Crackdown 3 Review

By Mark Delaney, 1 month ago
Way back in June 2014, just half a year after the Xbox One hit stores, Microsoft unveiled one of their big first-party sequels. Crackdown 3 was on the way, scheduled to release in 2016. Then it was delayed until late 2017, to launch alongside the Xbox One X. Then, just the multiplayer portion was meant to come out while Sumo Digital finished the story mode. It all got delayed yet again to fall of 2018, and then once more to 2019. Now it's finally here. That sort of publically problematic dev cycle tends to breed skepticism, and in this case, some feels warranted in the end, but maybe not as much as you'd think. After all is said and done, Crackdown 3's launch arrives with a signature bang in some places, but a whimper in others.

Crackdown 3

Note: This review only considers the Crackdown 3 campaign. A review of the game's 5v5 multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone, will be coming later in the week.
You need not have played previous games in the series as what little story there is hardly alludes to any history. The neon-lit, augmented reality infused city of New Providence marks a new home for the super cops known as Agents, but the usual open world gamut is on full display — with towers to scale, enemy territories to overtake, miscellaneous map icons to chase down, and bosses to defeat. It's a tired setup but one that can still lend itself to fun moments with the right mechanics, and mechanically Crackdown gets a lot right. Super jumping and air dashing across gap thousands of feet in the air to descend on a gang of enemies with an enormous ground pound feels great. The vertical routes you can take often feel like you're cheating, but the layout of the city reveals that your unorthodox shortcuts through the city are there by design.

The gun play is always exciting too, simply because the game throws so much at you at once. It's remarkable just how stable it all is when you consider other games have had more issues with less action. I witnessed no slowdowns of frame rate in my time even as it felt like an entire city block was on assault and enemies came from every angle. I've never seen a game perform this well with so much going on. Crackdown's combat system is based on crowd control and a shark-like move-or-die paradigm. If you're not sprinting, leaping, dodge-rolling, and air dashing all while you're taking aim at the many enemies surrounding you, you'll die quickly. It's meant to be played fast and up close. Damage per second improves the closer you are to enemies and you recharge your shield exclusively with kills, so the whole game reminds you of this often.

"Don't slow down" is your prime directive and Crackdown 3 is better for it. That action only gets more intense as you go too, thanks to your improved powers as well as the more explosive villains. Restarting the game with a new character after I had beaten it once, it was remarkable to see just how underpowered my level one character felt compared to my Agent Jaxon that had taken down the corporate overlords of New Providence.

In New Providence, to slow down is to die.In New Providence, to slow down is to die.

For all of its flair in gun play and platforming, Crackdown is not without issues in other areas. For one, driving just doesn't feel great. The emergency brake is unreliable at best and that problem is compounded by the unpredictable physics. Hit another vehicle and there's no way of knowing how the game will respond. Sometimes they'll fly over you like you're a four-wheeled spatula, sometimes they'll act more like brick walls, or you'll even get your geometry stuck in theirs in annoying ways that slow you to a halt, a cardinal sin in New Providence. It's true that the game is mostly played on foot anyway, or at least it can be. But with plenty of side activities involving vehicles, they really need to behave better than they do.

One saving grace of the driving mechanics is your Agency-issued vehicle which can transform into three different types: a speedy race car, a hulking tank or an all-terrain buggy that can drive on the sides of buildings. The adaptability of the Agency wheels is a fun aspect of the otherwise troubled driving mechanics.

The biggest problem facing Crackdown 3 is its surprising lack of character. The flair of eliminating bad guys and traversing the vertical heights of the futuristic world is all but totally lost at ground level. Pedestrians and traffic don't feel dense enough and only the mayhem you cause is ever going to break up the monotony. No one in the city seems to even hint at being oppressed as the story says they are, not even in a blissfully ignorant sort of way. Even the villains mostly feel like they stand around waiting for you to come and destroy them. It doesn't feel lived in. For such a colorful city, its inhabitants sure are boring. Even Terry Crews' involvement is little more than an opening cutscene since no matter who you choose as your avatar, they hardly ever speak.

Orbs are back in 1,000 often hard to reach places.Orbs are back in 1,000 often hard to reach places.

Playing in co-op and using some of the better weapons and equipment makes the game a more interesting playground, but even then the tools at your disposal never feel like they deliver on the premise of being a super cop in a dystopian corporatocracy. In the time since Crackdown 3 was announced, we've had two Just Cause games do this sort of bombastic action to a much better degree — though it bears repeating that Crackdown somehow never even hints at performance issues during the chaos.

The achievements will come early and often, which is good because there are a massive 70 of them. You'll be rewarded for doing most anything in the game, from blowing up five cars at a time to wiping the city of all enemy instalments. If playing in co-op, any achievement progress made from one player is applied to your partner. In theory, you could invite a friend to your saved game world, be on the precipice of unlocking a dozen or more achievements, then quickly pop them all to earn them for each of you. Or you could even divide the work to get twice the achievements done in the same amount of time. It's like being in two places at once for achievement hunters.

Check out our Best Xbox One Third-Person Shooters Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

It's fitting that just days after Microsoft announced the name change of their internal production branch from Microsoft Studios to Xbox Game Studios, Crackdown 3's launch screen displays the old moniker. After a year of exciting studio acquisitions for the company in 2018 and a stronger push for first-party moving forward, Crackdown 3 is the last remnant of the bygone era of Smartglass, live-action/video game hybrids, and forced Kinect purchases. It survived the purge where Fable Legends and Scalebound did not, but even in its best moments, Crackdown 3's campaign feels like it was born too late.
3 / 5
Crackdown 3: Campaign
Positives
  • Move-or-die combat is fast, fluid, and fun
  • Unorthodox, creative platforming in a vertically impressive world
Negatives
  • Despite the neon lights and over-the-top character models, it all lacks personality, especially among bosses
  • Driving is a chore
  • Doesn't reach its potential regarding wacky guns and gadgets
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 20 hours in New Providence, collecting orbs and blowing up bad guys. He gathered 44 of 70 achievements along the way. A review copy was provided by Microsoft. The game was played on an Xbox One S.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.