Crackdown 3 has been a long time coming. Revealed in 2014 at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, the game has been troubled with delay after delay, but finally it has launched. And while there is definitely a fun and joyous experience to be had here, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to tell you that it is a fairly underwhelming game overall.
Developed by Sumo Digital, Crackdown 3 serves as more of a sequel to the well-received original Crackdown (developed by Realtime Worlds and released in 2007) than a sequel of the mixed reception Crackdown 2 (developed by Ruffian Games and released in 2010). The game is split into the Crackdown 3 campaign and the Crackdown 3 multiplayer mode ‘Wrecking Zone’, both requiring an installation each.
As you did in both of the first two games, you play as an agent of the Agency; the top crime-fighting organisation in the world. A genetically modified human who becomes more powerful as they shoot, melee, explode, drive and jump on all things criminal. Skills for kills agent.
After a slightly disjointing and confusing start, you begin to explore the newly developed island city of New Providence. Created, maintained, and lawed by Terranova and its web of crime bosses, you begin to unplug their control across the island to prevent further damage to the rest of the world. Taking on various objectives whilst developing your five core skills through experience, you will eventually come face-to-face with each crime boss with the aim to demolish the entire criminal hierarchy.
I can thankfully say that the core game experience of Crackdown 3 resembles that of its predecessors in the sense that it is a damn fun game to play: the shooting feels great, exploding cars rarely gets old, and hearing the sound of collecting an agility orb will never cease to be one of the most satisfying sounds in video games. Period. You can also play in co-op which is usually more fun than on your own.
Sadly though, there are many flaws with Crackdown 3, both as a sequel and as a standalone title. The game does do things differently to the first game, which of course you’d hope considering it’s been more than 10 years since Crackdown burst onto the scene, but it also doesn’t even fulfil some of the basics that were laid out in the original.
Firstly, most, if not all, of the bosses are forgettable and generic. The only one which stands out in my mind is the AI crime boss Roxy, literally because she is the only boss that isn’t human. They aren’t bad per se, but they don’t add anything to the game, nor provide any motivation to take them out because of their wicked ways. They do occupy their own section of the Terranova corporation, which tries to make things interesting, but that is the only thing setting them apart from one another. Ever more bitter is the fact that there are only 10 bosses in the whole game, compared to the 14 in the original.
Furthermore, you can’t play licensed music in your car whilst driving around New Providence. This is a small but noticeable change, especially since there are rarely any musical cues and/or original music to back-up your creatively catastrophic ways. When exploring fairly distinct areas of New Providence – one of the positives of Crackdown 3 – I want the option of music cues to come in more often (in the same way Assassin’s Creed Origins presents this option) as jumping around isn’t enough of a distraction for me on its own.
Moreover, the map navigation is terrible. Having to zoom in to see some collectibles makes it very difficult to find which ones are missing. The collectibles themselves, while attempting to provide context and character to the crime bosses and overarching plot of Crackdown 3, do little apart from confuse further, from being able to tell which crime bosses were talking to one another. This is a shame since the effort to create story and characters in this game is clearly shown and illustrated during various moments.
Take the 2d motion animation cutscenes for instance. They provide a nice break from punching, throwing, exploding, driving and jumping your way through pretty much anything that gets in your way, but they don’t deliver on their aimed execution of getting anyone to care about the Terranova organisation.
Small details hinder Crackdown 3 greatly in making the experience feel generic and the same to that of your friend playing through the game. The two main narrators – one of them being the familiar agency boss of the first two games which is great addition – constantly repeat the same lines to you as you’re playing.
They rarely take note of which sex you are, how developed you are, or which of the bosses you’ve taken out thus far. It’s hard, but playing through older games which provide a more unique experience, like The Witcher 3 which was released back in 2015 for instance, create an expectation for the player moving forward. Crackdown 3 almost never lives up to this expectation of a unique experience.
Graphically though and it must be said that the game looks very clean, and very much like Crackdown should. But in a gaming age where you’ve seen vistas on Red Dead II, or viewpoints in the recent Assassin’s Creed’s, this game disappoints greatly with its landscapes. A lot of the time textures don’t load on far away buildings and all of the time the objects not immediately within the vicinity look ugly and boring. There is little temptation to climb to the highest building because there is almost nothing of interest to look at when the climb has been made.
Whilst I mentioned that New Providence has specific stand-out areas containing their own signature building types and enemies, it’s not in any way as bold as Pacific City in Crackdown 1. The level designs aren’t as varied, and the way to approach different boss battles doesn’t exist because you’re put into a linear boss fight which nearly always includes the individuals climbing into a mech. Boring and unimaginative.
The objectives you can complete around the city are definitely among the highlights of where you can begin to experiment with Crackdown 3, especially in terms of your various gun arsenal and car selection. That being said, they do begin to feel repetitive and uninteresting towards the last third of the game. The enemies themselves do have a few different types – some who are weaker and stronger against certain attacks, which allows for a more spiced up approach to some objectives – but none manage to stand out in a prominent way; either negatively or positively. This could’ve been the opportunity for Sumo Digital to improve on the Crackdown formula. Instead, it’s just more of the same. And sometimes, not even that.
Something I have noticed throughout this game however is the freedom it provides within your agency and world selection. You can play as any one of your agents in any one of your worlds, each containing their own stats. This is something I really appreciate, particularly as someone who likes to play in different game stats with various characters in order to progress them further.
And that gets us on to Wrecking Zone, the multiplayer side of Crackdown 3; something which reminds me of the 360 age where we had multiplayer modes for every single-player game, and I don’t mean that in an entirely negative sense. Playing either of the two modes (one basically being dog tag and the other domination) is fun for a short while, and they do manage to create a nice distraction.
Blowing up plain looking buildings however gets old quick, and the blowing-up building mechanics can’t even be found in the campaign which is evermore disappointing. Playing online also controls much more rigidly than in the main game which is off-putting, and the teams are rarely balanced with the right level of players on each side. With little to attract you for a long period of time, this multiplayer mode only delivers on being a short-term side note.
It may sound like I really dislike Crackdown 3 on Xbox One, and that may be true, but I definitely don’t hate it. I am instead, disappointed. Completing a lot of what the campaign had to offer in just over 10 hours – after a five-year wait – is just really sad. I have to be honest and say that when I started the game, I really enjoyed remembering why the core Crackdown gameplay experience from the beginning of the Xbox 360 era, was so good. I remembered why I completed the original Crackdown campaign over and over again. And hearing that sound of getting an agility orb for the first time was sweeter than a bag of sugar.
But after reflecting upon my time with the game, and taking into account the things I liked and disliked about it, there really isn’t much I can honestly say that would make you want to try this out. Unless you’re a big Crackdown fan, or you want to play around in a new sandbox for a couple of hours and you have Xbox Game Pass, I really wouldn’t recommend you play this game.
I have to emphasise here again that writing these points really gives me no pleasure, especially after the numerous delays and bouts of excitement and disappointment over these last few years. Lord knows what went on during the development of this game, but I hope we find out at some point in the future.
For now, Crackdown 3 has a great action-oriented gameplay foundation, but not the polish and/or memorable experience to back it up. If you’re a Crackdown fan, then you should definitely play it. If not, then you probably shouldn’t.