Crackdown 3 review
by Dylan Blight (Xbox One S)
Time to step up your boom and stop crime as a super-powered Agent in Crackdown 3's sandbox of mayhem and destruction. Explore the heights of a futuristic city, race through the streets in a transforming vehicle, and use your powerful abilities to stop a ruthless criminal empire.
Crackdown 3 feels like a game designed for the Xbox 360 generation. It feels like old Microsoft and if that's a bad thing or a good thing will differ depending on the player. Developer Sumo Digital is trying to offer you nothing more than a very empty sandbox experience that’s fun to blow stuff up in, explore and, as fans want, collect orbs. It’s not a fantastic game, but as a release through Xbox Game Pass it’s easier to see its appeal vs purchasing the full-priced product. If anything, it’s the kind of mediocre experience that’s perfect for Microsoft to push into Game Pass.
Story wise I don’t really understand much of what happened in my 9 hour journey through Crackdown 3’s ‘story’ missions. You get to pick which Agency character you’d like to play as and hop into the city ready to wreak havoc and kick-ass against the evil corporation that’s ruling. What Agent you pick makes little difference as the only changes between them is what two exp bonuses they receive, but none of that matters in the long-run since you get experience with ease in all areas. You unlock more Agents by finding hidden DNA fragments around the world, but again, none of them are any better than the standard ones at the start of the game.
I chose to play as the Commander Jaxon, the Agent that is voiced by and based on actor Terry Crews’ appearance, because, well, he’s been the main selling point in all the promotion for Crackdown 3 for some time now and I had kind of built him up to be the canonical star of the game. In fact, I thought Crackdown 3 was secretly the Terry Crews simulator. I’m sad to report it’s not.
The opening cinematic of Crackdown 3 does feature Crews being very much his loud and humorous-self, but after that apparently Sumo Digital or Microsoft decided that getting Terry to record more lines wasn’t necessary. It might have been okay if it was just his likeness used, but you get a small glimmer of what could have been a hilarious starring character in the opening cinematic. The lack of continued support for giving Commander Jaxon a story or continued personality past the opening movie is most evident when coming into a boss fight. They will yell obscenities and send insults your way, with Commander Jaxon choosing to stay silent the entire time. It’s very weird and I can only assume the reason behind it is because they didn’t want to voice and write out full characters for every available Agent in the game -- but if that’s the case, cut them down, hell, cut it down to just Commander Jaxon. The most I got out of Terry Crews as Jaxon in-game was a small “fuck you gravity” at random times as I failed to make a jump somewhere. One damn line.
The city of New Providence is a fun sandbox for you to explore and rule like a superhero as you gradually get stronger weapons and abilities. Although it at all times feels like flinging an action figure around a paper mache constructed cyberpunk(ish) landscape. It is a sandbox world that is created for the player and offers no sense of even trying to pretend to be a living, relatable city. Crackdown 3 is a video game and it knows it is serving nothing more than entertaining those holding the controllers.
New Providence on the mini-map may look like a small place but it’s the verticality of the city that makes it a lot larger in places to explore. Especially since the later boss fights all take place at the top of large towers you have to climb up and fight your way through.
Finding ability orbs -- of which there is 750 to grab -- will eventually upgrade your agility level and grant you double jumps, triple jumps and air dashes which makes getting around the city easy and a blast, while also providing tactical advantages in combat. Your combat related actions will level up the use of guns, melee attacks and explosive items like grenades, all of which obviously come with ease. Driving is also easy to grind levels in if you want by doing jumps over and over. Although you can drive any vehicle you see in the game, and at driving level 1 you’re able to summon your own special car, all of the cars in Crackdown 3 control like cardboard boxes over a skateboard and the slightest breeze sends them flying in weird directions. They’re terrible and I suggest just exploring on foot, you’ll find more orbs this way anyway.
Throughout New Providence are several areas you need to destroy or take back control of that belong to different bosses. Piss them off enough by destroying their evil drug making facilities -- well, to be honest I don't even remember what any of the leaders were involved in, but let’s assume at least one of them had some evil drug facilities. Destroy these facilities; piss off the boss; go fight them. Rinse and repeat this process several times over and that’s Crackdown 3.
Crackdown 3 is a game made of nothing but side-activities and side-quests. From the collectibles, to the missions you actual need to do, all the way through to the handful of optional quests. Although one of these optional mission lines was one of my favourite parts of the game. You climb propaganda towers as a small test of your platforming ability and reach the top proceeding to upload your own message and receive a nice view of the city. It’s a nice break from the rest of the game which primarily -- outside some race challenges -- involves nothing but constant waves of enemies and combat.
Although you unlock an hefty barracks of weaponry to use, the majority of the guns feel the same and you’ll most likely end up picking a loadout and sticking to it. I had an AOE missile barrage weapon, a powerful long range but slow shooting rifle and a shotgun which covered me for the game. I especially liked the shotgun because it fitted Crackdown’s simplistic but fun combat. Running into a crowd of enemies, locking on and blasting away with ease is fun. I couldn’t imagine playing Crackdown 3 on a harder difficulty and having to stay back and be tactical. No way. Get in the enemies face, blow them and everything you can up and enjoy the hectic comic book style fun.
Boss fights in Crackdown 3 did offer a surprising variety which does force you to think about your tactics more so than the general fire-fights throughout the game. I died several times on the last fight, which was a first and somewhat a nice surprise. I did find my way to the final fight by accident, when I still had two other bosses on the map which was another weird surprise, but you can tackle everything in Crackdown 3 in whatever order you see fit.
Pretending you’re a super-soldier-hero while blasting goons away in close combat became a lot more rhythmic and entertaining as the electronic soundtrack by Finishing Move Inc quickly grew on me and has landed a spot on my Spotify at the moment. If there was a standout from Crackdown 3, it was the soundtrack.
If you’re wondering about the cloud-based technology that was going to enable building destruction like none-other in Crackdown 3, that’s solely in the multiplayer mode titled ‘Wrecking Zone,’ which as it stands at the moment from what I’ve played, is not that fun. Crackdown’s lock-on combat system doesn’t translate well to PVP with several weapons being spam worthy to victory and the rest left being useless. With only a handful of maps and two modes, plus the weird exclusion of being able to lobby up with friends at launch, there’s not much to like about the Wrecking Zone. Yes the destruction looks cool, but it’s not enough to carry the mode.
Crackdown 3 is a mindless collectathon that may tickle the right spot for fans of the franchise or those seeking a game stripped of everything but side-missions; those seeking a Terry Crews simulator, like I was, will be left sorely disappointed. As a standard release, it’s hard to recommended at all, but as a Game Pass title it is a fun weekend experience, even more so if you have a friend to have a laugh with.
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed on an Xbox One S), Windows
(A review code for Crackdown 3 was provided)