- An interesting new city to explore
- Terry Crews is amazing
- Few bugs worth mentioning
- Is fun, but just barely
- The art style isn't that interesting
- Multiplayer options are limited
- Boss fights are generic
- The story is bland and the game tells it in the most uninteresting way imaginable
- Most other aspects are average at best
When you're playing alone, Crackdown offers some fun, but it's the kind of fun you'll forget a week from now. If you're trying to play with others, just don't.
One of the most interesting things about Crackdown 3 is the way it changes the story of the series. In Crackdown, the big twist was that the all-powerful Agency used you, as the Agent, to eradicate crime from Pacific City and set the stage for a new police state. Crackdown 2 took this authoritarianism to an extreme by pushing for the genocide of its sick and mutated citizens as the Director of the Agency crooned in your ears at every kill. It was never clear whether these ideas were meant to encourage the player or disgust them, but they were clearly there. Despite being a sequel, Crackdown 3 asks us to ignore these previous events, and accept that the Agency is now good and righteous. It’s hard to believe they’ve changed so much, but the game’s themes are so underdeveloped, it’s hard to take the game at anything other than face value.
Tasking itself with freeing the city of New Providence from its dystopian government after a terrorist attack threatens the entire world, the Agency sends in a team of Agents to invade and clean up shop. After a moment of crisis where most of the Agents are wiped out in one fell swoop, it’s down to you, the playable Agent, to execute all of the city’s leaders, destroy their chemical plants, and replace their propaganda with your own. Along the way, you can find the DNA of the other fallen Agents, and clone their bodies to get them back into commission. I was initially interested in this idea, but when I realized that these Agents weren’t going to do anything unless you had a co-op partner, not even populate the world like NPC’s, I became disappointed. Despite what the game sets up, this is an invasion for a party of one, maybe two people.
Though he’s ditched the fascist ideology of the previous games for a pro-imperialist vibe, the Director is about the same as ever. He barks orders in your ear and relentlessly encourages you to kill, level up, and destroy everyone. His role in the grand scheme of things is still a mystery, but this game makes an attempt to flesh him out, even giving him a name. He’s joined by a new character, Echo, who serves as your New Providence liaison, and is responsible for saving your hide in the opening. Though Crackdown 3 marks the first time the Agent has dialogue, the Director and Echo talk so much over the Agent’s intercom, he might as well not exist. He’s basically a conduit for their endless diatribes about plot details and other nonsense, and after a while you learn to tune it out. If you put decided to mute the game and put some music on, I wouldn’t blame you. It might make the game better.
Returning Crackdown fans might not be bothered by this. They’re more likely concerned with how the gameplay and multiplayer stack up to the competition. On the gameplay front, I think Crackdown 3 pushes character progression to a new level for the series, with new powers and perks unlocking at a steady rate. However, as a multiplayer experience, it’s forgettable. There are so few options that, unless you’re among the hardest of hardcore fans, you wouldn’t give it a second glance. So many better shooters exist.
The problems start with co-op. Once upon a time, Crackdown was known for its two player online co-op, where strangers could drop in and out at any time, while Crackdown 2 upped the ante to four players in one world. Almost a decade later, Crackdown 3‘s two player co-op exists as a mode for you and your friends only. No strangers allowed. If no one you know is playing the game, there’s nothing you can do. This is strange enough, but even stranger is the lack of multiplayer modes overall. There are only two: traditional Deathmatch, and a mode called Territories where players capture portions of a map like the Graffiti mode in Tony Hawk games. The cloud computing and heavily destructible environments that Microsoft talked up in the years prior to the game’s release don’t end up making a difference at all. Neither mode does anything useful with them. Plus, just a month after release, matches are already getting harder to find. I wouldn’t be surprised if the servers were empty before the end of the year.
This means that the best way to play Crackdown 3 is to play alone. The campaign isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do much to elevate itself above “fine.” It’s like a fast food kind of fun. It’s good in the moment, and able to satisfy my gameplay cravings, but I never enjoyed it enough to feel like I needed to come back. I eventually ran into a bug where certain objective markers stopped showing up on my map. Finding them is simply a matter of searching the city manually, and I normally wouldn’t have a problem with that. But now that I’m done, nothing about the mechanics of the world make me want to jump right back in and keep going.
In the interest of giving credit where it’s due, I have a couple more positive things to say. New Providence is the most interesting setting in the series. The neighborhoods are visually diverse and offer a great insight into the socioeconomic statuses of its many citizens. There are buildings of all shapes and sizes spread out in a way that feels realistic, and certain areas have their own unique look that’s easy to circle back to. I also appreciate that Terry Crews is the official face of the game. His presence makes the experience so much better, he might as well be the main character. There’s no reason for the game to provide a dozen other Agents to choose from when the correct choice is so obvious. If you play as someone else, you might as well be playing a different game.
Other than that though, there’s not much else to talk about. Mid-game cutscenes are often boring. Listening to audio logs and other dialogue gets old fast. The art style is fine. The music is inoffensive and reflects the testosterone-fueled “rah-rah” feeling of the game. Street races are cool, but when you’re busy jumping around the city like a superhuman, they feel like a needless bonus. Everything else is just so okay, it’s not even worth mentioning by name.
Considering the five years it took to develop this game, it feels like there should be more here. More multiplayer modes, more co-op options, and more single player content, for starters. But, even taking away the troubled development history, you have a game that has issues living up to the Crackdown name. Take away the franchise name, and you have a functional open world with a simplistic story and a gameplay loop that’s fine, but done better in other places. It meets the definition of fun, but I’m left wondering just what this game is trying to accomplish. Who’s it for? Certainly not the fans, but they’re the only people left who would care about Crackdown to begin with.
Perhaps having several studios (Sumo Digital, Elbow Rocket, Reagent Games, and Cloudgine share credit with Microsoft Game Studios on the back of the box) work on the title was putting too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe they were working on a corpse of a project that never should have seen the light of day. Regardless of the reasons, the end result is a perfectly average game, and the bare minimum of what it could be. With the improved character progression I would claim it’s the best in the series – but that’s just not the kind of praise it once was. If this were God of War, that would be saying something. If this were Final Fantasy, that would be a bold statement. But it’s Crackdown, and the last time that series mattered was when Xbox Live was still a new idea, and finishing the fight in Halo 3 was a dream on the horizon.
— Dominic Cichocki (@dacichocki) March 20, 2019
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This review was conducted using a retail disc copy that I purchased on launch day. This title is also available on PC. If you ever want to contact me about this or any other article I post, my Twitter is linked a couple lines up, and my email is dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com.