Review: Crackdown 3
The Crackdown franchise leapt onto the scene in 2007, making an immediate splash thanks to the bundled Halo 3 beta, but winning over players into becoming fans with a killer combo of free-form open world gameplay, a unique new form of character development that involved collecting hundreds of glowing orbs, and enough fiery explosions to make Michael Bay jealous.
Crackdown 2 hit shelves in 2010 and is best left forgotten, and we can do that now since Crackdown 3 is the sequel we deserved all those years ago.
The franchise’s third outing is loud, both in the neon colours that drip from every facade in the city at night and in the roaring explosions and staccato gunfire that erupt constantly wherever the player goes. Crackdown 3 takes every element of the first game and turns it to 11. Better graphics (though staying true to the art style of the original game), a larger draw distance, more enemies, more guns, more vehicles – you name it and they deliver in spades.
The one element that isn’t head and shoulders above the original is the writing. What we get here is a serviceable story, not a great one, but Crackdown isn’t really a game that’s aiming to bring you to tears. This is the ‘Michael Bay movie’ of video games – it’s about having fun, doing whatever you want, giant battles, and even bigger explosions.
Crackdown 3 is set 10 years after the events of Crackdown 2, in a city called New Providence as the Agency scours the streets for evidence of a shadowy organization called Terra Nova believed to be behind a terrorist attack that causes a worldwide power outage.
Players, as the Agent of their choice from a handful of options available at the start plus more unlocked while exploring the world (but honestly if you don’t choose Terry Crews character Jaxxon you’re making a horrible mistake as he’s amazing in the role), are charged with taking down a variety of enemy strongholds to weaken the criminal empire and lure out high-value targets you can defeat in order to THEN target their superiors. The storyline weaves its way along as best it can – but as it’s partly decided by the players, who can choose for themselves what approach to the enemy forces they want to take, it’s not a hard and fast ‘point a, point b, point c’ narrative path.
There’s little time to worry about storyline deficiencies however when you’re battling enemies, both human and robot, and avoiding flying death machines about 90% of the time. Knocking off enemies brings you to the attention of the various factions, and if you attract too much attention enemy patrols start swooping in to try and put you down. All too often this results in a running (or driving) battle that picks up members of other factions and then things really hit the fan…
With multiple difficulty levels, Crackdown 3 can either be approached like the first game – where death was uncommon – or it can be a punishing experience that reminds you constantly to keep moving or die. I opted for the latter, going with the most difficult option available on first playthrough (a final, more difficult, option is grayed out at the outset) and died multiple times when overwhelmed by enemies from every side after some admittedly poor choices on my part. As Crackdown 3 carries over the ability to have your Agent be separate from the world state, so you can start a ‘new’ game with your already-leveled character, this should provide some additional replay value.
Adding to all this is a multiplayer suite that’s a separate game entirely – Crackdown Wrecking Zone, complete with its own Achievement list. This mode leans heavily on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing network to power the destruction, and it works better than I’d expected with no noticeable lag or framerate drops even under less than ideal pre-release conditions. Two modes, Agent Hunter and Territories, are available to experience the cloud-powered destruction at launch, though Territories showcases the destruction far better with incredible wholesale destruction of buildings that changes the map – and your hiding spots – drastically.
I’m not sure I’ll play a lot of Crackdown’s multiplayer, with my heart more set on playing around in the campaign world both solo and in co-op mode with a friend, but it proved surprisingly fun.
Player mobility options are through the roof (sometimes literally, as if you hit a jump pad that’s below a roof it will punch you right THROUGH that roof) with towering jumps and the ability to air dash plus a collection of swirling air “man cannons” strewn around the map to launch your character back into the action. If it weren’t for the lock on ability, allowing players to automatically track an opponent by holding the left trigger, it would be nearly impossible to follow the action – and with enemies being able to smash through walls or jump/dash behind cover to break line of sight, downing your foes still isn’t a simple task.
I’m pretty interested in seeing what they add to multiplayer, especially if there are more modes with destruction on the level Territories offers. Where Agent Hunter sees wall panels coming down and occasionally the top part of a building being leveled, Territories doesn’t seem to go a minute without major pieces of buildings smashing down – even damaging buildings around them with the debris. It adds a tremendous amount to the frantic nature of the combat, especially when everyone is firing away with the explosive rounds of their secondary weapons and causing even more damage with every shot.