Quack Quack Motherduckers?
After completing a very satisfying game, it’s not uncommon to want more of that same experience. This “more” can usually arrive in the form of expansion content or some aspect of DLC. But when it comes to sequels, or even in some cases, spin-offs, more of the same is not essentially a good thing. Crackdown 3 is very much more of the same Crackdown experience that we’ve seen from both of the previous entries. If that is indeed what you’re after, then this latest and long-awaited sequel will whet the appetite of those who have grounded their expectations into not expecting any real innovation from the series. For those who expected at least some growth to the series, well…
Crackdown 3 is a game that while it offers the illusion of fun, it rarely offers up such an experience. There are numerous explosions, rapid gunplay battles, and superhero type antics that the formula almost seems airtight to providing an enjoyable experience; but one that failed to truly offer up any real satisfaction. While the game can feel competent in what it offers, it feels as hollow as a game of whack-a-mole. Crackdown 3 would more than likely be a more original game if the Saints Row franchise, or its spin-off, the painfully average Agents of Mayhem, hadn’t beat them to the punch on almost everything this title aims to do.
This long-awaited third entry of the series takes place ten years after the events of Crackdown 2, which coincidentally is almost the amount of time between this and that sequel. The Agency is sent to New Providence, an island nation controlled by an evil organization called Terra Nova. Before the Agency can even reach the island, their ship is blasted clean out of the sky and you, the sole survivor, is charged with the task of taking this organization down. This forces the player to start from scratch, earning back those muscles and super-hero like powers and tasked with tracking down agility orbs and using their abilities to get faster, stronger, better. It’s a tired concept that robs much of the early game out of its excitement. As the campaign is a short 10-12 hours long, it wasn’t until I was nearing the end where I really felt powerful in any meaningful way. Now, granted, You can toughen up your character up by tracking down orbs and grinding away at your skills, but the world itself, and its combat, feels tired, bland, and largely forgettable.
I really didn’t want to be too harsh on Crackdown 3, but the bland experience I had doesn’t really leave me much in the way of positive things to say about it. The gameplay loop is nearly identical for any and all activities that you’ll embark upon to lure out each of the targets that make up the three core factions contained on the island. Each member of the factions requires that you take part in blowing stuff up or in the case of one target, performing a dozen platforming challenges to trigger their appearance somewhere in the world. Each activity has a difficulty percentage given out that indicates your possible chances of surviving said activity. Heading into any challenges that are above 70% is incredibly easy, while taking on a boss at 48%, which I did a few times, can be met with a fairly sizable challenge. As you complete their respective challenges and toughen up your agent, alone or with a friend online, those percentage numbers will increase, ensuring you have a stronger chance of making it out alive.
Once you make the target appear, you’ll storm the gates of wherever they are hiding, decimating all those who stand in the way of justice, and then trigger the final encounter, which usually has them show up in a mech suit, and then you’ll take them down all while dealing with dozens of enemy forces that fill the battleground around you. Had the bosses been memorable or even the slightest bit enjoyable, I’d have more to say, but they mostly all are the same battles and since almost all of them are based around you versus a mech, they rarely stand out in any significant way. By the final few encounters, I stopped rolling my eyes when most of them showed up in the aforementioned mech suit because it pretty much was expected at this point.
Eventually, after you’ve taken out each of the three factions, you’ll unlock the ability to take on the boss of Terra Nova herself, Elizabeth Niemand. The battle with her is at least a little different than the others, but it mostly requires you to dodge incoming fire of the nearby forces and target her when she flies overhead. It’s a tense battle, far more so than the others, but overall, still lacking in excitement. The character herself is a by the numbers corporate bad guy with a plan, but considering the story feels like an afterthought to have you take part in the sandbox destruction, there is little of nothing interesting about her.
While New Providence can look visually fun, it’s littered with copy and pasted activities among its shanty towns and skyscrapers. Broken into different regions, you’ll complete the objectives that unlock each boss. These range from destroying vehicles owned by Terra Nova, freeing prisoners found in locked cells, destroying various machinery at nearby chemical plants, and more. The biggest issue with most of these activities is they lack any real substance. Taking over the monorail and chemical plants are essentially the same mission as they revolve around producing enough carnage for something or someone to show up, then shooting them/it until the mission is over. The platforming segments are painfully awful due to a camera that makes it either really hard to see the next platform, if it’s above you, or to even make it possible to gauge your jump properly. Considering that these few activities are those that the entire game is built around completing over and over again, it makes the experience a very repetitive one that can make your playtime feel like a chore.
When Crackdown 3 was first announced, it touted its cloud-based destruction, showing a massive array of collapsible environments that actually looked fairly impressive. Unfortunately, that feature is only present in the online multiplayer, a mode I’ll be diving into a bit later. While Crackdown 3 is still a sandbox game built around huge explosions and the guns that make them, it only offers fleeting moments of fun. Offering a weapon variety that would feel somewhat at home in a Ratchet and Clank title, very little of the arsenal here is satisfying to use. To further add to how limiting the actual fun weapons to use can be, once I found the Pulse Beam, I never looked back. Any gun can be fired using an auto-targeting system, one that unfortunately will often choose the farthest away enemy instead of the one right in front of you, forcing you to readjust and start firing away. This targeting system is also present in multiplayer, but again, we’ll get to that in due time. This system makes combat a breeze, and with the use of the Pulse Beam, far too easy. I’ve run circles around bosses just holding down the Beam, seeing their health bar deplete in seconds. Enemies drop like flies at this weapon, often disposing of a half dozen foes in less than 3 seconds. While there are tons of other weapons, like the vortex inducing Oblivion, or the acid spitting Mulcher, it is the basic guns like pistols, shotguns, and SMG’s where the gameplay just isn’t there for them.
As you start from square one, your agent will be rather weak from the get-go, urging you to seek out the hundreds upon hundreds of agility orbs littering the city. These will boost your traversal aspects like jumping, dashing, and your jet pack, while the “?” orbs will spread the love to each of the other attributes that you’re going to want to build up as well. As you level up each stat, it will unlock new items and abilities, making you feel just a tiny bit more powerful with each baby step in progression. You have strength, which is boosted as you perform actions with your melee combat, firearms and explosives which are built up with the use of those exacts things, and driving, which is really only beneficial for unlocking the spider-vehicle transformation, mostly due to the on-road vehicles being a sluggish bore to drive.
You are given out missions, and I use that phrase loosely, through Echo, the leader of a militia rebel group who is responsible for you surviving the attack at the start of the game. Eventually, you are back in contact with Director Charles Goodwin, the voice of the Agency. Both characters will chime in constantly with information regarding the characters, the missions, and remind you for the four thousandth time that the platforms work off a timing system. The voice acting in Crackdown 3 is laughable at best, but it is the consistency of Goodwin and Echo’s comments that will make you mute the game entirely. Goodwin will make the same five jokes over and over again, sometimes multiple times during the SAME combat encounter. It got to the point where I checked the Microsoft store for paid DLC to shut him up, honestly, I would pay for the option to remove him from the game. If you ever want to play a drinking game with your friends, have them take shots when he says “Skills for Kills, Agent, Skills.. for.. Kills..”, You’ll be drunk in 5 minutes.
Despite all the fanfare regarding Terry Crews and his inclusion in the game, he is only really utilized in the opening of the game. While you can choose to run around as him for your main campaign, he feels packaged in here purely as a marketing tactic than of anything with substance. Apart from being incessantly annoying, Goodwin and Echo are mainly there to provide context to the story, offer insight into who the underdeveloped villains are, and to offer up the story on the fly. There are various cutscenes that attempt to set up characters or provide context to their inclusion, but they feel lacking in almost every single way. One aspect to beating the game that soured any sort of satisfaction I had from beating the final boss was that my female agent was not shown walking out of the explosions and flames, instead replaced with a silhouette of a male agent.
Whether at night or during the day, Crackdown 3’s environments are full of color and do look quite nice, but overall lacks anything that makes them memorable. Exploring everywhere for the orbs can be a somewhat addictive experience, but the awful camera given to us requires too much manual adjusting to keep that addiction going. The characters themselves are alright, but since most of the bosses are stuck in a giant mech suit, we don’t get much from them character-wise, apart from the quick views of inside the cockpit during the start of each encounter. The enemy variety is vastly generic and considering the action is incredibly frantic, you are not really going to be too focused on what and who they are.
Crackdown 3 is split into 2 separate experiences each with its own launcher; a single player campaign and its multiplayer mode called Wrecking Zone. At launch, online multiplayer is split into Agent Hunt and Territories. Agent Hunt is similar to that of kill-confirmed where you’ll dispose of the enemy agent and collect their emblems. Territories are your typical bout of controlling zones on the map and earning points in the process. While it is here across its three maps where the cloud-based destruction does its thing, the buildings themselves are empty of any contents and you really only see flat ground and wall pieces break off; even among its destruction, it’s really disappointing. As I’ve mentioned before, the quick auto-targeting you can use makes most confrontations on who saw who first and what weapon they have, making it not so much a test of skill but more that of opportunity. While I can see dedicated fans of the game spending a lot of time here, the offerings here are incredibly basic and makes the experience feel like a bare minimum effort.
Crackdown 3 was a long time coming and feels as dated as one might expect. Now, I know full well I have been very lukewarm on the title as it failed in any significant way to impress me or kept me motivated to keep playing. I’ve leveled up my Agent pretty far and have completed all activities on the map, as well as dropped a handful of hours into its multiplayer. Sumo Digital’s effort here feels more like a remaster of an old game than a true to life sequel. The ability to play through the campaign with only one other person feels like a wasted opportunity to not let a small group of friends unleash some real carnage, and while co-op is certainly the way to go when diving into its campaign, it still doesn’t elevate the title to what it could have been. Now, that said, if you were simply wanting more Crackdown, then you can easily find that here. Crackdown 3 can be what you want from it, and given it’s available on Game Pass, makes it easy enough to experience without dropping that AAA price they’re otherwise asking for.
Crackdown 3 was downloaded via Game Pass by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.
The review has been written to be viable for all available platforms.
All Screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.