Platforms: Xbox One, PC (via Windows 10)
Genre: Booming Action Open World Orb-Collectathon
To answer your question first-hand: yes, this is the long-sought apology for Crackdown 2 eons ago. Better late than never, right?
For those who are lost, here’s the gist: the first Crackdown game is basically Grand Theft Auto III featuring a super-powered Agent who, after collecting orbs and killing enemies, can level up to super-human levels of asskickery. You’re given an open world city, a bunch of factions to take down, and a lot of free time to waste collecting green orbs and doing drive-bys while drifting.
The third game for Xbox One and PC is essentially an amped-up version of that with a few changes here and there that aren’t just copy-pasta tech. You have a new city to explore and wreak havoc in called New Providence, new factions of enemies all working under one big umbrella corporation called NOVA, and a heckaton of weapons and vehicles to collect and play around with. Following The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild setup, your new Agent can head straight to the heart of enemy territory, but doing so without powering him/her up is suicidal.
So off you go as you destroy enemy plants and refineries, shoving rocks inside toxic sludge pumps to overload them, release hostages from prison camps, and take down enemy monorail stations and security spots to lower security. While you do that, you can distract yourself with the aforementioned green orbs-collecting, racing minigames (by foot or by car), and take down propaganda towers via simple platforming puzzles.
While all of this sounds and feels fun, I have to bring up the fact that we’re in a world where open world games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, PROTOTYPE, inFamous, and even Saints Row IV exist. And half of them are on offer; I’m still on the fence if I should recommend this sequel and its current price tag.
On one hand, Crackdown 3 does not do anything insanely groundbreaking to set itself apart from that motley crew. But on the other, Crackdown 3‘s gameplay is its own flavour and style, so on its own terms, it’s a heckuva fun and addictive experience.
I’ll break it down why it’s good to experience this proverbial crack(down 3). At the same time, I will also point out why the series needs to evolve among its peers:
The Goddamn Addictive Orb-Collecting
Just like past Crackdown games, you can power up your Agent by destroying and killing bad guys. Following the skills for kills motto chanted by the Agency’s voice and scant bits where Terry Crews talks and quips, each coloured orbs power up a core skill: Agility, Strength, Firearms, Explosions, and Driving.
Kill enemies with your fists and you can power up your Strength, making you take more hits and dish out shockwave-inducing punches and even unleash a Doomfist-style rocket punch. Destroy tanks with explosions more, and you can eventually carry more rocket salvos and create more chain explosions with just a single off-course rocket.
Most importantly, you can level up your Agent’s agility by just exploring the city and scale lofty heights. This part needs highlighting because the game is built with a lot of jumping and ledge-hanging in mind. Every section of New Providence is fun to explore in because the orbs entice you to level up your jumping and scaling more.
Your Agent can eventually double AND triple-jump as well as double AND triple-boost his/her way to the stratosphere. If your Agility is maxed out, you can even hover for a few seconds, adding more airtime to your already-large jumps. It sucks that you can still die from extreme heights, but at least you can practice doing a last-minute airdash to break your fall.
All in all, no complaints in the traversal department; I had a blast just walking on air when I’m supposed to be liberating the city from a dictatorship.
The rock-solid controls and auto-aim lock-on system also helps. There are a bazillion moments in Crackdown 3 where NOVA and its factions are hunting you down en masse, so you’ll need to navigate your way in and out of the literal firefight while also auto-locking and dropping enemies in quick succession.
The challenge gets reasonably tough, but once you put in the effort in exploring and unlocking the major explosive firearms, the going gets manageable from there. The game even goes to chaotic levels of PROTOTYPE series proportion with mechs, patrol units, and flying attack planes, but at least you have enough weaponry to fight back and/or run away.
Other open world games have done this; Crackdown 3 somehow nails that formula of being able to run and jump all around the battleground while switching from minigun fire to Anubis auto-rocket salvos that aren’t good for aiming but can still cause a lot of collateral damage. My personal favourite three-weapon loadout is the Jackhammer/Anubis/Graviton Tether/Singularity Grenade combo when I want to clear enemy bases on a whim.
The Jackhammer shoots out a cluster of falling salvos; I’ve already talked about the Anubis. The Gravity Tether lets you tether two enemies and/or objects together so that they collide with each other for hilarious ragdoll effects.
The Singularity Grenade sucks in a group of enemies and then explodes after a few seconds. I proceed to tether multiple enemies and objects in quick succession, then throw in the grenade to finish the job during one skirmish. It’s so beautiful to watch.
The Character/World Save Separation
In a small twist to the New Game+ formula, Crackdown 3 separates your Agent and World State saves. Which means you can have your beefed-up Agent play around in a fresh new World State save. Other open world games should take a cue from Crackdown 3 to further boost replayability for their sandbox experiences.
The Simple Comic-Book Aesthetics
I don’t need super-detailed open world games unless they’re necessary in conveying the atmosphere. Crackdown 3’s art style might be a turn-off to some, but I’m fine with it since it revels in its explosive carnage well. Some of the animations do need work, especially for your regular melee attacks and the close-up shots of your Agents that belong in the Xbox 360 era. But in terms of managing the multi-enemy “destructicity”, it gets the job done.
Enough praises; let’s get to the bits where Crackdown 3 needs improving.
The Context & Narrative
Long story short, your Agent has to clean up New Providence from NOVA and its matriarch Elizabeth Neumann. The game tries to build up its leader and her subordinates with short cutscenes and exposition, but it all feels dry and tacked-on. Even your handler Echo and the disembodied voice of The Agency Director (played by Michael McConnohie) can get grating from time to time.
When they spout their quips once in a while in their self-aware state, it’s fine. But when they start repeating lines ad nauseum when you get a killstreak or when you’re doing tricks in the air with your boosts and dashes, you’ll be tempted to mute your speakers.
Oh and if you think Terry Crews takes the spotlight here, think again. Apart from the game’s intro, a few quips from him when using his avatar Jaxon, and his face spouting Agency propaganda in liberated towers, the devs didn’t do much to flesh out his character or even put him in the limelight. Ah well…
The Weak-As-Heck Boss Fights
Crackdown 3 has no standout boss fight at all. All of them revolve around wars of attrition against a dude piloting a mech. One of them can only be killed if it exposes its Chimera-powered core in the middle of the battlefield, but you’re still shoving salvos up the big dude’s face.
For all of the thought the developers put in New Providence and its layout, they sure didn’t give a damn about these pivotal fights against a faction’s leader. The last fight has shades of routine-breaking, but it isn’t enough to mark this section of the game as a dud.
The Skittish Driving (Kinda)
While far from terrible, the driving in Crackdown 3 leaves a lot to be desired. Call me old-fashioned, but when my Agent is fast enough to leap from building to building with a single bound, driving feels like a secondary option.
True, the upgrades for driving are very, VERY tempting; you get to drive a giant-ass Agency car with an auto-turret and your cars eventually can be the Juggernaut (ramming powers ahoy). You even get the Agency equivalent of a stunt buggy. But I was more biased towards the travelling-on-foot option and “blowing stuff up along the way” scenic route more.
Here’s an idea: I’ve been fighting so many mechs on-foot. Why not have an Agency-powered mecha for me to pilot that can also fly temporarily and skid around like a car?
The Touted Wrecking Zone Which I’m 50/50 On…
I tried out a few matches of Wrecking Zone’s Agent Hunt mode. It’s basically a 5v5 team deathmatch mode; whoever gets 25 kills wins the game. Using Crackdown’s patented lock-on aiming and high-flying jumping, the game’s sole Hall of Heroes stage is a large, tall, and wide map full of destructible cover. It can become a clustermuck for some not used to third-person action games with superjumps and lock-on aiming, but once you get used to the flow and controls, this multiplayer aspect can suddenly become fun.
While I did manage to get a few wins for my team thanks to teamwork and persistent dodging/jumping, playing this in via Malaysia internet against mostly-Western media was a lag-heavy experience. I do hope Xbox considers tuning up their current Southeast Asian servers (if they even have any in the first place), because there’s a multiplayer high-flying open-world action game gap that needs filling on this side of the world.
Then again, my opinion might change during the weekend when I play this mode again; we’ll see.
A Fun-Sized Boom That Fizzles Fast
My 12 hours with the game is well-spent being distracted with Green orbs-collecting, blowing up random mechas and enforcers patrolling the streets, and not much else. What this game lacks in depth, it makes it up with the most carefree destruction-heavy guilt-free gameplay you’ll get to experience.
At the very least, Crackdown 3 is worth an Xbox Game Pass shot. I don’t think it’s worth the full price admission yet. However, with more free DLC and more Wrecking Zone modes, I might even bump up the game’s score.
For now, it’s a serviceable explosives-filled jump-happy action game. Crackdown 3 knows what it is, what it aims to be, and how to entertain with its brand of explosive nonsense.
It’s like that brutish obnoxious kid who happens to be fun to hang out with because he speaks his/her mind and is earnest & chummy. You just have to give it time. However, if you want more meaning and soul-searching out of your open world games (including the really slow-as-heck Red Dead Redemption 2), you may not be down with this Crackdown.
– Fun and easy-to-control shoot-and-run gameplay.
– Exploration & orb-collecting mechanics still as addictive as ever.
– Plethora of fun weapons to experiment with.
– Chaos and progression work well in tandem.
– Wrecking Zone has potential.
-Doesn’t stand out too much from the action open-world pack.
-Old-school boss battle designs & flow may not gel with new gen players.
-Driving still needs more work.
-Terry Crews is wasted here.