Crackdown 3 serves as the perfect example of a game being announced long before it was ever ready to be. First announced some five years ago and originally scheduled for a 2016 release the game has a rather troubled development. Ideas of using the Cloud to power an impressive level of destruction were the big marketing point, so now that the game is finally out, what have we actually gotten?
Firstly, I want to start by saying that I’m a dedicated lover of the first Crackdown. While I’m probably being somewhat blinding by the power of nostalgia I have fond memories of leaping between buildings, hunting down agility orbs and blowing the crap out of everything. The sequel was solid if uninspiring, so it has been a long wait for a new game in the series. With all that said, my expectations weren’t high. Indeed, if Crackdown 3 wound up just being the first game with a visual upgrade I’d probably be okay with that. It’s a good thing I kept those expectations tempered.
Once again you step into the hefty boots of an Agent, essentially a super-powered enforcer of justice with very little in the way of oversight outside of a constant voice in your ear. It’s like letting the Hulk loose in your city and then complaining a little when he starts throwing cars into the ocean for giggles. In the opening moments of the game – which is where we get to see Terry Crews giving it his all – you get stripped of your powers. It’s a cliche, sure, but considering the Crackdown game’s are largely about powering up it’s a forgivable cliche.
The basic plot is that some sort of global blackout has occurred, leaving everywhere except one island without power. Named New Providence the island is home of TerraNova Incorporated, a mysterious company helmed by some evil woman and blah, blah bloody blah.
Jumping into Crackdown 3 was instantly familiar. I felt at home with the way the game controls, the ease at which you can leap around, even if the third-person view can make accurate platforming tricky. On top of a standard jump there’s now a small secondary jump and a forward boost. As you collect more and more the alluring Agility Orbs the height of your jump gets vastly increased, and a new boost and triple jump gets added. By the time I was fully powered up getting around felt great, and is easily the best aspect of Crackdown 3.
Wait, I take that back. Hunting down the Agility Orbs might be the best part. These green, glowing balls of goodness are what let you move faster and leap higher, and finding them is weirdly addictive. The tiny sound they make is like a little ear orgasm, or like a deadly siren’s call.
The city that you bounce around like a pinball is awash in neon colours, which when combined with the third-person view does have the unfortunate side effect of making the whole thing looks like Agents of Mayhem or a Saints Row game. Still, there are times when it can be visually striking, albeit the city does feel rather empty with minimal people and traffic. Really, that’s because it was built as a giant series of climbing frames first and a city second, which was the right choice. Yes, if you stop and look it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that would also mean you’re no longer leaping from rooftop to rooftop, and why would you not be doing that?
There’s no sign of the Cloud-based destruction within the city that was once the game’s biggest selling point. Early mentions of Cloud computing granting 10x the processing power have not come to fruition except for in the multiplayer, which we’ll get to later.
Levelling up is done by simply doing stuff. We’ve already chatted about the agility Orbs and you’re growing jumping abilities, but you’ve also got strength, firepower, explosives and driving skills to work on. Alongside Agility Strength is easily the most noticeable skill; you start by flinging doors or boxes at people, and then by the end you’re dropping entire trucks on people from hundreds of metres away.
To beat the big villain there’s a bunch of lieutenants to smash, each one weakening the ultimate baddie when you kill them. The theory is that players can approach things how the like, even going as far as trying to tackle targets before you’ve weakened them.
The issue with the design is simply one of repetition. Each lieutenant comes with their own set of missions, by which I mean locations that must be attacked. Tackle enough of these and the corresponding lieutenant will come out of hiding, ready to engage in a boss battle. On paper, it sounds like a fine enough idea with the potential to provide some solid variety, but in reality every single mission is the same; go here, hack console/blow everything up. Repeat until mind-numbing starts to occur.
There are no unique missions outside of the boss battles, and even those tend to follow the same basic templates. There’s never a fun twist to the formula or some sort of interesting set-piece moment. No, you just keep shooting stuff.
At least the actual act of launching an assault feels pretty cool. The action is fast and frantic with the left trigger locking on to a target, letting you jump around like a demented kangaroo while still firing away. Crackdown 3 is more than happy to throw legions of goons at you, and it’s a lot of fun to toss cars at people or rain down grenades while you leap a few hundred feet into the air. It’s a power fantasy, and it does a good job of making you feel the power part. Once you’ve got some agility Orbs under your belt and bumped up your strength the combat can almost become balletic.
There are more issues with variety in the combat, though. There’s a stream of new enemy types popping up, but none of them feel different to fight. You shoot them, they die. Some of them are resistant to certain things, but that’s it. I’d much rather have fewer enemy types with more variety in how they behave and how to beat them. Not matter what I got thrown at me the answer was to do exactly what I was already doing.
Co-op supports four players and is unsurprisingly a lot of fun. There are no specific mechanics built around co-operation with other players, but it’s still awesome to see four super-powered lunatics leaping around the city while throwing random cars at stuff.
Multiplayer proper is called Wrecking Zone and its that mode that got all the Cloud-based destruction. Basically a handful of Agents duke it out in a simulation across two simple modes. Weirdly the same lock-on mechanic found in the singleplayer is in the multiplayer, too, meaning everyone is perfectly accurate all the time. That means the focus is put more firmly on moving around and spatial awareness so that you can get into cover fast when needed. Countering this is the fact that everything can be demolished, and while you sadly can’t kill someone via debris it does open up a bunch of options for
The multiplayer doesn’t have much longevity, I reckon, but it’s fun in small bursts. I can’t help but feel more could have been done with the modes, though. There’s just two available, the first being Territories which just involves trying to hold a location to score points. The problem is that it locks you down into one tiny spot, completely working against the brilliant movement mechanics. The second mode involves killing players and then collecting their dog tags to score points, which is far more fun since it makes the most of the movement. Plus, dog tags only hang around for a few seconds, meaning they can be defended to help ensure the enemy doesn’t snag them.
You do get two gadgets to choose from to take into a fight, but one of them is a launchpad and considering how mobile you are and the amount of man-cannons there are scattered around it feels stupid not to just take the Overshield.
Once you finish a match you have to deal with the fact that there’s no party system in place, so when a match finishes you just get kicked back to the main menu. A proper party system is meant to be coming soon in an update, but Jesus bloody Christ, people, it’s 2019. This is basic shit.
In short, multiplayer is kind of fun for an hour or two but is lacking in modes, weapons and substance.
Crackdown 3 is ultimately rough around the edges and in some ways feels like a much smaller budget game than it probably is. Yet, it’s also a lot of fun at times provided you go in understanding that it’s a mindless blast of chaos. The combat is energetic and fluid when you find the rhythm and if nothing else Crackdown 3 does excel at making you feel powerful.
But is it worth buying? Well, that’s where things get tricky. Normally I’d saying that Crackdown 3 is one you should wait to grab on sale, however the fact that it’s an Xbox exclusive and therefore on Games Pass complicates that. Flaws or not, Crackdown 3 is definitely worth the £8 it costs to grab Games Pass for a single month.
3 out of 5