.

Set in an open world environment that pretty much lets you interact with whatever you want, however you want, the action takes place once again in Pacific City, rather than multiple levels with you working your way methodically through the map to complete the game.

This being open world you can dive in to any area, although the game's developers, Ruffian Games, recommend against that idea as jumping to the furthest point from the game's start will bring on a wrath of bad guys you just aren't ready for yet. But that doesn't mean you can't do it or have fun trying and in fact that open platform acts as a perfect diversion to distract you from the task at hand.

Even in the brief time we had with the game we found ourselves wandering off into the higher parts of the map without realising it.

But it's not just a wide reaching and far flung city you are playing in, but one that it just as tall and deep with the action taking place in the skyscrapers that surround you and the under belly of the city beneath you.

It certainly sets the scene as you move around from the early missions in the docks to the later missions in the hills. Yes the game does take healthy references from the likes of GTA and Burnout Paradise, but that works in Crackdown 2's favour rather than against it.

Like the first outing, you can power up your character by honing your skills; the more mêlée fighting you do the better you become at mêlée fighting, the more driving you do the better you become at that, with the latter being rewarded with new vehicles - better suited for running people over for example. Orbs speed up this process allowing you to boost your jumping capability or driving prowess or a number of other senses and expertise.

They also serve as, at times, a frustrating diversion and we are sure if you opt to buy the game, you will spend many an hour either hunting them down or chasing after the ones that move with a nifty agility to them.

Missions here are all about completing a set of tasks, like getting three uplink towers back online, or clearing the area of bad guys. There isn't any timer on anything, well not most of the time, and you hit checkpoints every so often so if you do die you aren't starting right back at the beginning. We say checkpoints, but really they are just re-spawn points that will put you back in the city nearest the mission you are tackling. Sometimes that's close, other times that's not so close. Either way it's no biggie and ultimately can serve as yet another distraction.

Adding into that mission distraction mix is a sense of time, daylight and nighttime. Daylight sees you fighting against bad guys, while night time sees more "Freaks" on the streets.

So we've covered the distractions and the missions, but what about the gameplay? As before, the emphasis here is on fun rather than serious Call of Duty style gaming and that means having the ability to jump high (like really high) and shoot indiscriminately without the fear or running out of bullets (you can, but there are plenty of weapons around to pick up).

To help you cope with the, at times hundreds, of monsters really not taking a fancy to you being in the room, you get an auto-targeting system as part of your Heads Up Display. Press the correct button on your controller and your targeting system will target the nearest threat and allow you to fire at will while you move around at high speed trying to avoid getting dead.

In theory that should work a treat allowing you to pick off the enemy with little or no thought, and at first that is the case, actually making for some dull gaming. However you'll soon realise that as the enemy grow in numbers that targeting system begins to fail. Not on purpose as part of some complicated storyline, but because it just can't cope.

What that means is that in tight encounters it will be busy locking on to a car on an expressway in the distance while the flesh eating zombie just two yards away in trying to gnaw your face off. To put it mildly it's frustrating.

Putting the question to the developers of "why?" we got a nod, as if to say "and?" as well as an acknowledgement that there is so much going on in the world of Crackdown 2 that the auto targeting can and does get confused at times.

Auto-targeting systems aside, the game does come across as fun as the original (which we gave a 9/10) and while the single player levels will keep you entertained we suspect it will be the multiplayer elements that will keep you going for some time thereafter.

Here you can opt for four player co-op as well as competitive multiplayer experience, with dedicated Orbs to collect to encourage both. Adding your friends in to the mix can be a one off level thing (to help you complete it) or something longer, again the open world element comes into play and it's not, the developers tell us, just a case of adding more monsters.

First Impressions

Our time was brief with Crackdown 2 managing to only get through around 8 per cent of the game in this First Look after around 3 hours of gaming.

The fun comic book style graphics, ability to interact with everything - you can pick up and throw a bus later on for example - bring with it a breath of fresh air to the rather staid and sometimes too real First Person and Third Person Shooters currently available on the market.

The auto-targeting system does look to be its Achilles heel, however we will have to see whether that really does affect the gameplay over the course of the game or if it was something we just struggled with here as we re-familiarised ourselves with the controls from the original.

If you are looking for some fun, with plenty of diversions, Crackdown 2 looks as if it will provide just that.

Crackdown 2 is due out on 9 July.