STAFF REVIEW of Crackdown 3 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019.
by Kirby Yablonski

Crackdown 3 Box art Oh boy, this is quite a difficult review for me to write. Crackdown 3 has been in development for five years, and fans, including myself, were expecting a lot. Well, the game has finally released, and it is available as both a standalone purchase or included in the Xbox Game Pass subscription. As I put words to virtual paper, it is my opinion that Crackdown 3 is a game that shows signs of brilliance now and then, yet, it doesn’t advance the franchise much, if any. It is not a bad game by any means, it’s just that it is not a really good one either.

The narrative of Crackdown 3 is simple. Cities around the world have been hit with massive blackouts, and the last remaining city with power is New Providence, a city controlled by Terra Nova and its leader Elizabeth Niemand. Terra Nova has been welcoming ‘survivors’ with open arms, even heading out and assisting those who need it, as they pick them up in their fancy ‘people movers’. Yes, I said ‘people movers’, as that is what they basically are. There are nefarious reasons for them doing so, which you’ll discover as you play. Commander Jaxon, and a crew of Agents, are headed to New Providence to discover the true nature of Terra Nova’s intentions. As they make their way towards the city, their ship is attacked, and all agents perish, except you. Your role, as the last survivor, is to discover what happened, who is control and to bring Terra Nova to their knees.

You choose from a small number of agents, and as with past games, you level your agent up in five different skill areas, which include agility, firearms, strength, explosives and driving. You’ll level these skills by using different weapons, completing agility and driving races, finding stunt rings, using your fists, finding hidden ‘leveling’ orbs (250 of them), as well as collecting the famed Crackdown Agility Orbs (750 of them). As you play, you also discover areas that have hidden DNA from the Agents that were killed at the beginning. Finding the various DNA adds new agents to your roster, each one having a certain strength in a specific area, and you can choose to play as one of them.

There is a ‘boss tree’ where you defeat lieutenants that run many of the city’s operations, from security, industry, transportation, Chimera production (and testing), technology and a few more, and eventually you will battle the Elizabeth Niemand herself. To kill each lieutenant, you take over, or destroy, various areas and/or complete tasks of a specific nature, all which are under supervision of the lieutenant in question. This can include destroying vehicle storage compounds, destroying Chimera harvesters, taking over monorail station locations, taking control of propaganda towers and more. You must do a certain number of these tasks in order to open the area where the lieutenant in control will be found.

The neat thing about this approach is that it is not linear, as you can go after any of the lieutenants in any order to finally battle Elizabeth Niemand. You don’t need to beat all of them either. You also don’t need to do all of ‘challenges’ for each lieutenant, as once you completed a specific number of them, the lieutenant’s area opens up. What is kind of a bummer here though is that some of these tasks can become repetitive, even somewhat blending into each other, given the nature of what you need to do.

The ‘journey’ to get to some of the higher lieutenants can be quite involved, and long. Most of the top tier lieutenants, and Elizabeth Niemand, are in the middle of the city, in the towers found within the area. You’ll have to find your way to the top each one, via platforming and battling the security forces that guard them. I enjoyed what it took to get to these lieutenants as it somewhat lengthy and needed some exploration.

You can also do the campaign in co-op mode. It is not a drop-in/drop-out affair though, as you must pick the mode at the starting screen. It is the same campaign as the single player, but there are some perks to playing with another. The first, and foremost one, is no matter where you are on the map in relation to your co-op partner, if you kill a series of enemies, they will get the specific mini-orbs that are associated with the type of kill. It is a nice feature, as you and your teammate can be in totally different areas of the map, but still benefit from each others’ efforts. Another neat feature is that if you, or your partner, have progressed far into the game, you can use your leveled-up agent, and there will be the outline of agility or hidden orbs that you found so you can tell them where one might be. The outline will only show up if your teammate, or yourself, has not found that specific orb.

You’ll use various weapons and grenades as you play. These weapons are unlocked by killing certain enemies who hold them, or by finding them in various areas of the game. For example, on one of the harder missions later in the game, I came across the uber-cool Oblivion gun, which fires and creates a small black hole to draw in all enemies, cars and everything around it. This weapon was sitting in a case after I beat a lieutenant that was associated with the Technology group. Some weapons are, of course, stronger against certain enemies and weaker against others and you’ll find out which ones to use and when.

Crackdown 3 also has vehicles for you to obtain and this includes an “Agent Vehicle”. In order put a vehicle in your garage, you must find, and at least get into, the various vehicles found in game. This includes those parked on the streets of New Providence, those found in enemy vehicle compounds, those on the public highways and side roads and those that are used by enemies to get around the city as they look for you. As for the “Agent Vehicle”, you will eventually open new forms of it as you level up your driving skill. One of these forms can scale horizontal surfaces (e.g. side of a building) while another is a tank with a turret, to assist you in battling the heavier armoured vehicles of Terra Nova.

The sad thing here is that vehicles handling is an issue. A lot are too twitchy in their control and you will find that you may or may not adapt. It’s disappointing, as there are actual races for you to complete, and stunt rings for you to go through, each of which are littered throughout the city. I found that the control somewhat ruined these types of activities and I stopped doing them once leveled in this area.

Visually, the game is a somewhat of a mixed bag, as there are times when there are incredible effects on screen, while other periods show flat textures or less detail (all screens are captured from in-game). The art style of the first two games remains, with the cel-shaded look. The bright neon lit city of New Providence is quite large and drenched in colour, especially at night. There are lots of areas to explore that look different from one another. One moment you’ll be in the ‘entertainment’ district, the next you’ll be high atop a tower looking down, then next you’ll be at a Chimera plant with oil-rig looking pumps and barren land. There is indeed some variety here. For me what really stood out were the weapon effects of the various special weapons. You’ll find that using a gun that spews out a stream of caustic fluid gives a green hue to the you and the area you stand on, where as when the homing rocket launcher results in firing the rocket and you see the rocket trail as it tracks its prey, resulting in an eye-catching explosion that is small to big, depending on what you hit. Particle effects and explosions are quite impressive and add to the game’s flair.

The narrative uses comic book looking scenes, mostly static with a bit of animation within. As one would expect, it has an art style that matches the game’s look. You will not find a lot of pre-rendered video given that the game does not provide the story that way. It is a simple method, and it works because it blends in with the overall presentation of the game, just don’t expect to be wowed by it. The story is also expanded through interaction with the various lieutenants, and even Elizabeth Niemand over your radio, as well as some chatter from the head of the agency and the girl (Echo) who helped to restore you at the beginning.

I was reviewing Crackdown 3 on an Xbox One X and a 40-inch UHD TV, and things managed to move along with little to no hitches, even when I was blowing up a boatload of cars or Chimera storage tanks, the game did not slow down. With the good does come some bad. First off, the game really does look like an up-rez’d title from the Xbox 360. While some of the environments look good, you'll find some of the areas kinda flat and lacking detail. You will also find that when adjusting your camera on the fly, it may result in some very strange angles where there will some clipping, or you disappear behind some of the environments polygons. And then there are the vehicles, although they look somewhat futuristic, and fit into the neon-soaked world, the geometry and textures of many, but not all, are very simple looking and did not feel like they belonged on the Xbox One X. Some animations also seem simplistic, especially when looking at the A.I you battle. Your agent moves fluidly throughout the environment though, and using a triple jump and double dash to navigate the rooftops is as good looking and fun as it sounds.

The audio in Crackdown 3 is, once again, a mixed bag. The voice acting is satisfactory, but not amazing. I was expecting to hear a lot of Terry Crew’s character, Agent Jaxon, but you do not, and what you do hear is mostly limited to the opening scene, as well when you take over a propaganda tower and change it from Terra Nova’s control to that of the Agency. Agent Jaxon spews out one-liners and encouragement to get citizens to rise up. I also noted that after beating Elizabeth Niemand, and when I had a couple more lieutenants to beat, I would be destroying or taking over their assigned areas (e.g. Chimera storage) and they would talk about Elizabeth Niemand in the past tense, as she was already vanquished. It was a nice touch.

The music and sound effects are very solid, as are the sounds of some of the weapons such as the thump of grenades launching, the streak of a homing rocket, to the black hole you create with the Oblivion weapon. The music is very techno-like given the futuristic neon lit setting of New Providence. At no time did I mute or lower the volume for the music, as it was not bothersome and it did not get on my nerves when taking on extended play sessions, and in my opinion, that is a good thing. I experience the sound cutting out at times up to a few seconds long, and for no apparent reason, which was a surprise and somewhat jolting.

Wrecking Zone (PvP Multiplayer):

Crackdown 3’s PvP is a separate game mode that you launch to play. It is strange to have to do this, but it might have something to do with the use of the cloud to power the mode. It’s a 5v5 experience and you can choose from a wide selection of different looking agents. There is no advantage of one agent over another as they are all fully powered up, so you can use the triple jump and two times dash ability to navigate each map. One of the big features that has been highlighted about the multiplayer mode are the fully destructible environments, which adds to how one may play given you can make a building tumble on your enemies. In terms of the modes, there are currently two modes available: Agent Hunt and Territories.

Agent Hunt is Crackdown 3’s version of Team Deathmatch/Kill Confirmed. Each team starts at opposing ends of the map, and it is an all-out battle to kill and recover the ‘banner’ of the opposing team member you killed. This mode goes up to 25 banners collected by either team. It’s straightforward as you try to kill the opposing team and you, or your teammates, pick up the banner up. It can be pretty chaotic, but I found that it was not as chaotic as the Crackdown 3’s other mode, Territories.

Territories is like a King of the Hill or Lockdown, as teams compete to control specific zones. There are two zones in play at a time, and once the ‘control’ timer of a specific zone reaches 60, a new zone spawns. Zones can not only be large in diameter, but also in height, as each zone can take up quite a bit vertical space. It adds to the limited strategy of the mode, as there are multiple areas in a zone where you, or a teammate, can try to control the point. Remember though, the environments are destructible, so you may find the floor blown up from under you, or the top of the structure tumbling down.

You’ll be able to see the outline of opposing team members in both modes once they are in range. This is helpful, as it can be crazy trying track or take down the other team as they jump, dash and hit launch pads that are found on the maps. I had an enjoyable time in Wrecking Zone, but in small spurts. The modes aren’t very tactical. Sure, you need to try to coordinate your taking of zones in Territories; however, that is if your teammates talk, which you’ll find doesn’t happen often.

One of the biggest omissions at launch is that Wrecking Zone does not allow for parties to play. You will have to play with random public players. Why they didn’t have the game ready for parties to play is a huge strike, as this the multiplayer screams for a group of friends to play together. There is also no ability to set up private matches, which I also think is another huge ‘miss’, given that it would be a heck of a lot of fun to just create a private room, and go to town knocking down buildings on your friends.

Visually, the multiplayer portion of the game is pretty solid. There is a lot of verticality to each map. I didn’t hit any slowdown when playing, which is impressive when you realize how much is going on screen at once. Each level has the same aesthetic as the single player game, but this time you and four others will be scaling buildings, structures, and even statues, as you look for the opposing team.

There is no doubt that the multiplayer experience has potential, but at this current time, it is very bare-bones, given the there are only two modes, a small number of maps and only nine weapons that you can choose from (primary and secondary). There is not a lot of strategy either, and it isn’t a deep experience; however, it is a nice change from the single player game, and when played in small bursts, it somewhat compliments Crackdown 3 as a whole.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this game. As I stated earlier, this game can show signs of brilliance at times, but as you play you get a feeling of “been there, done that” as you continue to go deeper into the game. Fans of the franchise should really enjoy it though, given it gives them more of what they have come to love; however, there is no advancement in the series, and this will be seen by some as a negative, as it should. Newbies to Crackdown should enjoy the experience as well, but it may feel dated to them. The single player/co-op campaign does offer some fun, and the items to find on map, from orbs, Agent DNA to voice logs, will keep completionists busy for quite a while. And as for multiplayer, you’ll have some mindless fun playing against other players as you create chaos by destroying the environment you play in while trying to reach a winning score. I suggest that you play the multiplayer in short spurts and you will most likely continue to enjoy it, as you take a break from single player play.

As for Crackdown 3’s value, there is no doubt that you’ll get your best ‘bang for the buck’ if you subscribe to Xbox’s Game Pass given its inclusion in the subscription service; however, as a game that you buy on it’s own, it is somewhat tough to recommend as a must buy at such a high price. In the end, Crackdown 3 could have been so much more, but for what it is, it is a title that you just put your brain on pause, work at getting your “kills for skills”, blow shit up and save New Providence city, while sometimes taking a break to play in the Wrecking Zone now and then. It’s a simple premise, but it is one that can be fun.

Overall: 6.9 / 10
Gameplay: 6.9 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.7 / 10


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