Gaming Review: Crackdown 3

Review: Crackdown 3

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The road to release for Crackdown 3 is a chaotic one to say the least. After being first announced by Microsoft as an exclusive for the Xbox One in 2015 with a 2016 release. So, the very fact it has only just released in February 2019 is scary and worrying in itself. I loved the original Crackdown game so much and had so much fun chasing down all the Orbs and maxing out my agent to true Superhuman levels. The follow up was less than great, a very mediocre and short that could easily have been released as DLC instead but the one thing that gave me some degree of hope for this third instalment was the focus on Terry Crews as the star of the game as Commander Jaxon. With 4 years between the first announcement till now, and having one of the world’s top comedic actor in Terry Crews, Crackdown 3 had to be worth the wait, right?

The story to Crackdown 3 picks up about ten years later and sees a world without power following a terrorist attack. The Agency traces the attack to the city of New Providence, a city built and controlled by the Corporate organization Terra Nova, and steps up their first retaliatory strike led by the irrepressible Commander Jaxon, modelled on and voiced by Terry Crews. Now so far this all sounds very Crackdown indeed, and the opening cinematic of Commander Jaxon giving an inspirational speech as only a hero based on Terry Crews could give to a whole squad of Agents all sent to go kick some ass is funny and charming and the perfect lead into the game.

The plane carrying the Agents is shot down, killing every agent but you, the player once you have made a choice to which Agent you select to play as. Your remains are recovered by the leader of the rebels who is able to revive and regenerate you in a healing tank all ‘Luke in a tank in Empire Strikes Back’. After signalling that you agree to help the rebels fight Terra Nova, you will complete the regeneration and step on to the island ready to fight back. The twist is that because the rebels did not have access to full Agency Tech, you have been restored to health however you start with zero abilities, weapons and vehicles and so must gain back your abilities through the capture of orbs, and ‘Kills for skills’ in true Crackdown fashion.

Whenever a game is as late to release as Crackdown 3 has been, four years since being announced and then 3 years since the original release date, I really want to experience why it was delayed so much by venturing in and hoping to be amazed by something to justify it all. Crackdown 3’s problems begin right away as the brilliant cinematic gave me great expectations for more of the same only to suddenly be met with animatics with voice overs to tell the story as soon as the first cinematic is over. In all the years this game took to fully release, the best animation Sumo Digital as developers could bother to do for the story campaign, was slightly animated storyboard cut scenes. I am sorry but this level of laziness is just not acceptable for such a long wait. It immediately took me out of the world after seeing the brilliant performance of Crews as Jaxon and rightly the player should expect to see more cutscenes like it. The moment it switches to just voiced animatics disappointed me so much, spoiling my initial fun I had with the opening ten minutes.

But the gameplay itself once in the campaign felt very familiar, and for the first few hours was actually rather enjoyable. This sadly however, is more down to the sense of nostalgia I have for the first Crackdown game as this for me feels very much like a cheap remake of that first game because in no time at all I found myself playing it just as I had back in 2007 on Xbox 360. This may be set in a brand-new city but everything remains very much like the original in how you scale tall buildings and just jumping around the city, which feels very natural and the same. In fact, there is very little to really make this stand out from the previous series entries’ gameplay wise. Now as a sequel this is to be expected, but I am still not quite sure what about the campaign led to so many delays, it feels the same as the original games, you play it in the same way. Visually the cell shaded art style looks far richer here but again, its Crackdown and simply feels enhanced by being on the Xbox One family of consoles. The sound scheme is the same and the instantly recognisable sound of a nearby agility or mystery orb is again, nostalgia overload moments.

If you are not familiar with the Crackdown series, you play as an Agent, and you start off fairly weak and underpowered. You can evolve your Agent by powering up their core skills, agility, firearm use, explosions, melee combat and driving. Each one is improved the more you use them so shooting enemies will earn you Firearm orb energy as will using explosions to kill enemies. Agility orbs are all over the city to collect to increase your agility skill, punching things will level up Melee and driving and completing races and stunt rings will improve driving skills. As your agent improves each skill, they will evolve to have better skills so being able to run faster and jump higher and further as agility improves and so on. My personal favourite is levelling up the melee combat which will improve your strength to the point where you can pick up and throw large heavier objects such as boulders and even vehicles. Your Agent’s physical appearance will also change as you evolve from the normal sized agent to the “Iv been to the gym every day for years” level of true Terry Crewness.

The original Crackdown had Agency vehicles which evolved as your driving skill improved which was incredible to see on screen, for Crackdown 3 you instead get one vehicle which instead can morph into different types as your driving skill increases so you can have the Lightning sports care from the start capable of high speed before unlocking the Spider, a care with the ability to spring jump and climb walls. The final vehicle type is the Tank, which you can unluck at level 4 driving skills and is just that, a tank. The types can be switched too at any time using the d-pad and can even be summoned to come to you, which more often then not can actually run you over if you are not paying attention.

Any gun, grenade type and vehicle you pick up will instantly be added to your arsenal and garage to be called on or equipped to our loadout at any Agency safehouse which you can find dotted all over the city and need to be claimed by defeating the enemies in that location. Until your Agent has evolved a few levels, a lot of the enemies in the world can provide a pretty good challenge to you so finding the right combination of weapons will be key until you have levelled up your Agent to really take the fight to them. The challenge will not just come from the grunts on the ground but in how you build your way to the main boss fight itself. Like the original Crackdown game, once again the aim will be to weaken the infrastructure of the Terr Nova leadership by taking out the lieutenants first, doing so will then make other bosses vulnerable to attack. The aim is work your way through each boss, level up your agent and kick some ass.

The big problem with this and pretty much my major issue with Crackdown 3 campaign on the whole, is that is that is very quickly becomes repetitive and therefore rather boring by the time you are closing in on the final boss fight. Go here kill and blow things up, defeat the boss then rinse and repeat. By the time you have found really powerful weapons to use and your Agent is so powerful that you are triple jumping around the city like the Hulk on Lucazade, and you will not bother using any vehicles or other weapons just because you wont need to. The enemies you may have struggled with before simply melt before you now so there is zero challenge until you take on a boss and even the all the boss fights appear to be the same with the majority of them just being in some kind of giant mech suit you need to take down.

There is a variety in the different Agents you can use, as by exploring the city you can find more remains which can then be regenerated into playable Agents, each one can then be levelled up but really it is just a cosmetic change. The biggest crime is that of Commander Jaxon himself as Terry Crews is used so poorly in the game itself once the opening cinematic is over. As a playable Agent, Jaxon has no one liners, no fun dialogue at all and becomes nothing more than a player skin in the game. Terry Crews has done more in the marketing of this game then he was clearly asked to do in the game over the years it was lost in development hell and that sadly diminishes the campaign for me. Their greatest asset and he is reduced to only a few lines of dialogue, a cinematic intro and an Agent skin and is just another example of lazy the road to Crackdown 3’s release is.

Which brings me to the MP component in ‘Wrecking Zone’ , a 5 v 5 deathmatch mode which uses all the skills and weapons of a powered up Agent. Over the long wait for release, much was made about how destructive Agents were going to be in the game with world destruction to supposedly play a big part of the campaign. Well, that never turned out to be the case but instead ended up in this MP mode. The MP is even a separate download component to the game if you look in your installed games on your console or external drive. Sadly, Wrecking Zone is nothing more than a tagged-on MP mode that delivers some fun for the first few matches or so, but soon becomes dull and uninspired and certainly not a mode you are going to keep returning to considering what is currently out there already to play. It is so throwaway and I sense no doubt the reason why it was delayed for so long and if that is the case, it was not worth the time it took to make it a feature.

Crackdown 3 is the perfect game for the Xbox Games Pass, but the very fact it is so shallow in the campaign and forgettable in the MP mode just annoys me that it was given a full AAA price for release, I mean this released on the same day as Far Cry New Dawn, a spin off from Far Cry 5 which released at the sensible pricing of £30 physical and digital whilst Crackdown 3 is an astonishing £49.99 in the Xbox store. This is not worth that money or to be honest, anything above £25 so please only use the Games Pass to play it because once you have completed the campaign, unless you are an Achievement hunter, there is next to nothing of replay value with this game.

A game that had three release date delays over 4 years is normally a sign that it should be avoided, but this is worth playing, once at least and done so via the Xbox Games Pass. This is clearly the last of the old Xbox era of game decisions, and with Microsoft now owning thirteen in house studios to produce new fresh games, the future is a lot more hopeful then what Crackdown 3 represents. I have no issue with Xbox releasing games straight into and only on Games Pass, but this is a very average game that disappoints more than it entertains and though it can be fun, especially with a friend in co-op, it becomes far too simple and repetitive too quickly and is just instantly forgettable. When it was delayed last year, it was at the same time Agents of Mayhem, a criminally underrated game, was released and I said in my review of it that if you were looking forward to Crackdown 3, it was a good substitute.

Now Crackdown 3 is out, I still say go and play Agents of Mayhem which is also in the Xbox Games Pass and play that instead once this becomes dull and boring. What a shame, but I do hope MS have learned lessons from this mess and focus on doing far better in the future. So was Crackdown 3 worth the wait…..sadly not.

SUMMARY


+ Fun in co-op
+ Nostalgia feels
+ Perfect Games Pass title
- Wastes Terry Crews
- Lazy copy of original Crackdown
- Becomes repetitive too quickly
- Wrecking Zone too forgettable
- Relic of old Xbox decision making
(Reviewed on Xbox One, also enhanced on Xbox One X and on Windows 10)
Sean McCarthy
Freelance writer but also a Gamer, Gooner, Jedi, Whovian, Spartan, Son of Batman, Assassin and Legend. Can be found playing on PS4 and Xbox One Twitter @CockneyCharmer

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