It has been a long time coming, but Crackdown 3 has finally released on Xbox One and Microsoft’s Windows Store on PC. In a sea of huge video game releases this February, Crackdown 3 is that 80’s B-Action movie that we all feel guilty loving.
Crackdown 3 has been marred with constant delays and been floating in a state of perpetual development hell for years, with Microsoft focusing on their cloud computing engine and how this impressive technology would wow us with its ability to handle environmental destruction.
Fuck you Gravity
The franchise has always been about grabbing power by the balls and becoming an all-out, bona-fide superhero packed to the brim with ‘tude, explosions and 600ft leaps, and trust me, Crackdown 3 is no different.
After a brief cutscene where Terry Crews enthusiastically yells the phrase quack quack motherfucker, you will be thrusted in to the open world with a map crammed with icons for missions, side objectives and collectibles – this can be a little overwhelming and has the potential to throw many players off as this approach to an open world serves to make everything look like busy work.
Starting out, the protagonist has been revived thanks to some super sweet sci-fi technology, with one caveat; all player/agency powers have been and you will need to level up, collect orbs and kick ass to gain them back. The initial hour or so felt like a slog; combat wasn’t pulling me in, jumping was practically non-existent, there was no agency vehicle unlocked and I constantly found myself pressing and holding buttons in a state of “this game absolutely has to have a run button!” confusion. However, zapping, splodin’ or straight up clobbering opposing forces will help to level up agent skills like strength, agility, shooting, explosions and driving. This is where I started to feel a connection to Crackdown 3.
Like growing my very own sea-monkeys I was evolving and powering up a miniature Terry Crews and seeing his appearance and skillset adapt with every single level gained was like watching a caterpillar skip the stage of evolving in to a butterfly and transforming in to The Hulk instead. The change in gameplay is staggering and the fact it made me feel a way no other game series has made me feel, gave me a new appreciation for Crackdown. From being physically incapable of jumping higher than 3ft to scaling buildings in seconds and leaping around New Providence like some sort of suped-up kangaroo with bionic legs while wielding a gun that has the ability to rip a hole in time and space, suck everything in and swirl it around before imploding, until there is nothing left but destruction, all the while Terry Crews is yelling fuck you gravity? Yeah, count me in.
The meat and potatoes of Crackdown 3 can be boiled down to looking at the world map, selecting one of the many overbearing busy work icons, heading to that location through superhuman jumps, driving or fast travel and working through a horde of enemies from one of the three subdivisions of Terranova and destroying a chimera plant, freeing militia fighters, taking over monorails or taking down defenses. The missions are all structured similarly and naturally this leads to a lot of repetitiveness as I found myself engaging in a lot of the same content – it was essentially a means to an end, a path driving you to each boss encounter.
New Providence is packed with side-missions and can prove to be quite challenging in some situations. I had particular difficulties with vehicle races, not because of any reason other than the driving mechanics are downright dreadful. I avoided using vehicles as much as possible. However, there are also rooftop races where parkouring across buildings, under bridges and scaling skyscrapers is the name of the game, taking down propaganda towers in a 3D platformer fashion and destroying monkey moonshine kiosks. These added fun elements to Crackdown 3, however they were also incredibly repetitive, like their campaign mission counterparts. Further engaging content with new ideas was needed to allow the mission variety to flow and feel more natural, rather than taking down that 12th propaganda tower. It is also possible to completely bypass the challenge of certain missions by taking advantage of your agility to jump over a crowd of enemies and free the militia that are being held as hostages, for example. Once the objective has been completed the mission is completed regardless of how many enemies are engaged in combat.
Speaking of combat, Crackdown 3 features an auto-lock aiming system and by simply holding down the corresponding aim button the crosshairs will snap to an enemy where it is then possible to just lay in to enemies with your vast arsenal of weapons and gadgets. By casually playing and not intentionally looking for new weapons, I unlocked every weapon and gadget in the game. Once unlocked, I had the ability to edit my loadout at any Agency supply point which allowed me to enjoy playing the game in my own playstyle, i.e, blowing shit up and sucking everything in to a black hole. The wide variety of weapons and gadgets provided a fun, albeit not engaging, combat experience.
Outside of the opening cutscene with Terry Crews hyping up his fellow agents and some very brief comic book style story elements, the overarching plot is severely lacking and pretty much non-existent. It is there to hold everything together by a very thin piece of string; just enough to ensure that each element is connected and makes sense. For me, there was no real need for ultra heartfelt story moments but I would have liked the characters to be more fleshed out and for the game to make me feel something, anything, when fighting and killing these bosses after taking down their evil operations.
Boss encounters can be described in a similar vein; if you enjoy the mindless, lighthearted nature of the game and as an extension, the combat, you will probably enjoy melting bosses with lazer cannons or homing missiles. Sadly, all of the boss fights minus the final encounter are extremely samey and I feel that if Sumo Digital leaned further in to the wacky, silly and over-the-top nature of the series, the encounters could have been so much more than what we got.
Crackdown as a series has always essentially been part collect-a-thon with orbs plastered all over the city. There are two types of orb; Agility Orbs and Hidden Orbs. Agility Orbs will help to increase the agility skill which grants incredible feats of jumping and faster movement, while Hidden Orbs will provide a little improvement to every skill.
In total, there are 750 orbs and this feels like far, far too many – collecting orbs is a fun diversion from the monotony of bashing through missions, however it gets old very quickly. It is fun seeing the progression of the agility skill and what can be done with it; scaling buildings in seconds and vastly faster movement but this is not enough to convince me that this is anything other than busy work and a way to make the world look more full and lively than it is.
Orbs feel carelessly strewn about on low-lying areas and can seemingly be spotted on every roof in every single area. Some are well hidden and require you to scale huge buildings with your bulking Terry Crews-Superhero but the majority of them feel carelessly placed.
Wrecking Zone is the online multiplayer component of this package and features two game modes, Agent Hunter and Territories.
Agent Hunter is your bog-standard Team Deathmatch from any other shooter that takes place on small, destructible maps. Agent Hunter sees two teams aiming to reach a 25 point total by slaying enemies and collecting their dropped badges. Territories is the latter and is literally king of the hill where two teams are battling it to control different points of the map. I wasn’t overly thrilled with either mode and both came across as bland and uninspired.
Wrecking Zone feels like a tech demo for Microsoft’s cloud computing technology and is seriously quite impressive, despite it lacking in much of the detail that was shown pre-launch. Buildings will decompose when shot with pieces of concrete breaking apart and realistically plummeting to the ground. The destruction looks and feels next-gen, but it does not live up to the huge standards that Microsoft set for the feature. This was the main focus pre-launch and Microsoft spent many hours convincing people that this would be a game changer, I just don’t think it was worth all of the attention it received due to its current, scaled down state. Despite that, one extremely fascinating part of the cloud based destruction sees synchronized destruction across every player in a multiplayer lobby, no matter what hardware they are using. This is something that the excellent people over at Digital Foundry cover in this video, which I highly suggest checking out.
There is a severe lack of weapons and gadgets compared to the main campaign and I can’t help but feel letdown by the lack of choice in this regard. The campaign was a wonderful array of devices designed for killing while Wrecking Zone only has a fraction of those.
The lock-on targeting system is also present in Wrecking Zone, effectively depleting most of the skill from multiplayer. It is insanely difficult, nigh-on impossible to escape once I was caught in the line of sight by the enemy team as lock-on follows players through buildings. I get that Wrecking Zone is using the same combat system as the campaign, but it just does not work in a multiplayer environment.
Speaking of multiplayer and Xbox, one of the key features of Xbox Live over the years has been connecting and playing games with friends. This is literally impossible here. There is no way to invite friends to a lobby and is the first game I can recall that has done this on Xbox Live, which is bizarre considering Crackdown 3 is a first party title.
Without being in the know, it feels like Sumo Digital designed and put together this game in 12-18 months, with several other iterations being cancelled over the years. Crackdown 3 should have a higher variety of amusements within its world and the development issues are glaringly obvious.
Crackdown 3 falls in to the gaming landscape directly in to the middle of overtly detailed worlds like Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War and The Last of Us that fill your vision with lively, vibrant and impactful design. The game plays and runs well and I didn’t notice any frame hitching, texture pop-in or input lag, however it feels like the majority of the world has moved on from this type of game. Despite all this, I had some comfort food type fun with Crackdown 3.
Despite the enjoyment I had with the campaign, Wrecking Zone lives up to its namesake; it is a disaster, extremely barebones and uninspired.
It showed me there is space for this type of game and I hope that Microsoft take the series, extrapolate the insanely fun elements, add more content and give me a reason to want to hang out in the world for longer and create a Crackdown 4 with full destruction.