Crackdown 3 is not all it’s cracked up to be

Since the announcement at E3 in 2014, Crackdown 3 has been in development hell for at least five years. Since then, the game has seen trouble, from numerous delays to losing its co-developer team to Epic Games. Cloudgine, which was acquired by Epic in 2018, is the company behind the cloud-based physics and destruction technology.

Introduction

Crackdown 3 showcased new cloud-based technology for calculating physics. At various press events, tech demos displayed ambitious destruction: rocket launchers brought enormous skyscrapers to their knees. Black-hole guns took out blocks of the city. Agents peppered a bride with high-caliber rounds until they crumbled.

This technology excited me; I have always loved destruction and physics in video games. When I first played Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (my first FPS with actual ragdoll effects) I was elated with the physics. Today, I still look for that same feeling of awe I got from first seeing how a video game could calculate interaction between objects.

When I first saw Crackdown 3’s promises for destruction and physics, I got excited. I’ve played Crackdown 1 and enjoyed the game for what it was. Remembering how much fun that was, and seeing the destructible city, I put Crackdown 3 on the top of my Games of 2016 play list.

And then on the top of my 2017 play list.

…then my 2018 play list…

and… then my 2019 play list…

When it finally released on February 15, I was less than excited for it. But, as the stubborn individual I am, I wasn’t going to let my pessimism or negative press sway me from playing Crackdown 3. I’m sure the disappointment in this game was all just part of the outrage-culture that encircles our favorite hobby! Right?

Guys?

Story

Empty, bad, and convoluted. Completely flies in the face of Crackdown 2’s story.

Mega spoilers ahead.

The Agency (the “good guys”) turns out to be evil and manipulative at the end of Crackdown 2. But in Crackdown 3, they are suddenly the good guys. This contradicts what the audiologs in Crackdown 2 conveyed about the true nature of The Agency.

Crackdown 3 seems to completely disregard that teeny, tiny tidbit of information. Unless I’m missing something in-game, the story does not line up with the story of its predecessor.

Crackdown 3
The map is large with a bunch of stuff to do. A bunch of… the same thing. Over and over.

As I mentioned earlier, the story is absolutely hollow and unsatisfying. Driving home the message of “companies bad, capitalism bad, CEOs bad”, Crackdown 3 offers very little in the form of compelling dialogue or narrative. You may or may not catch some dialogue from the bad guy bosses as to what they do at Pacific City (due to bad voice mixing), but aside from an intro and outro cutscene, the game offers nothing for players looking for a story.

Now, the game does offer some audiologs for the player to find. Again, they were dry, boring, and didn’t give any more insight to the overarching story than what I was already getting.

If you’re looking for story in Crackdown 3… don’t look. You won’t find any good narrative, aside from a story as interesting as off-white printer paper with a few coffee stains.

Gameplay

The game is fun in bursts. Though the campaign does offer plenty of explosions and orb-collecting, the mission structure is repetitive. Multiplayer can almost be written off entirely, and I have many gripes with that.

Crackdown 3

Singleplayer

The campaign’s story is a bland, tasteless sock. However, the gameplay is actually pretty fun! The more you play and kill enemies in their “Skills for Kills” system, the stronger your abilities become and the more weapons and vehicles you unlock. Then, you have Crackdown’s famous agility orbs. You collect these orbs around the city to increase your speed and jump height while unlocking more agility abilities.

That being said, the orbs, I found, weren’t as interestingly placed throughout the city as they were in Crackdown 1’s campaign. Regardless, I found it fun and almost addicting to collect those orbs; just one more orb before that mission… ok, maybe just one more… one more… one more.

Crackdown 3

I mentioned earlier that the game was fun in bursts. The explosions, throwing huge objects, vehicles and chaos can be fun. However, the mission structure is absolutely dull and, again, boring. Yes, it feels like Crackdown of yesteryear. It certainly feels like a true reboot, or even remake, of an Xbox 360 game. However, it didn’t do much to grow upon its precious installments. The missions are all, “Go here, blow up these weak spots. Leave.” over and over and over again. Then, after you do the same mission repeatedly, you finally fight the boss of that mission string.

To wrap it up, the driving is positively the worst driving experience I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with in a video game. Though I did get used to it, all the cars felt like you were driving bars of soap on moist wax paper. If you strike a small piece of geometry on the road or off-road, you will come to a jarring and immediate stop. You then have to back up and slowly accelerate to get out of there.

Multiplayer

The co-op is decent. It’s the type of experience you can enjoy playing with a good friend, chatting about work or school, or about your family or kids. You can just turn off your brain (you don’t need it when playing the campaign), blow things up, and laugh at telling stories about high school antics.

Because the game shooting is built on a persistent lock-on-auto-aim system, that bled over to the multiplayer mode “Wrecking Zone”. This isn’t too much of an issue, as it seems like the point of the game’s “strategy” is all about line-of-sight. That would be fine, if the line-of-sight was broken when you would jump around cover, forcing your pursuer to anticipate your movements and maybe bust through a wall. But, no. They can keep locked on to you indefinitely.

That’s Crackdown. I can’t blame the game for its identity. And, boy oh boy can I not wait to play Wrecking Zone for the amazing destruction that was showcased… five years ago. Ah, well, in that time it’s probably even better than advertised!

Crackdown 3
Look at the skyscraper being razed against that city skyline.

Nope. I have never been so disappointed with a game’s destruction system. This really took the cake. The scale of the multiplayer levels was toned down, the capabilities of razing entire buildings was knee-capped with indestructible supports, and the destruction being limited strictly to PvP modes.

I understand that the game hit some very rough patches, and I’m not someone who points fingers and blames the hardworking developers. That still doesn’t stifle my disappointment. I and many others were looking forward to this destruction technology.

Though I didn’t find it very fun, it does feel like a game I can play with friends; kick back with a few beers on a Saturday night, play the territories mode and just go to down on the environment.

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What could have been.

Visual and Audio

To start off, the game looks pretty good. Actually, I would describe it as looking really cool. The audio does leave something to be desired. As I mentioned earlier, some of the vocal mixing is atrocious. On top of that, the game’s soundtrack has so much potential! The music is too rare, and I don’t know if I just don’t hear the music because it’s mixed poorly or if it’s non-existent.

Visuals

The game looks amazing; the cell-shaded art, bright colors and dazzling explosions lend to an amazing visual experience. I do have to say, if this game had a photo-mode, I would absolutely spend hours setting up amazing shots with this awesome color palette.

Crackdown 3
I do absolutely love the visuals, though. Look at ‘im: big ol’ T-Crews himself.

If you have an Xbox One X, or a PC with 4K HDR capabilities, the game is stunning. You get bonus points if you play it on an OLED! I absolutely love the neon-laden landscape with lush and bright colors of the city.

Audio

Where the visuals excel, the audio falls asunder. I was eager to hear Terry Crews commentate over the destruction and even the luck-luster story. I was excited to hear the bass-pumped soundtrack and the booms of explosions!

All of that excitement left a fading smile on my face. With the poor voice-over mixing at times, I rarely every got to hear Terry Crews shout “F*** GRAVITY!” or hear his comments on bad guys; I only got to read the captions.

Ultimately, my biggest disappointment with the audioscape of this game is the lack of music. The world felt absolutely dead and cold, even during combat, without that awesome track playing. In fact, I can count on both hands the amount of times I heard music during my six hours of play. Probably even less.

Conclusion

Crackdown 3 is at the top of my Let-Down-List. I don’t have many on that list, because I typically keep my hype and expectations in check. However, this game was just disappointment after disappointment for me. I wanted to give the game a chance, despite the negative press, and I looked for any glimmer of hope I could find.

Though it is a massive disappointment, as I mentioned previously I did have fun with it in short bursts. The game play, jumping around, and blowing things up were all genuinely fun. Collecting orbs, blowing up aircraft, and shooting black holes puts a smile into my face from time to time. But, if I have to drive a car, find a story, listen for music, run missions or play PvP multiplayer, then that smile fades.

I really was hoping more from this game. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I would not have touched this game if I didn’t have GamePass. This is a $20 game being sold for $60.

I wish it the best in post-launch support.

Published by

Erick Schwartz

Writer and streamer! My life is Star Wars with The Witcher a close second, introduced to me via the books! Video games are a big hobby of mine, and include driving, space and flight sims, fighting, and story-driven games!

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