It’s been nine long years since Crackdown 2 left its mark on the open world genre, and five years of that has been Microsoft Studios dangling Crackdown 3 over fans’ heads like neon, gravity defying carrot. Crackdown 3’s 2014 reveal trailer promised a cyberpunk inspired world full of bright lights in an array of neon colors, with a collection of agents working together to take out a formidable foe who was locked away inside of a tower. It was an impressive sight to behold, but sadly it was not representative of the version of Crackdown 3 that landed on our consoles this year after several high profile delays.
Don’t take that the wrong way, the art style we saw in the reveal trailers was, admittedly, on point. Its a fantastically stylized hybrid of realistic textures with comic book inspired inkwork set in the aforementioned open world of New Providence. There’s a little something missing, however, that becomes noticeable very quickly. Crackdown 3’s city infrastructure does not feature any sort of destruction physics in the campaign. Of course, if your agent picks up a vehicle and flings it across the street it will explode into a fireball when it hits another object, but if you go over to inspect the carnage you suspect you’ve wrought with your little fireworks show you’re going to be disappointed to discover that there’s not so much as a skid mark on the road to remember your foray into pyrotechnics by.
That’s not to say there’s no joy for those who are seeking to make buildings crumble and collapse around them, however. Separate of Crackdown 3’s campaign is its Wrecking Zone mode. Wrecking Zone is intended to be Crackdown 3’s multiplayer playground, but it somehow finds itself separated from the campaign as a secondary install. Despite being multiplayer, Wrecking Zone doesn’t allow players to party up with their friends. Sumo Digital has said that this functionality will be patched in at a later date, but it really is a case of ‘too little, too late’ to launch a AAA title at full price without such a standard function. If you’re fine going at a the Wrecking Zone with just the randoms you’re paired up with, you’ll be shocked to discover that there are only two game modes available. The first is a standard issue team deathmatch/kill confirmed variant with teams of six trying to rack up kills on the enemy team and confirming them by collecting the badge dropped by the dead agent. The second mode is an objective based gametype, but to be perfectly honest playing this mode was impossible as the game could never find a group of strangers to pair up for a full game.
While Crackdown 3’s Wrecking Zone is a colossal disappointment, the campaign does fare somewhat better on the multiplayer front. It is possible (and, honestly, recommended) to play the campaign cooperatively but even this has its hitches. Unlike most AAA coop experiences in 2019, Crackdown 3 does not feature drop in/drop out coop. If you’re already rocking out solo, but want to invite a friend to join you then you’re going to have to shut down your current session (which does not save mid-mission progress) before returning to the main menu to set up a co-op session. If your friend happens to leave and you find yourself alone in your world again, Crackdown 3 won’t seamlessly transition you back to your solo experience but instead kicks you to the main menu even if you were in the middle of a mission.
Whether you agree or disagree with the plethora of criticisms lobbied at the game from players and reviewers alike it is undeniable that Crackdown 3’s launch has been a rocky one. The multiplayer snafus and broken promises of a destructible world are hard to overlook, but what about the game’s actual campaign? It’s easy to look at Crackdown 3’s surface and say it is an open world third person shooter where you create as much chaos as possible. One could argue, however, that Crackdown’s combat is merely there to lend some action to a game that is more platformer than shooter.
Agility is a focal point for Crackdown’s playable agents, and improving your agility is rooted around finding approximately five hundred green orbs that are littered about the world. Leveling up your agility as well as your other skills (driving, strength, firearms, and explosives) are necessary for progressing through the world but it is the agility that is arguably most important. Many of Crackdown 3’s open world events focus on the leaping from platforms and rooftops so that the agent can hack propaganda towers, earn gold medals in rooftop races, or reach mini bosses that are hiding away on the top floors of oddly laid out skyscrapers.
It doesn’t take long into Crackdown 3’s campaign to realize that there’s nothing new or revolutionary here. Nearly every component of the game feels like something we’ve seen in other AAAs recently. From the Ubisoft style open world with a smattering of control points to the Shadow of Mordor target menu look alike to the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row wanted system that can seemingly be activated by walking on the wrong side of the road. While New Providence is a huge open world, it is deceptively populated, with most of the world consisting of supply points to claim that serve as fast travel beacons. The list of boss fights and mini bosses is on the small side when you consider the scale of the game, but at least nobody can claim that they overstay their welcome unlike the excessive amount of hidden orbs.
Crackdown 3 is the kind of game you really want to like, but its difficult to feel like it was worth the wait given how much of the gameplay is rehashed mechanics we’ve seen basically everywhere else. There’s just not enough new here to sink our teeth into, and the fundamental flaws with multiplayer – which Microsoft Studios typically has on lockdown – make it a disappointment to hardcore fans of the series and a confusing mess of a collectathon platformer with guns for newbies trying out the franchise for the first time.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher