After a much longer wait then what Microsoft likely envisioned, Crackdown 3 finally arrived this past week. Originally announced back in 2014 and intended for launch in 2016, the game was hindered by multiple delays, development problems, as well as studios and high profile developers leaving the project.
Sadly, I think these issues have had a BIG impact on what the game ultimately ended up becoming. I can’t really fault Sumo Digital, as they likely did the best they could under the tougher than normal circumstances. Original Crackdown creator, Dave Jones, left to join Epic Games once Cloudgine was acquired. Not only that, the other developer, Regeant Games, eventually dropped out and became a consulting studio, leaving Sumo to basically handle everything on their own. Probably not what they originally signed up for.
I mean, Crackdown 3 is basically more Crackdown. You’ll likely already know what that means to you. It really doesn’t do much of anything to advance the franchise forward. You’re still a super cop fighting cartoonishly villainous people in a hierarchy style way. You cause damage and chaos to lure out these bad guys and take them out one by one until you reach the top baddie.
The game looks like something from an earlier era and utilized mechanics that were once considered to be unique but are now outdated. Again, for a game that was supposed to launch years ago, it’s likely something that couldn’t have been helped at this point.
You still collect orbs to become stronger and ultimately, the majority of the guns you find will never mean much outside of rocket launchers. You’ll find a great loadout and likely never change. I do appreciate that they’ve added elemental effects (fire, electricity, acid, cold) and each time you level a core skill you get a new ability, passive, or weapon.
For example, while Agility will increase your speed and jump height like the previous games, now you’ll gain new abilities like double jump, air dashing, and more. It’s a simple, but nice touch. It also renders driving to be essentially useless. Why drive when I can leap across the city like a quasi-superhero?
At the end of the day, I kept coming back to the idea that Crackdown 3 is the video game equivalent of comfort food. Does it push the franchise forward? No. Is it likely to win any end of the year awards? I’d have to say no. At the very least, it’s a nice change of pace and it’ll likely bring you back to the days when games were a lot simpler. Crackdown 3 hands you a gun, lets you get crazy as Terry Crews, and gives you a city to run around in. As a video game, it’s…fine. That’s the long and short of it.
Thankfully, this game is apart of the ridiculously good deal that is Xbox Game Pass, so if you have that, I think Crackdown 3 is worth your time. If you need some sort of palate cleanser from what’s currently out there, then Crackdown 3 has you covered.
So far, we’ve had three games that all largely play the same. Considering the lukewarm reception and mediocre reviews, it’s clear that in order for a fourth to succeed, things will need to change. I put together a small list of ideas as to where the franchise should go from here. Enjoy!
Crackdown: Shadow of Mordor
Crackdown has always been a game where you work to take down a criminal organization. There’s a leader as well as their lieutenants and sub-bosses. I’ve mentioned it before, but this franchise could absolutely benefit from adopting the Nemesis system most recently seen in Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
SO we take that basic Crackdown structure and just expand upon it tenfold and create a hierarchy that the player can interact and even mess with. An almost living and evolving structure where you could bribe or turn an enforcer to the Agency side and infiltrate the criminal organization. Or perhaps you want to just remove the whole structure and leave a power vacuum in its place. Or what if you take over that person’s area of expertise? See what I mean? Adding in a living, breathing Nemesis style system could do wonders for overall replayability and player choice.
Destruction Isn’t the Answer
On paper, destruction seemed like the new hot thing. In fact, Microsoft even devoted a lot of time to the subject at one of the tradeshow events. Dave Jones showed off impressive cloud computing tech that basically let him destroy any part of the city. Again, cool on paper, but when used outside of a 5-10 minute multiplayer match (as you’d see in Battlefield), I’m not sure it works.
Jumping to a new and fresh multiplayer map every 5 or so minutes works well with destruction, but when we’re talking about single player open world games that players can spend 20+ hours in, this concept doesn’t work nearly as well. If a player levels a whole city block in the first couple of hours, by that game’s rule, that city block is gone forever.
Do you break the rules and regenerate buildings after they spawn back in? Would that be weird? While Red Faction Guerrilla was a ton of fun, after a while, the world eventually became very flat. Either you have to limit what can be destroyed in order to keep some of those vertical spaces around, limit where the player can go at first (which breaks the cardinal rule of open world games) or risk the world just becoming boring and uninteresting to navigate.
Crackdown is a series that is set in the far future, in towering cities, impossible tech, and future soldiers that can evolve on a whim. Unfortunately, the franchise has always seemingly been stuck in the past in terms of presentation and visuals. It’s time to end that streak and really lean into a new game engine and graphics overhaul.
If a fourth game is ultimately made, it’s likely coming to “next-gen” platforms, so that should help in this regard. The cel-shaded, color-saturated world is fine, but it can definitely be cleaned up and improved significantly. I mean, just look at what Nintendo is capable of on a device that is nowhere near as powerful. THey’ve proven time and again that realism isn’t always the answer to everything.
One of the weakest elements of Crackdown has to be the combat. Sure, it’s fun to fist slam or kick an enemy into oblivion, but the weapons all feel super basic. Basically, players use an overly aggressive lock-on mechanic that makes it so all you really need to do is pull the trigger to win. It’s uninspired and generally boring.
The shooting mechanics definitely need to be overhauled including the lock on mechanic. I really can’t think of a way to salvage that mechanic, so I’m thinking you just need to ditch it completely in favor of more traditional third person style controls. At the very least, just don’t make it as aggressively accurate as it is now. You can mow down a whole squadron of enemies in no time at all. It’s not satisfying or fun.
It’s clear that Crackdown, as a franchise, needs an overhaul. As I mentioned above, Crackdown 3 is fine, but certainly not that first party, AAA exclusive title the Xbox One really needed. My ideas above aren’t the cure-all for what ails the franchise but could help in getting it back on track. We’ll see what happens.
Have any ideas for improving this ageing franchise? Sound off below!