Crackdown 3 is finally upon us. It almost feels like the end of a running joke, doesn’t it? The game’s journey from announcement to release is akin to Frodo’s journey from The Shire to Mount f’king Doom. We’ve endured mixed signals, piss poor demonstrations, and worse, numerous delays. Safe to say that it’s been a rocky road, and that’s putting it kindly. Leaving that to one side, however, the big question here is whether or not Crackdown 3 has been worth the wait. Sadly, and despite some clearly robust ambitions, I cant realistically say that it has. There’s just too many faults within, faults that I am far from willing to be kind over.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a Crackdown nut, you’ll pull more from this than most. To the game’s credit, it does a fair job at taking you back to what made Crackdown stand out in the first place. The game comes in two forms; Crackdown 3 Campaign, and Crackdown 3 Wrecking Zone. Starting with the former, the game’s campaign is relatively loose. The game opens up with an energetic introduction that showcases the agency being thrown back into the thick of it following a mass terrorist attack. Shit soon hits the proverbial fan once you come under fire, and your chosen agent (Terry Crews’ Jaxon for me) is incapacitated.
I’ll pause right there for a moment. There’s a handful of agents that you can select from, or even swap between during the game. These agents offer unique benefits that are tied to the EXP you’ll gain throughout. Nothing particularly special, but if you’re wanting to pursue an increase of EXP for a specific factor, it pays off to switch things up. The game can indeed be played in co-op too, with support for two players online, with cross-platform functionality. I’ll also point out that this is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, meaning that if you buy it for either Xbox One or Windows 10, you’ll own a copy of the alternate for no additional cost.
With that out of the way, let’s get back to it. It’s soon relayed to you that the terrorists behind the aforementioned attacks are led by a nefarious organization known as Terra Nova. Desperate and in dire need of strength and numbers, the agency regenerates your fallen agent, and from here on out, it’s non-stop action all the way to the end-game. The game takes place within the confines of the city of New Providence; a small yet dense map that’s rife with the terrorists’ presence. Corruption and oppression are key themes here, perhaps overly so, given that you’re shot at on pretty much any street that you patrol.
The game’s campaign lasts for roughly six hours on its easiest setting, and does a fair job at feeding you into the basics of play from the moment you dive on in. Straight off the bat, you’re free to explore the game’s world however you see fit. Though, due to your regenerated state, all of your powers and abilities need to be unlocked from scratch. Pulling up the world map shows you a plethora of objectives and missions, all of which are color coded to correlate with the game’s antagonists. Now, much like the system found in that of Ghost Recon Wildlands, you’ll need to destabilize and neutralize these points of interest.
You’ll see a target tab next to the map’s tab in the menus. Here, there’s three colored sections (purple, red, and green) that are occupied by the nine antagonists. Each of these foes have a percentage gauge that will climb as you complete missions that are based on their respective colors. Once you manage to get an antagonist to max percentage, you’ll be able to track them down on the map and wipe them out. There’s a bit of a gate here, mind. You see, these antagonists are structured around rank, and for each color, there’s a hierarchy that you’ll ultimately be working to destroy. It’s relatively simple stuff, really.
Of the nine antagonists, three rest in the purple category, three in the red, and three in the green. The aim of the game is to kill each of them, but you’ll only have access to their higher ups once you’ve taken out the two front-line foes. Unfortunately, this is where the game goes pear shaped. It’s just not very fun, nor is it particularly fulfilling once the novelty wears off. Much of what you’ll be doing will consist of little more than liberating caged prisoners, destroying enemy equipment, and mowing down bad guys like there’s no tomorrow. It all gets very damn repetitive, very damn quickly. The only real upside is the boss battles.
Of course, there’s several things to do in New Providence if you’re seeking side content, but it feels samey-samey and lacks innovation and depth. It doesn’t help matters that nothing feels truly fluid. Fancy taking to some street racing? You can do that, but the vehicle handling is clunky and too weighty. Perhaps a spot of rooftop racing? That’s present too, but traversal is too fidgety and stiff. Maybe you’re in the mood for some parkour and have a taste for wiping out propaganda towers? Why not! But, even scaling buildings comes across under-baked and is fairly tedious as a result. Nothing comes together well enough at all.
The game boasts freedom, but takes place on a map that you can literally cross in the space of a few minutes, despite its slightly impressive verticality. New Providence is a spaghetti nightmare at the best of times, and with the lack of any road-guided waypoints, you’ll spend a fair bit of time angling the awkward map to suss out which road leads you to the district that you need to get to. Forget trying to remember its layout. When you’re not taking part in side content, which mostly amounts to racing or blowing stuff/enemies up in one form or another, you’ll be hot on the heels of whichever antagonist you’re gunning for first.
Now, as alluded to above, to draw out your prey, you’ll be working to destabilize their projects. It’s a shame, then, that there’s not much variety on show here. Furthermore, most of these missions can be nuked in a matter of minutes due to how easy it is to circumvent the objectives. Take, for instance, smashing up power plants. You’re literally given a handful of valves to destroy, and that’s that. It’s all too easy to ignore the enemies and concentrate fire on the valves from afar, gaining you a completion in no time at all. I can say the same about practically any single task in the campaign. Things only get worse in this regard.
Entire missions have been made up of killing a set target that’s paroling a small base, however, these targets either tend to fall off platforms, or, join the grunts on the front-line to deliver you an easy kill. Where’s the innovation here? Where’s the intelligent development? Have I missed something? Questions I asked myself on a frequent basis. Rounding all of that off, these missions are so close to one another that you can stumble out of one mission, and walk into the next. Naturally, that’s victim to the game’s rather small map, but still, it’s abundantly clear that there’s a lot of room for structural improvement.
There’s also some lazily repeated missions too. Did I have fun when I was taking down a towering mining tool for the first time? Yes I did. Was it quite as much fun the third time? No, not really. Especially when taking down said tool means shooting at little more than a handful of weak points. Did I have a blast whilst I was shooting remote servers that were powering a protective field that encased a nearby switch I needed to access? Maybe once or twice. Was it quite as exhilarating the fifteenth time I was required to do it? I don’t think that I need to answer that question. Crackdown 3’s campaign is easily its weakest link.
If you come into this expecting mission diversity and gameplay fluidity, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You’ll turn it on, do the same shit over and over until it becomes dull and monotonous, and turn it off. I certainly wont be returning to the story any time soon, if ever again. I daresay that the game’s collectibles offer the most fun here, but even that feels like quite a stretch. These serve to extend the game’s longevity, and should you find the willpower to locate and obtain every thing in New Providence, you’re looking at roughly three extra hours of gameplay to be had. That in mind, what’s here for you to chase after?
Orbs, stunt rings, and agent DNA are scattered across the map. Should you want to bolster your driving capabilities, you can drive through these rings to earn additional EXP. Orbs serve the same purpose, and are categorized as agility orbs, and hidden orbs. Agent DNA is a collectible that will grant you with a new character to play as if you track them down. Once again, it’s all fairly self explanatory. Nevertheless, as someone who loves chasing down hidden items, I have to admit that I found fleeting joy on this front. The gameplay does a fair job with the few mechanics and functions that it encompasses. That much has to be said.
You’ll start out the game with limited capabilities. The only way to improve your agent is to level up your stats – agility, firearms, strength, explosives, and driving. We’ve already covered the former and the latter. Throughout the course of the game you’ll earn orbs of varying colors. These colors correlate to the aforementioned stats, and can be earned by killing enemies in ways that tie to those stats; blow up a foe to get more explosives EXP, shoot enemies to get firearms EXP, and melee your opposition to earn strength EXP. Eventually, you’ll begin padding out and leveling up these stats, granting you new traits and abilities.
The gameplay begins to shine a bit brighter when you’ve amassed these abilities. Working to up your agility soon gives you access to boosting and air dashing, which when combined, makes for some very gratifying moments as you outmaneuver your opposition’s fire and lay them to waste with a ground slam. Other abilities include the likes of picking up heavy objects, useful for when you have a pack of enemies that seem hungry for a truck. My personal favorite is the flying fist, which allows you to charge a melee attack to cause some devastating damage output. Nevertheless, there’s a nice variation of benefits to work for.
I can extend the same appreciation to the game’s enemy variation too. There always seems to be some new foe to take on, with each new introduction typically housing their own attack patterns and so forth. The drawback? They’re not very intelligent. They’re akin to the likes of the grunts that you would find in Titanfall, constantly running into fire and purposely putting themselves in your line of sight. Still, they make good cannon fodder I suppose. Boss battles, on the other hand, are much more formidable and much better developed. I only wish there was more of them overall, because nine in total doesn’t feel too bulky to me.
That said, these moments were oftentimes the best moments that I had in the entire campaign. The bosses are typically huge, and to a degree, fairly challenging. They also do well at bringing something exciting to the proverbial table, whether it be towering mechs, large aircrafts, or anything alike, I found myself appreciating the change in mechanics. Unfortunately, and much like every other component in this sub-par adventure, there’s issues to be mindful of. Out of the game’s nine bosses, four of them killed themselves for me. No, before you think it was intentional, this had nothing to do with the game’s story.
Instead, it seems as though their scripted movement got them caught in a loop that saw them splash damaging themselves to death. Mercifully, this only happened nearing the end of each battle, or else I wouldn’t have been as forgiving. In regards to the weaponry in the game, Crackdown 3 excels. The game takes a very straightforward approach as to how you unlock and obtain new weaponry. Here, you need only pick up a new weapon or grenade to unlock its use. Once you’ve done that, which is easy do given that most enemies hold unique weaponry, you can alter your loadout whenever you’re near an agency station.
The same method applies to the game’s vehicles, and across both of those aspects, there’s a sizable variation to enjoy. Your agent can hold three weapons and one grenade type, giving you more then enough firepower to see any mission through twice over. It helps, of course, that the weapons are diverse throughout the entirety of play. You’ll find shotguns, rifles, miniguns, rocket and grenade launchers, and much more besides. The grenades offer a neat twist too, ranging from your garden variety frag grenade, right up to the more outlandish cryo, health, and arc grenades, each of which are designed to allow you to experiment.
Agency stations, known here as access supply points, are scattered around the map. The majority of these are under enemy control, and in order to take them over, you simply need to touch them. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be free to use them as a means of fast travel. You can also replenish your ammo here, as well as alter your loadout. That being said, it kind of felt like a wasted opportunity. Would it not have been better to structure some sort of activity around this acquisition? It all comes off quite lazy and rushed. Regardless, that, ladies and gents, is pretty much the bulk sum of Crackdown 3’s campaign.
It’s a campaign that’s only fun for as long as you can overlook its repetitive foundation, a foundation that lacks any meaningful depth and refinement. Like I said earlier, those that live and breathe the series will no doubt appreciate this for being more akin to the first game than anything else, but if you were hoping for depth, look elsewhere. I also noted a few technical issues present too. Framerate inconsistency makes an appearance, but that’s nowhere near as annoying as dying on the spot for no reason whatsoever, or infrequently losing the ability to boost and air dash when you’re three hundred foot off the ground.
The game’s controls, despite some unresponsive feedback, remains well set for the most part. Your agent moves swiftly on the ground and in the air, with combat and firefights providing a nice weighty experience that only becomes more satisfying as you unlock new weapons and abilities. The devs, however, really need to address the game’s wider handling. I see nothing fun about trying to scale a building, only to constantly fall to my death because my agent is too stupid to correctly latch on to a ledge. There’s no fluidity as far as this is concerned, and seeing that you’ll need to climb high often, it only irritates all the more.
It’d be nice to see some improvements to the driving too. New Providence is chock-full of winding roads and sharp turns, but when most vehicles struggle to maneuver as quickly as the map demands them to, it only encourages you to remain on foot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given the size of the map, but either way, it needs sorting, and soon. I really wanted to like Crackdown 3 a lot more than I did. The whole campaign has heaps of potential and ambition, but, due to its sloppy execution and its utter lack of depth, it fails miserably to achieve that. I cant even commend the game for its overall visual design.
Whilst it sounds good and has some stellar voice work (including that of the reliably likable Terry Crews) Crackdown 3 doesn’t look too great. The game’s textures are messy, with a sheer lack of detail and polish throughout. There’s some issues with the game’s shadowing too, being that on several occasions, I witnessed shadows flickering side to side as though the buildings that they belonged to were doing the conga. The water effects are the most laughable on show though, relaying what resembles that of a pale blue silk sheet being constantly wafted. It’s an immersion breaker to say the least, and well below expectation.
I suppose the biggest problem that I have throughout all of this is exactly that, expectation. Microsoft has, time and time again, spoke of Crackdown 3 as though it was the best thing since sliced bread. To come into it and witness such a repetitively structured campaign, complete with lazy rinse and repeat missions, several poor design choices, and worst of all, technical issues, is just a slap to the face. Granted, there were times when I was having a genuinely good experience, but these few highs are outweighed by the campaigns many lows. Let’s cross our fingers and hope we see some patches arriving in the near future.
Now, at this point, surely Wrecking Zone, the only aspect of Crackdown 3 that seemingly had some redeeming qualities, would prove to be better? Whilst it’s certainly more innovative than its campaign counterpart, it’s nowhere near as impacting as promised. Initially, I had my doubts that this multiplayer mode would gain the traction that I suspect Microsoft’s banking on, and even just after a few games, I felt as though I was spot on. Completely separate to the campaign (it has its own client), Wrecking Zone offers up a suite of multiplayer game modes. Perhaps this is where folks would spend the most time?
Clearly not. I struggled to get into a full lobby several times over, and that was after waiting a fair portion of time for the game to plug me to an active server. Wrecking Zone leverages the power of the hyped-up cloud. Essentially, the devs are running Havok in Azure; which is the equivalent of running twelve Xbox Ones. According to the developer, there are no technical limits as to how big they can go. They chose the five-on-five player count and designed the map size based on choice, rather than limitation. Wrecking Zone also boasts several global data centers, meaning that you’re unlikely to be affected by poor ping times.
In truth, it’s a good job that they stuck to small maps and a small player count, because if the game struggled to get me into a full lobby as it stands, I can only imagine how laughable it would be on a larger scale. Fully destructible environments are present, allowing players to fluidly break down walls, buildings, and anything between, in order to reach their opposition. The problem is, this destruction doesn’t feel as fluid as the gameplay’s pace. I oftentimes found myself looking like an idiot as I stood in front of a towering structure, pulling out my rocket launcher, to then take a chunk out of it. Not too unlike a sitting duck.
Practically everything can be blown to pieces and leveled, but when it doesn’t feel as though it combines well with the fast-paced nature of combat, what’s the point? It serves best in the game’s territories mode, which is a domination-like mode that sees players fighting for ground. I wont deny that I had some fun blowing my way from the top of a building to its ground floor in the space of a few seconds, but the novelty wears off fast. Much like the campaign, it gets very repetitive too, and due to the lack of a progression structure, there’s little incentive to return. You’ll play a match, and get booted back to the menu.
Wrecking Zone sports lock-on targeting, which helps you to consistently track your enemies. To do this, you’ll need only press LT to lock-on to your opposition, and then RT to fire your currently equipped weapon. It’s as simple as that. The mode does a good job at feeding you all the information that you need, as well as ensuring that a balance is met. For instance, you’ll know when an enemy has you locked in their sights via a telltale white line that extends from your agent. The only way to overcome this is to break their line of sight or put some distance between you and them. If this line turns red, they’re shooting at you.
The key here is to only lock-on when it’s absolutely necessary. Should you lock-on at a distance and allow your opposition to know of your presence and intentions, it will be easier for them to break the line of sight and return the favor. This may indeed be an action-packed destructible playground, but perseverance is equally as important as persistence. I only hope that the developer pads this out with more modes and maps in the long-term, as well as a reason for players to continue returning, if they can maintain a base, that is. I doubt I’ll return. Whilst it’s initially fun to blow shit up and watch it all fall, it gets dull.
Much like in the campaign, you’re free to select from a range of agents. Agents in Wrecking Zone come equipped with pre-set capabilities; powerful thrusters that allow you to boost higher, dodge faster, and punch harder. When in the air, your agent can utilize two air jumps and two evades, in any order you see fit. These recharge once you’ve touched the ground, again, providing the mode with a chaotic edge. Orange orbs are scattered around the Wrecking Zone maps and constantly respawn. In gathering these orbs, you’ll charge your overdrive and enhance your agent’s skills. These two functionalities go hand in glove.
Overdrive will increase your baseline skills; a boost to your agility and firearms skills, or, your strength and explosive skills. When overdrive is active, boosted skills will be much more effective. Say, for example, your agility and firearms skills are active, you’ll cause more damage and move more swiftly as a result. Killing enemy players, gathering orbs, and destroying structures will charge your overdrive, and once maxed and triggered, the game will randomly pick one of the two skill pairs for you to make use of. There’s a time limit as to how long this lasts once you’ve triggered it, so it pays off to choose your moment wisely.
The game has launched with five-on-five team based modes; Agent Hunter, and Territories. The former is akin to the likes of Kill Confirmed, in which teams of agents will battle it out and grab their fallen foe’s dog tags to claim a point. Territories, as aforementioned, has your team fighting for ground. Wrecking Zone needs a lot more than this to stand the tests of time. Whilst it’s nice, in contrast to the campaign, to fight enemies that are more capable, nothing really provides any wow-factor. When you’ve seen one building fall, you’ve seen them all fall. When you’ve punched a hole in one wall, you’ll see little difference next time.
Microsoft dug a hole for themselves early on in the gen. They made several promises and announcements too soon, and have backed themselves into a corner. If this is the power of the cloud, I’m not impressed. I’m not suggesting that we wont see great things come from it, but Crackdown 3 doesn’t represent its capabilities well enough at all. When all is said and done, between its campaign and its multiplayer component, this is a substandard action game, at very best. Let’s hope the handful of new studios that Microsoft recently acquired can do much better than this with whatever they release, and in a better frame of time.
Crackdown 3’s campaign is shockingly under-baked, consisting of little more than overly repetitive mission structure, hit and miss functionality, and several technical issues. Things don’t fare any better in its Wrecking Zone. Whilst its multiplayer component does indeed house some potential that may be realized through post-launch support, as it stands in its current form, it’s a shameful representation of Microsoft’s lofty promises.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.