2007 was a glorious year for the Xbox brand. Not only did the third Halo game made its mark later that year and finished the fight, it was also blessed with a little-known game from David Jones, the man who started Grand Theft Auto before the Houser brothers made it their own. It was called Crackdown, it was exclusive to the Xbox, and it started the wave of open world super-hero action games from that year until now.

inFamous, PROTOTYPE, Saints Row IV. Each of them owes their fantastical flights of fancy to the DNA laid out by then-functional Realtime Worlds.

A shame that it couldn’t follow up with its sequel. The less said about it, the better.

It seems that with Crackdown 3, third time might be a charm. Granted, it’s taken them quite a while since its 2014 announcement, but new developers Sumo Digital are close to the finish line. So what took them so long? And what’s with the numerous delays? And with other open world super-hero-themed action games like Marvel’s Spider-Man ruling the roost, is there still a place for the Xbox exclusive that started it all?

Up In The Air

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Long story short: it was the Microsoft-branded Azure cloud computing aspect of the game that took the most time and incurred the most delays in the game’s release schedule, according to Head of Production at Microsoft Studios Publishing Jorg Neumann and the game’s Creative Director Joseph Stanten.

The one perennial feature that defines Crackdown 3 is Wrecking Zone, an online multiplayer mode where Agents fight each other in a completely destructible city in a variety of objectives. Think Red Faction: Guerilla levels of teardown but for 2019. Destruction is rendered through cloud computing so it won’t tax your console or operating system. “It was a dream,” Jorg said before he paused to reflect on his next few lines,” and then you just have to break down all the problems you’ll run into.”

He said that not only does the team want to make the best Crackdown game for fans, but wants to make the cloud computing tech and dream come true as well.

“Obviously that was the harder dream to achieve. Having done this for 2 and a half years, there’s machine learning, that takes things forward, then there’s cloud computing. This will literally liberate things that we barely even understood yet.

“This is the first step; we’re using this tech for cloud destruction. But there are all sorts of other things you can do with this simulation and get it down to an infinite amount of clients if you want.”

Joseph stated that the cloud computing was all scaled down to the game’s design. “The choices all went to design. There are no real technical constraints. We could have made Wrecking Zone a lot larger or wider or even increase the player count. We went through the whole process of iteration and design to decide what the whole experience should really be [for the final game]. But like Jorg said, it’s just the first step. It’s a huge amount of technology just sitting there to use with Azure.”

A Place In The Skies

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Make no mistake: based on what I’ve experienced, Crackdown 3 is looking solid and sharp. Some bullet points to take note:

  • The road from a scrawny agent to a buffed-up one-man army like in the first game is still fun, based on the single-player campaign so far.
  • Your agent’s jet booster makes him/her do a quick air dash upwards so you can get some leverage or even do some crazy tricks while jumping from building to building.
  • Your agent can lock onto targets whether it’s for the main campaign or for Wrecking Zone. Precision aiming and twitch shooting isn’t the key to success here; it’s rather more on movement, environmental awareness, and map traversal. Finding out the shortcuts to a chokepoint or even leading your target onto a spot prime for artillery fire will net you more wins.
  • If you’re getting locked on, your agent will have a red line of sight aimed at him/her. You can break it by, well, running and dodging out of the way. Again, traversal and movement is key.

All in all, Crackdown 3 seems to be doing fine in the whole “chaos and destruction” bit; you’ll be seeing our detailed review in the near future. However, in terms of standing apart from the rest and being that system seller, it’s got a quite a fight ahead since we’re living in a world where the Marvel’s Spider-Man game exists. Joseph was a bit more focused on making a great Crackdown game, and then modernizing it for this generation.

“Crackdown has a certain DNA and a certain feel. One of the things that make Crackdown special is the action platforming aspect of it. It’s a 3rd person lock-on action platformer. It’s incredibly vertical and has an insane player levelling curve.”

“At the beginning of the game you can leap up one story and throw an oil drum. Near the end of the game, you can leap up skyscrapers and literally throw tanks at troops and mechs that pop out from the sky. [When you get more powerful] enemy factions will throw a lot in your way. Mole machines will drill out of the ground and pour out enemy troops.”

Joseph emphasized further that the game’s modern A.I retaliation system – a system that summons enemies to your location if you aggravate a mob boss’ territory and the boss himself- will be a huge challenge for players to overcome. “[We] look at the landscape of today’s open world games and pick features and good design ideas that help embellish the experience to make it even better. ”

Joseph even cited some major design similarities between Crackdown and 2017’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

“Zelda’s a very different game, don’t get me wrong. But one thing that’s special about this Zelda is that when you walk out of that opening room, you can see the main boss and the tower at the far-off distance. If you choose to, you can walk straight up there and go right after the toughest boss in the game.”

“And the game goes “sure, great, we’ll just follow on right behind you and tell the story as you go on forward.” Crackdown works the exact same modern way. As soon as you enter the city, there are no more loads, totally non-linear. It’s up to you which path you want to take within the city. And if you want to go straight for the main boss straight away: it’s going to be a challenge, but no one’s stopping you. “

“Crackdown 3 is over-the-top fun; it’s action and freedom first. That’s what makes it special.”

Crackdown 3 will be out for Xbox One and PC this 15th February. On a related note, Joseph and Jorg said that there are no announcements for post-release content.

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