Back in 2007, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Halo 3. To capitalize on this delirium, Microsoft used the game’s beta to help sell a new IP that it launched during the early portion of that year. Said IP was Crackdown, an open world title that was developed by Realtime Worlds and published by Microsoft Game Studios. When it released on February 20, 2007, its cases were adorned with stickers promoting access to Halo 3‘s beta, which made the new release the talk of the industry.
Of course, it helped that Crackdown was a good game in its own right, which is something that people who bought it for the Halo 3 beta access ended up discovering once they gave it a shot. It should also be said that not everyone who purchased the game did so for reasons outside of it. This includes myself, as I bought Crackdown on day one because of its own merits. I still remember doing so, and taking the game over to my friend’s house to show it to them that very weekend. Regretfully, though, I have yet to actually finish the original’s campaign. While I enjoyed what I played of it, I was playing too many games at the time and didn’t return after starting to play something else. It wasn’t because I didn’t like it, though, which is why I just recently re-installed it.
While it’s hard to believe, twelve years have passed since that time, and we’re just now getting the third game in the series: Crackdown 3. It’s a title that’s been a long time coming, and one that has had a rather difficult development cycle. After all, it was originally announced at E3 2014, and was once scheduled to release back in 2016. Hell, the thing even became bandied about as an Xbox One X ‘launch title,’ but failed to meet either of its 2017 release dates before being pushed back until this early portion of 2019. Needless to say, it’s been through a lot.
Primarily developed by Sumo Digital, Crackdown 3 is a return to the series’ roots, which means it doesn’t take place in a destroyed version of the first game’s city, or deal with mutated creatures. The result is a game that feels a lot like the one that started it all, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The downside, though, is that Crackdown 3 fails to really show any outside of the box thinking or push the series, genre and medium forward much.
At least it’s pretty fun. That’s what matters. While it’s merely a decent game that won’t set the world on fire, it’s a pretty enjoyable one while it lasts.
Set approximately ten years after the events of Crackdown 2, this follow-up drops us into a world that has gone dark thanks to a terrorist attack on all of its major cities, except one. With power having been turned off across the globe, migrants and those in need have fled to the futuristic city of New Providence, where an evil organization has nefarious plans for them. The organization, which is headed by an evil woman who loves to hear her own voice, is called Terra Nova, and it’s not above using chemicals to gets its way. In fact, one of its major industries involves mining for irradiated liquid.
The way this thing is set up is that it offers two separate install clients. One is for multiplayer, which is called Wrecking Zone (and is something I’ll circle back to later), and the other is for the main story campaign. Together, they’re currently around 18-19gb.
Crackdown 3‘s main story begins with news of the global attack and a response from the Agency, which intends to fly its agents into New Providence, where they’ll all use their skills to take out Terra Nova’s leadership. Things don’t go as planned, however, and the agents don’t exactly survive to make their landing or fight their battle. Instead, the Commander Jaxon (Terry Crews) led mission is stalled before it even starts.
Somehow, a migrant woman is able to bring the player’s chosen agent avatar back to life, allowing it to pick up where its team left off and attempt to right the wrong either solo or cooperatively. After all, Crackdown 3 offers both a solo campaign and a cooperative campaign, and also allows players to have multiple save files for their different ‘worlds.’ They can even change characters at supply points, allowing one to make use of each agent’s specific stats and bonuses (ie. a 20% strength increase and a 5% driving bonus). I stuck with one the whole time, though, because Terry Crews’ character was well rounded, and the game rewarded me for sticking with just one. I did look for the unlockable agents’ DNA strands, which are essentially collectibles that are shown on the map, but didn’t bother using them once they’d been unlocked. The differences seemed too minor to worry about.
Of course, Crackdown has always been known for its collectibles and the way they’re used to boost one’s abilities. That is, its orbs, which boost the agent’s abilities when picked up and start to add up over time. Hunting them within the games’ cities has somehow almost been as fun as shooting their bad guys, and that’s not something that is often said about collectibles. Hell, when I first started playing Crackdown 3, I spent a large portion of the first hour just looking for the green glowing things on the tops of buildings, billboards and the like.
Through the orbs a basic agent can turn superhuman, by becoming able to leap great distances, dash in mid-air, drive insanely well and plummet to the earth in smashing fashion. Using one’s guns a lot can also lead to much better firearm skills, while punching a lot of bad guys can develop one’s strength. Best of all, though, is when you come across a hidden blue orb and it adds a significant boost to all categories.
The way that Sumo Digital has designed this campaign makes it open ended, allowing players to tackle what they want to at any given time, and at their own speed. Like some games before it (Middle-Earth: Shadow of War comes to mind as one), Crackdown 3 has targets that must be unlocked and then dealt with. These eight or so devils make up Terra Nova’s executive and management branches, meaning that the list is comprised of not only its head honcho, but also its mad scientist, mining specialist and more. They’re aligned into a pyramid of sorts, too, meaning that taking out the four on the bottom leads to the ones in the middle and so on.
You’ll end up unlocking colourful battles against these big bads by completing missions throughout the various regions of the city, including its slums, mine and wealthy interior. These missions include freeing captives from guarded cells, blowing up vehicles inside of locked garages, destroying scientific machinery and taking out heavily staffed Terra Nova outposts, not to mention destroying their mining equipment. The order in which you go about doing this, within what is an open ended sandbox structure, will create the order in which you’ll do battle against the bosses.
Before each battle — or whenever you’ve done something significant that’s pissed Terra Nova’s leader off — you’ll see motion comic cutscenes. These offer snippets of angry dialogue and set the tone a bit, but like the rest of the story, they’re not all that important. This game is mostly about doing your best to blow shit up in the coolest way possible, and the rather forgettable story is just there for reasoning. Granted, Terra Nova will occasionally retaliate by sending large strike teams to take you out. These red-tinged shootouts usually last several minutes, and end when you’ve killed a certain amount of their goons and robots.
While the bad guys have some personality, and each also have their own unique looks, they’re not the most memorable or amazing enemies in gaming. That’s even true of the one that is actually an AI being that is housed within something that resembles a large disco ball. The battles themselves are also mostly just decent and unspectacular as a result. Then again, that’s kind of the theme with Crackdown 3. That is, that it’s a half decent and enjoyable enough game, but nothing special whatsoever. It’s fun while it lasts, but it won’t blow anyone way and isn’t the longest game ever made. You could probably finish it in a couple of days, or over a weekend if you really wanted to.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy, or have fun, but I’d also be untruthful if I said that the campaign didn’t get repetitive, or that it was really good. As much as I wanted this game to be an absolute, balls to the wall masterpiece, it’s only okay. Sometimes that’s alright, though. After all, you can play it for a measly dollar if you sign up for a month of Xbox Game Pass.
The campaign mode also looks pretty nice, thanks to a futuristic world that often pops during daylight scenes. This is helped by the game’s use of cel-shading for its characters, weapons and environments, not to mention the neon lights and overdose of colour that comes with it all. Thus, this is a rather vibrant visual experience, and one that carries some of that craziness over to its dialogue and explosive sound effects, albeit not enough. That said, nighttime can create a bit of a muddy look at times, and there are some obvious performance issues, even on the Xbox One X. There’s some slight lag at times, and the music will often cut out for just a second or two.
Of course, there’s also Wrecking Zone, the aforementioned multiplayer mode that exists as a separate install. It pits two teams against each other in what are essentially team death match and zone control game modes, which are both contested within destructible environments.
All of the gameplay in Wrecking Zone is third-person, just like in the campaign, and once again verticality is also a big aspect of the experience. The maps — which look like they’ve come out of a Tron movie, due to their neon lights and heavy use of black — are all very vertical, with insanely tall buildings to jump onto and climb up. It’s important to always be moving, though, because the developers chose to use icons to show where every player is, and it can be hard to line up a moving target from way above, even with the game’s odd assortment of traditional and unique weaponry.
I went into Wrecking Zone hoping that it would be something fast, frenetic and, most of all, fun. I’m not someone who plays a lot of multiplayer, but the trailers made it look like this particular mode could be right up my alley. However, after playing matches against other reviewers, I must admit that I’m quite disappointed in it. Not only is it rather ugly, but it also feels dated and runs poorly, lag and all. Apparently it’s also impossible to squad up with friends, which is something that will be patched in at a later date even though it should’ve been made available at launch.
Don’t buy Crackdown 3 for its multiplayer, because you’ll likely be disappointed. Do buy the game, though, if you’re looking for a decent and relatively fun campaign to play through alone or with a buddy. This is especially true for fans of the series, as well as those who enjoy action-packed open world games. There’s definitely some fun to be had, despite this being a somewhat short and repetitive game.
If you’re on the fence, there’s always Game Pass, where it can be downloaded and played without needing to be purchased.
**This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive, which we were provided with by its publisher.**
- Large open world
- Lots of action, and quite a few things to do
- Orb collecting is addicting
- The multiplayer kind of sucks
- The campaign isn't terribly long
- It gets repetitive, and isn't all it could've been