Crackdown 3 brings the hectic gunfights, orb chasing goodness, and neon punk metropolis setting that made the original game a must-own title back on the Xbox 360 to today’s gaming systems. The latest iteration feels very similar to this first entry, for good and for bad. Where it lacks in innovation it makes up in really doubling down on what originally blew us away back in 2007. Players fond of the first two games are really who this game is for and it doesn’t seem to try to reinvent the wheel in a way that will attract those unfamiliar the series.
Just to get it out of the way early, Crackdown 3 feels very rough around the edges. Slowdowns happen several times a play session. Sometimes when you collect orbs the game freezes for just long enough to make you worry that you might have lost your progress. Audio clips out during exciting sections of gunfights or while driving. None of these things are game breaking, but they are enough to break your game flow. At least until you start blowing things up again.
More of the Same Ol’ Orb Chasing Goodness:
Let’s talk about the progression of the game. To be critical, the story feels like little more than a loose web of events that give you a reason to take part in the various non-linear activities scattered around the city of New Providence. The villain, her motives, and the posse she is surrounded by are uninspired and completely forgettable, minus the commendable performance by their vocal talents. There is very little to become invested in that the story gives you. The task of recruiting militia members and building up an armed resistance takes a back seat to the want to jump into scenarios where you can shoot the bad guys and blow up their stuff. In that way, the story progression feels like fodder for the gameplay progression. The latter of which is actually really darn good.
The core element of that gameplay progression comes down to collecting orbs to power up your agent. For example, scattered around New Providence are agility orbs. Collecting these levels up your character’s ability to jump and their movement speed. It’s not akin to your character going from a walk to a power walk. Rather, you go from a sprint to a movement speed which can keep up with and outpace cars on the highway. With a higher agility you will soon find yourself jumping right over buildings in the city. Sumo Digital has created some great platforming in Crackdown 3 to go along with this. Propaganda Towers around the city are a gauntlet of precise movement and jumping accuracy. When you first try some of these, the task of jumping from tiny platform to tiny platform while avoiding lasers (that you are told constantly can kill you) might dishearten you. Yet, as your agent climbs in ability level, and your adeptness improves, these towers become a fun test of skill. In these, it never feels unbalanced or poorly crafted, you just know you can increase your agility level and come back later. There are also orbs that you gain from shooting, driving around, killing enemies with physical attacks,…and blowing things up! So, in pretty much everything you do you are collecting orbs, so you always see yourself progressing.
Bringing the BOOM:
The minute-to-minute gameplay is the best that I’ve experienced so far in 2019. Most levels are designed to take advantage of the verticality which comes with the super jumping. This is especially true with the later levels where you are scaling the game’s tallest structures to take down members of the villainous kingpin. Each space is designed for the different levels of agility skill, so agents who have put more focus on other areas of development won’t ever get stuck because they can’t reach a certain ledge. Higher agility will just let you skip over some ledges/platforms that might be necessary for lower agility agents.
— Jordan Aslett (@_JordanAslett_) February 17, 2019
When you aim your gun, it snaps to enemies so that you can target individual body parts. The game takes advantage of this by introducing enemies that carry shields, leaving only one or two appendages unguarded to be eviscerated by the firearm of your choice. It’s also very helpful that you can lock onto enemies because it encourages movement in the gunfights to be supernatural. It lets you jump across a gap and very easily target and kill an enemy on the other side then throw a grenade at another group of enemies, all before even landing back on the ground. Anyone can pick up Crackdown 3 and feel like a badass. Which is honestly why we play video games, right?
— Jordan Aslett (@_JordanAslett_) February 17, 2019
There Is Something We Need to Crack Down On…:
There is one aspect of the game that drives me completely nuts: Crackdown 3 has terrible tutorial overload. For example, in the very last level of the campaign, my in-ear companion Echo was still telling me that I need to disarm the red force fields that have been present in nearly every other level up to this point. She told me this after I had already traced the cord back to the battery that needed removed and returned to walk through the door that originally had the force field. By this point the training wheels need to come off, I’m beyond ready to ride without them.
The thing that further irks me about this is that the level designers have done a more than fantastic job at creating environments which push players in the direction that they need to go. In this way, players feel like they are discovering the path themselves. To use the same example as earlier, when you run into these force fields, the environment is created in a way that players (who know by now to look) can quickly find the way to disarm it. My hats go off to the fantastic level designers at Sumo, but this constant hand-holding stops solving these mini puzzles from giving a quick, satisfying feeling. Instead, it’s irritating on the level of someone telling you to do the dishes as you were already on your way to do them.
2010 Called, It Wants Its Music Back:
Do you remember that few years stretch where video games were obsessed with techno and dubstep music? Because Crackdown 3 does, and I love it for that. Traversing a neon megacity to these tunes match the theme of the game perfectly. Each boss has its own unique track, and when it’s paired with explosions, the game’s bright color pallet, and the crazy bullet-hell from oncoming enemies, the game feels truly special. The music in the game sets a great atmosphere to get lost in the handful of open-world flavored activities.
Crackdown 3 Verdict:
Crackdown 3 might not be on the top of your ‘Most Anticipated’ list, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun. You always feel like you’re progressing in the game and you can physically see your agent improving over time, which is so incredibly satisfying. Gameplay is good enough to stand side-by-side with the other titans coming out in early 2019. Although, I hoped to see way more love given to the story and was very sorely disappointed by how bland and forgettable the whole narrative was. With Sony setting the bar so high in terms of storytelling, Xbox Game Studios needs to bring their best to the table, and Crackdown 3 unfortunately is not it. The writing in the game is, without a doubt, the biggest let down. Yet, for me, the gameplay, level design, and orb-chasing progression are executed well enough that I have an easy time recommending this game to anyone looking to, in the words of Director Goodwin, “Blow. Shit. Up.”