Five years in development and countless delays later, Crackdown 3, the spiritual successor to the Xbox 360’s 2007 cult classic Crackdown, is finally with us. With it, another open world to wreak havoc in as an agent of… The Agency.
For a game released in 2019 that promised us so much in the past such as destructible environments, it sadly hasn’t delivered. Yet, as a trip down memory lane, as a reminder of when gaming was just that little bit simpler, you may find some enjoyment in the mindless action that awaits you in Crackdown 3.
Crackdown 3 begins with a comical opening which sees the games frontman, Terry Crews, delivering one hell of a motivational speech to his fellow Agency members. Instantly, the tone of the game and story is revealed to you as wacky and humorous. As you would expect from a Crackdown title, the game doesn’t take itself seriously, which is fortunate really when you consider the fact that the story could have been written by a small child.
Island City, New Providence has been created and is ruled by mega-corporation Terra Nova. They started off being nice, and now they’re bad, so The Agency has been sent to investigate. Unfortunately, The Agency ship is shot down before it can reach the city, with only one member of its crew surviving – you. From here, you team up with an insurgent scientist who pieces you back together—minus your powers—to take out the leaders of Terra Nova and destroy their organisation piece by piece.
To Crackdown 3’s credit, it isn’t long before you’re thrown into action: jumping, climbing and shooting in typical Crackdown fashion. My first five minutes of gameplay saw me collecting orbs, climbing the environment and shooting enemies. It’s all very bare-bones and basic. The games combat, for a start, is a simple affair; you lock on to an enemy by holding the aim button—which auto locks on a target from pretty much any distance—and fire. That’s it. Regardless of which gun you use, or even which enemy you face, the core combat system remains the same throughout. Yes, new moves can be unlocked, but these aren’t exciting enough to mention and often feel like abilities that I should have started with rather than having to earn.
While combat may be simple, the amount of weapons and explosives on offer at least let you switch up how you kill. Weapons all have advantages against certain enemies types, and although it never felt essential to pay much attention to this, damage numbers were improved when selecting the correct loadout for battle. In one boss encounter in particular, it wasn’t until I changed my weapon of choice that I was was able to clear the fight. I guess it isn’t all brain dead action after all…
The city itself is strangely empty, never really feeling like a place where people live or where its people are encountering the hardships the game would lead you to believe. Buildings can be climbed in an almost identical fashion, NPC’s and vehicles appear as duplicates all too frequently, and entire areas can feel like copy/paste jobs. It isn’t all bad, however – the frame rate holds true throughout whole experience. I was playing on a standard Xbox One and, even in the most chaotic moments, never felt the frame rate dip to unpleasant lows.
Frequent cheesy humor will at least bring a smile to your face, while radio coms will keep you heading in the right direction at all times
The voice acting is worthy of praise too. Frequent cheesy humor will at least bring a smile to your face, while radio coms will keep you heading in the right direction at all times. Sounds from guns and explosions are varied enough to never feel annoying, although they barely stood out either. Terry Crews is most definitely deserving of a shoutout, as his dialog is by far the most pleasing on the ears, it’s just a shame there isn’t more of it.
You can, of course, play the entire campaign controlling Mr Crews character if you so desire, and for the most part I did, but there are more on offer. Each agent you choose to control will offer a different look and a percentage boost to the amount of XP needed to level certain statistics. For example, Terry Crews character will offer a 10% strength XP boost. The game starts you off with 6 unique Agents, and I use the term unique loosely, as each one plays exactly the same way. A further 16 agents can be unlocked by locating DNA samples scattered across the game world, each of which can then be unlocked to play in the games co-op mode.
For those familiar with the Crackdown series, you will have either fond or frustrated memories of collecting orbs. Love them or hate them, they’re back, with agility orbs again being the most common. These orbs—and the more useful hidden orbs—are littered all over the city, with each area having a set number to locate. Each agility orb collected will increase your agility stat slightly, meaning your agent can essentially jump higher and further. Special orbs are harder to locate, fewer in number, and boost every stat a little. Finding enough orbs to level up your character is the easy part, but finding all of the orbs to 100% the game is where it all becomes frustrating, but then again, the same could be said for most games.
Gameplay objectives are pretty dull too. The basic idea is that you traverse the map, slowly loosening Terra Nova’s grip on the city by completing tasks.
Gameplay objectives are pretty dull too. The basic idea is that you traverse the map, slowly loosening Terra Nova’s grip on the city by completing tasks. Most of these task will have you shooting enemies and destroying machinery that is run by a leading member of Terra Nova’s organisation. Destroy enough of their assets and they get pissed off enough to appear on the map as boss fights. From here, you rinse and repeat, killing more important figures as you climb the corporate ladder. Each mission or boss battle let’s you know a percentage level of success – the lower the level, the harder the fight.
It isn’t long before these missions become repetitive. In fact, for each section of Terra-Nova you’re attempting to destroy, the missions play out almost identically. For example, tackling the security forces of Terra-Nova will see you tasked with blowing up their vehicles, first by disabling the power source that controls the door to the parking lot, and then by simply shooting the vehicles a few times. Sounds okay, right? The problem is, I did this very same mission at almost identical looking locations five or six times. By the end, the whole thing feels mentally draining.
Side missions are also coma inducing, seemingly offering zero incentive to complete them outside of trophy hunting. Yes, they help gain XP and intel on leaders, but this can all be done without straying from the main objectives. What’s worse is how shockingly bad these side activities are. One such activity involves scaling propaganda towers to weaken the enemy. It might sound simple, but these towers become increasingly difficult, with platformer style jumps and timing required to reach the top. The whole thing feels like a frustrating, pointless, mess. If that wasn’t bad enough, another activity will see you driving around sections of the city to complete time trials. Again, it’s bare-boned and pointless, with cars that handle like a fat kid on a micro-scooter. On one occasion (the only occasion) I restarted a race after a poor opening corner, only to find another vehicle had stopped in front of the start line, preventing my car from moving. Further restarts failed to resolve the poorly parked car, so I gave up.
Fortunately, Crackdown 3’s boss encounters are one of the few highlights of the experience. Although again slightly repetitive (so many of them are dudes in mechs), they do at least add some variation in how you tackle them. For example, bosses often come accompanied with endless waves of mobs, and killing these mobs helps to regenerate your shield. I often found myself torn between all out DPS on the boss or a more steady approach, farming the mobs for the shield boost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still all fairly basic stuff, but at least its a change of pace from the boring missions.
It took me roughly eight hours to complete Crackdown 3. By the end, I was pretty much rushing through the levels to get the experience over with. This rushing presented yet another issue with Crackdown 3 – it’s so frigging easy. I hadn’t realised until late in the game, but you run past large amounts of content when climbing to reach a boss without killing a single mob. Not that killing mobs is difficult either; by the end, most were falling after no more than a couple of shots. The second half of the game became such a cake-walk that I’d recommend playing on one of the harder difficulties.
Crackdown 3 has an attached multiplayer mode called the Wrecking Zone that’s completely separate from the games campaign. Here, two teams of Agents battle it out in Tron-like simulator levels over two game modes. The first mode is called Agent Hunt—which is basically Kill Confirmed—where dead Agents drop a badge/tag that has to be collected to score, and the second mode is called Territories, where players have to capture and hold points on the map to score. Again, it’s basically a take on the popular, pre-existing multiplayer mode, Domination.
These two basic, cloned, game modes aren’t the issue, however. The problem I had with Wrecking Zone was that it looks, plays, and runs like a steaming pile of shit. Let’s start with the actual environments. Much was said about the destructible buildings in Crackdown 3 and I had hoped that the inclusion of them in multiplayer might make up for their removal in single player, but it didn’t. The premise of destroying large buildings in a huge city has been substituted for blasting down greyed-out childrens building blocks. Each structure in Wrecking Ball is little more than a bland, hollow tower, with little reason or advantage given to destroying them. What’s worse is how poorly Wrecking Ball seems to run, with my framerate constantly dipping and feeling like it’s been locked at a lower number than that of the campaign.
Sadly, the gameplay isn’t much good either. Teams of five players compete against each other in the only two game modes the game has to offer.
Sadly, the gameplay isn’t much good either. Teams of five players compete against each other in the only two game modes the game has to offer. There are 21 Agents skins for you to select, providing you bothered to unlock them in the single player. Not that it matters, as just like in the campaign, every Agent is the same, moving and shooting identically.
You start each game with a small selection of primary and secondary weapons and a choice of two special abilities. One allows for an overshield, the other a deployable launch pad. A power-up buff for your agents attack can be used by collecting orb-like resources littered across the map, and it’s fortunate that they exist, or the maps would be completely void of any player interaction. The combat is exactly the same as in the campaign, so expect to be frustrated at the ease at which opponents can lock-on to you from pretty much anywhere in open sight. Yes, this works both ways, but that only makes killing less satisfying than in other online shooters. For me, the worst part of Wrecking Zone is the lack of purpose and progression. There’s nothing to unlock here, nothing to improve, nothing to work towards, and if you needed a final reminder of just how basic this online mode is, you will be kicked back to the menu after each game, having to go through the matchmaking process each and every time you want to play. Luckily, that won’t be more than once or twice.