Times have changed, and the gaming industry of 2013 sure seems like ages ago now. What seemed like it would’ve been a decent launch title for the Xbox One has been delayed repeatedly, but after years of the can getting kicked down the road, Crackdown 3 has finally released.
So how is it? Well, that really depends on your expectations.
I jumped in after having a wonderful time with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and it worked admirably as a palate cleanser.
Crackdown 3 plays like it was made a generation ago. That’s likely because the project was started almost a generation ago. It’s a functionally simple game, mechanically. Your offensive capabilities come in two forms: melee attacks and firearms. However, weapons do come in many forms and levels of usefulness, though I’m unsure why you would choose to use anything other than explosives. Thankfully, you can carry around up to three weapons at once (just use explosives), and you can switch them out at will at any of the dozens of supply points you can find scattered about the city. Furthermore, it’s possible to restock your ammunition just by visiting these locations, and capturing them only requires you to show up there. There’s no long sidequests, puzzles, or ancillary objectives required to unlock supply points, which is good because they also function as fast travel points.
There are a number of side activities to take part in, ranging from doing stunt jumps to gain driving skill points, collecting agility orbs dotted around the map, finding recordings of the various villains, disabling propaganda towers, or tracking down agent DNA to unlock other agents to play as. They’re all optional, but they provide benefits to you if you take the time to collect/finish each of these.
However, what makes Crackdown 3 a Crackdown game is the way you move about the city. You start with a weak agent whose combat abilities are about as effective as the average mook, but if you spend a little time collecting the agility orbs littered about, you’re going to be running and jumping like the Hulk in no time. Leveling up your combat capabilities is similar to leveling up in games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, except that it’s much easier to level up in Crackdown 3.
While I’m glad that you’re able to become a force to be reckoned with with ease, the fact that you’re arbitrarily stripped of your skills at the beginning for the sake of being able to level up your character afterwards is irritating. I mean, I get it that you need a sense of accomplishment to keep players interested, but I can imagine there could’ve been better ways to not require players to start from square one.
That said, once your abilities get into the 3.00 and above range, Crackdown 3 starts to show just how fun a game like this can be, despite being extremely simple in design. Running, jumping, smashing, and exploding everything is a blast, and there’s a definite sense of accomplishment for getting to some of the harder to reach areas. Sumo Digital did a good job of leaving room to explore vertically.
Crackdown 3 looks like a current Gen game, but only in the sense that it looks like a launch title. Nowhere is this as apparent as it is when you look at the textures and character models themselves, because hot damn does it look… old. It appears that Sumo tried to hide the simplicity behind comic book aesthetics and neon, but it’s hard to not notice that Crackdown 3 is showing its age already at release.
That’s probably because it was meant to come out several years ago, but more on that later.
Honestly, the best I can say about the game is that the visuals are functional. They allow you to recognize what you’re looking at. Unfortunately, while the graphics aren’t bad, they also aren’t good either, and there’s a bit of a lack of polish. What’s depressing about that is that it took so long for the game to come out, and yet you can still see enemies sliding about, and physics glitching out as you’re trying to play. It’s unpolished, which is a little concerning considering how long it took for the game to finally release. Thankfully, that lack of polish doesn’t make it unplayable.
Original? Well, it’s the third entry in the series and hardly stands out on its own as far as I’m concerned. Little has been done to differentiate this newest entry from the previous games, at least in terms of the single-player and cooperative components.
Perhaps the only thing that Crackdown 3 does differently than the rest of the series is the competitive multiplayer, but even then, the destructive nature of the multiplayer isn’t novel to Crackdown 3. The same has been done as far back as 2001, when Red Faction released.
Crackdown 3 was meant to be more though… and it’s a shame that it didn’t meet its true potential.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
There’s a story to Crackdown 3, but it’s present only to serve as a means to advance the gameplay; it serves a functional purpose. There’s honestly little to say about it, other than it exists. Terry Crews, who has been marketed as filling a major role in the game, has been relegated to existing as a player skin once you advance past the opening credits.
Interestingly, his character (of whom you learn nothing about aside from a short bio in the menus) is meant to be the leader of the group of agents sent to New Providence to battle the nefarious Terra Nova corporation, which has been using an influx of refugees following a global crisis to further research into Chimera. Chimera exists as a magical plot goo; it’s the super-scientific bad stuff that you need to keep out of the hands of the enemy. If you boil it all down, you’re faced with a formulaic and predictable plot:
- Go to the bad place
- Kill the bad leaders
- Stop the big bad from using the super goo on people
- Save the world
It’s not even an issue of being forgettable to be honest, as the story is so simple that you could probably memorize it in one playthrough. I doubt that the story was much of a focus from the beginning anyway.
The majority of the gameplay elements are intertwined with the “story” as well. Instead of taking part in story missions and having side quests to complete in the traditional sense, every task you complete is in the aim of taking down a corporate lackey, boss, or kingpin. You destroy three factories to draw out manufacturing bosses, liberate hard points to cripple security forces, and wipe out security at monorail stations to weaken Terra Nova’s logistics chains. Taking out three sub-bosses gives you access to a weaker middle-manager boss. Taking out the middle-managers weakens the CEO’s defenses, making it easier to infiltrate.
You can actually jump ahead and take out a middle-manager before you deal with his subordinates, which is a little harder than if you dealt with the others first, but it isn’t impossible. The only thing that sucks is that you’re still required to later go handle the lesser bosses anyway, so skipping ahead is basically pointless.
Where Crackdown 3 shines a little brighter though, is in the multiplayer. While it isn’t exactly groundbreaking that it consists of area-based combat, destructible environments, or interesting tweaks of well-known game modes, it’s the combination of all three that makes the multiplayer the most interesting part of the package.
The Wrecking Zone, as it’s aptly named, only offers two game modes currently: Agent Hunter and Territories. Territories isn’t what I’d consider to be pushing any boundaries, as it’s basically a Rush-style game mode, but Agent Hunter is far more interesting. Instead of simply gaining points by killing other players, you must also claim the kills by collecting their tokens… Well, other games have done this before obviously, but it makes things a little more interesting in the multiplayer for Crackdown 3 at least. It probably won’t make up for the limitations in full, such as the lack of party support or the dearth of content, but at least it’s something… Right?
WILDCARD: LOST POTENTIAL
It may not be remembered now, but the first teases of Crackdown 3 included mention of the power of the Azure cloud. Microsoft sought to leverage the immense capabilities of cloud computing, citing that all games on Xbox One could boast dedicated servers, and the gap in processing power between the PS4 and original Xbox One could be narrowed by utilizing Microsoft’s servers. One of the games that would’ve been used as a tech demo to showcase the benefits of this setup was Crackdown 3.
Boasting the inclusion of completely destructible cities, Crackdown 3 stood to be a major game-changer. Many games have included destructible environments as a gameplay element, but never to this scale. However, it all hinged on players having access to Azure servers, which meant a constant internet connection.
This wouldn’t have been a problem had the original Xbox One survived to launch, but 2013 was a different age in gaming. Physical games still existed in gamers’ minds as the primary method of installing and playing games, and the Xbox One would’ve effectively killed physical media in favor of the convenience of digital gaming. In a cruel twist of fate though, digital has taken gaming by storm, with most people realizing without knowing it that 2013’s Microsoft understood what would be important.
I guarantee that Crackdown 3‘s delays had everything to do with the 180-degree turn that Microsoft made pre-launch. Without constant internet connections linking players to the cloud in order to make the destructibility possible, the game almost certainly needed to be built from the ground up all over again. Crackdown 3 could’ve been so much more had the original vision been fully realized.
In a nutshell, Crackdown 3 had potential. While it’s easy to look at the things that it does right, and speculate about what it could’ve been had things not changed so drastically from inception to release, it’s very well possible that it could’ve been a great launch title. Instead, after years of extra development to salvage what was possible to implement, we’re left with what we have now. It would be easy to sit here and talk about only its strengths, writing off the weaknesses as a consequence of dream never realized, but we don’t get to play the game that Microsoft intended to be made.
If anything, Crackdown 3 stands as a testament to the strengths of another Microsoft product: Xbox Game Pass. I can honestly say that had it not been included in the Xbox Game Pass, I would’ve never given Crackdown 3 a shot, which would’ve been a total shame, because despite its flaws and limitations, I actually had a lot of fun with it.
And I’ll leave you with that to consider for the conclusion of this review. Crackdown 3 a fun game, even though it exists in the shadow of its former potential, and is really only worth playing if you’re going to end up getting it as part of something you already paid for.
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