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Crackdown is a shit-ton of fun. It throws you into an action sandbox and says “have fun”. Your primary objective is to rid the city of gangs and you can tackle that any way you want. And as you play you become more powerful and efficient, making the experience addictive. It was followed up by Crackdown 2 which does more of the same but is, ultimately, disappointing thanks to some odd design choices and nine years later, players would get to jump back into the franchise with the release of Crackdown 3. Developed by Sumo Digital and published by Xbox Game Studios, Crackdown 3 was released for Xbox One and PC in February, 2019. It was originally supposed to release in 2016 but from what I understand, it went through a rocky development and was delayed numerous times. I think it was indicated early on that the game would feature a fully destructible city environment but later on it was revealed that would only be possible in the game’s multiplayer mode. I didn’t follow its development but after playing it, I can at least confirm you can not level the entire city in single player.
After a terrorist attack cuts power around the world, the Agency dispatches agents to the city of New Providence which is controlled by the TerraNova corporation and is the only city that still has power. After the Agency dropship is attacked, a member of the Militia recovers the remains of one of the agents that was onboard and regenerates them. The agent then sets out on a quest to dismantle TerraNova. The story is similar to that of the first game. Your put in the shoes of a superhuman agent but instead of wiping out gangs, your goal is to systematically eliminate TerraNova’s factions.
One thing I find odd is how Terry Crews is implemented, specifically his lack of lines. He provides his voice and likeness for agent Isaiah Jaxon and at the beginning of the story, he gives a speech and gets all the other agents pumped up. But after that, he’s basically silent. He doesn’t say much outside of a few lines heard during gameplay. Also, after the dropship is attacked and your agent is regenerated, they lose their powers and as a result, they’re no longer a buff force to be reckoned with and I have to say seeing a skinny Terry Crews is just weird.
There are other agents you can select from but most need to be unlocked by finding their DNA in the world and each one will earn bonus experience for specific skills. In typical Crackdown fashion, you will get to improve five core skills – agility, strength, firearms, explosives, and driving. As they improve, your agent becomes more efficient and powerful and new equipment and abilities are unlocked. Agility is one of the most important and as expected, once the skill improves, jumping around becomes one of the best and most enjoyable ways to travel.
I am happy to say that Crackdown 3 does feel more like the first game than it does the second. You can play through the campaign solo or cooperatively and the multiplayer component is called Wrecking Zone but I didn’t get the chance to try it. Luckily, the campaign proves to be a lot of fun if you enjoy a lot of shooting and blowing shit up. You can ignore the story if you want and there’s not a lot of padding. Crackdown 3 is another action sandbox for players to explore. You can go anywhere you want and do whatever you want. You can try to capture target locations, destroy things, kill any enemies you come across, collect agility and hidden orbs, and drive around and perform stunts, all while improving your skills in the process.
Advancing the story works like this – capture and disable locations and destroy things to make bosses vulnerable and once they are, eliminate them. After you eliminate certain bosses, you can then go after the underbosses and after you eliminate them, you can go after the leader of TerraNova, Elizabeth Niemand. As expected, the gameplay does get repetitive but there is an addictive quality thanks to skill progression. By doing shit, you improve and unlock things. There is a decent amount of side content including rooftop and road races, wingsuit races, stunt rings, and things to find like Agent DNA and Intel Fragments.
Throughout the city are numerous Supply Points that can be captured. They act as fast travel points and are where you can equip your agent and spawn vehicles. One thing I really love about Crackdown 3 is convenience. Several things have been streamlined or simply made more convenient. As you find weapons in the world and hijack vehicles, they are automatically added to your Supply Points to be retrieved at any time. You no longer have to be in a vehicle to start a road race. Also, you can summon an agency vehicle at the press of a button and transform it into different types with their own abilities and functions.
As your skills improve, you’ll unlock all kinds of new stuff. You’ll be able to dash in the air, perform double and triple jumps, ground pound, unlock new equipment, increase your ammo capacity, and hijack tougher vehicles among other things. Being able to dash makes getting around even more enjoyable and being able to zip around to avoid attacks during combat situations is helpful. Your shields and health do automatically regenerate over time but you’ll replenish them faster by killing enemies so the game does encourage you to basically keep moving and engage foes. It can be very fast-paced.
Enemies are seemingly everywhere and the gunplay is satisfying. Weapons have great feedback and feel powerful and there’s an excellent variety of firearms, explosives, and gadgets which allow you to get creative. You’ll blow away different enemy humans, robots, drones, and gunships. You can shoot them, throw things at them, run them over, beat them up, and blow them up. Most foes aren’t super intelligent and the tougher ones wield deadlier firepower and/or are heavily armored. The more you piss off a faction of TerraNova, the more the threat level increases and the more reinforcements they throw at you eventually resulting in a lockdown, forcing you to eliminate a certain number of reinforcements to lift it.
I only have a couple of complaints with the gameplay. One is trying to complete road races with enemies around. It’s a real pain in the ass. They would frequently cause me to drive off-course or knock my vehicle around which becomes annoying. My second issue is that towards the end of the game, I was frequently fending off what seemed like non-stop assaults after completing objectives. That’s because enemies populate most target locations and, of course, I was going to engage them and as a result, increase the threat level. So by the time I was done, enemy drop pods, vehicles, drones, and ground forces would be everywhere and shaking them off or lifting a lockdown can take a little while. And it sucks when you’re just trying to get somewhere and are being shot at from every direction.
Crackdown 3’s atmosphere differs greatly from its predecessors and one of the reasons why is because of the futuristic look of New Providence. It’s a large city with plenty to see and do around every corner. The neon-lit skyscrapers, shanty towns and all the other buildings and structures can make for a lot of platforming which becomes more enjoyable as your agility increases and it’s often fun revisiting previous areas when you’re able to reach new heights. In addition to jumping around, you can soar through the skies in a wingsuit or speed through the streets in one of many vehicles and one of the Agency vehicle transformations lets you drive on walls.
Crackdown 3 showcases a slick cel-shaded style presentation. The colorful neon-lit city of New Providence nails that stereotypical futuristic look. A lot of bright lights, holograms, and detailed locations. Other than some pop-in here and there, I can’t think of anything I perceive as a significant eyesore. It’s not the greatest looking game of its generation but the bright and colorful playground is pleasing on the eyes. The sound work is good complete with powerful sounding weapons, loud explosions and the action is accompanied by a Dolby Atmos soundtrack filled with electronic tunes that perfectly match the futuristic feel of the game. On the technical side, the game ran super smooth and I encountered no major issues.
I really enjoyed my time with Crackdown 3 and I do think it’s a little underrated. This is one of those games where I look at reviews and seriously wonder what people expect. I can’t speak for Wrecking Zone but the campaign is your typical Crackdown experience. Sure, the developers probably could have done more but I also think the refinements and additions add a lot to the existing formula. I can’t say I play these games for the plots. I play for the gameplay. Even Crackdown 2, as disappointing as that game is – outside of the story elements, it’s a lot of fun and introduces some cool stuff. I play these games because I enjoy the freedom and sandboxes they let me mess around in and despite the repetition, I loved almost every minute of my time with Crackdown 3. I loved exploring the city and all the action. It’s a third-person shooter, open world game, platformer, and collect-a-thon all-in-one. I can see how the repetition can get tiring and it is a shame there’s not much variety to the action but I think the new abilities, futuristic setting, and varied equipment somewhat alleviates it. Ultimately, if you didn’t enjoy the previous games, I don’t think you’ll enjoy this.
I would absolutely recommend Crackdown 3. From a gameplay standpoint, I think this is the best Crackdown up to this point. I like that it’s not padded out and doesn’t try to follow many modern conventions. Your goal is simple and it throws you into a fun playground. Whether you dedicate a lot of time to it or simply want to zone out, it offers plenty of action and things to see, do, and collect. Definitely check it out.