Crackdown 3 is in a strange position. The original game, a wildly-successful action title that received the good fortune of being bolted on to a Halo 3 multiplayer beta, carried enough of a cult following that it managed to dredge up Crackdown 2, a hugely disappointing sequel, just a few years later. An E3 2014 announcement for Crackdown 3 followed, as well as its reveal as an Xbox Game Pass title, and then it was met with delay after delay. Until now.
With the promise of Terry Crews leading the charge, it seems as if Crackdown is returning back to its fast and frenetic roots, despite being trapped in a halfway house between nostalgia and feeling oh-so-slightly out-of-date. But a few crucial missteps and technical issues make this a game that, whilst being massively entertaining, isn’t something that will hold your attention for very long.
You play as Commander Jaxon (for all intents and purposes let’s call him Mr. T Crews), or one of half-a-dozen faceless agents, as you try and take down Elizabeth Niemand’s Terra Nova corporation on the corporate island metropolis of New Providence. This being Crackdown, you’re also tasked with taking down a bunch of Terra Nova lieutenants except, spoilers, you die in the first five minutes.
From there, you’re somehow (plot exposition isn’t exactly Crackdown 3’s M.O.) saved by Echo, the leader of the civilian militia of New Providence. She, of course, is looking to rise up against her corporate overlords. You’re then tasked with, pretty much, blowing up capitalism. An interesting story in theory, but the game never extends itself into even so much as trying political commentary. Echo and Agency Director Charles Goodwin, instead, both propel you forward by constantly reminding you that Niemand is Bad and Bad People Need to Be Blown Up.
Crackdown 3 Review | Things that make you go BOOM
And blow them up you shall. Crackdown 3’s gameplay has all the subtlety of a rocket launcher to the face. Which is ironic, as that’ll probably be your preferred method of destruction, whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends in its co-op mode.
It takes the method used by the original and since popularized by the likes of Far Cry 5 that sees you needing to weaken lieutenants by raining hellfire down on various industry targets. One evil-doer, for example, might have a bunch of chemical plants that need taking down, with each one taken out of commission being a step closer to both finding info on his location as well as weakening his boss in the chain of command.
Unlike the likes of Far Cry 5, the game takes a non-linear approach of sorts when it comes to taking down each lieutenant. You can approach them in any order and, more often than not, you’ll find ticking off several locations under the control of different pantomime-style villains in one tightly-packed area. It makes a change from the rigid approach found in other open-world games where you must weaken Mr. X (no, not that one), beat him, then move on to Ms. Y, and should be commended as such. No matter where you are, there’s always something to do or see, thanks to the relatively small game world. This is proof you don’t need a bazillion square miles to make a good sandbox game.
However, these activities can begin to grate and get repetitive, even during the game’s scant 8-10 hour runtime. You’ll find yourself sticking to a tried-and-tested weapon and then it’s a case of just ensuring you don’t get burnt to a crisp before you burn them to a crisp.
Of course, the trademark orbs and skills return. Agility, Power, Driving, Shooting, and Explosions must all be leveled up by completing tasks, finding Agility and Hidden Orbs, as well as a handful of other fairly decent activities. It’s very much typical Crackdown fare, and fans of the franchise will get more mileage out of it than those who have no experience with the series.
The Propaganda Towers, though, stand out the most: A semi-challenging series of a dozen puzzle-platformers that sees you trying to scale towers filled with rotating platforms and laser grids to reach the very top. It’s a nice break from proceedings and a well that Crackdown 3 could have gone back to more often. Instead, it’s very much shooty-shoot goes boom-boom. I applaud it for sticking to its guns (pun absolutely intended) instead of shoehorning in gameplay variety for the sake of it, but your trigger finger will be well and truly worn down to the bone by the time the credits roll.
Crackdown 3 Review | A Terry bad idea
Its that lack of subtlety that persists in the choice of main character. Namely, you have Terry Crews and DO NOT USE HIM. I’d wager he has maybe 50 lines in the entire game, with the majority of them coming in a fantastic opening cutscene that promises we’ll be witnesses to the unique presence of the Brooklyn 99 actor.
Instead, that wit and charm is swiftly thrown out of the window, with the game turning Terry freakin’ Crews into a quasi-generic protagonist, one that makes Crackdown 3 feel like a patchwork of ideas that were awkwardly brought in at a later stage. Crews’ charisma is effectively nowhere to be seen, which is a strange move in and of itself. Sure, you’ll chuckle at the actor muttering “Fuck you, gravity” if you take a two-story tumble, but it amounts to massively wasted potential.
If Crews’ usage felt clunky, though, it’s got nothing on the smattering of technical problems that seem to plague the game. Lock-ups, freezes, and crashes were all present throughout my playthrough. Not exactly ideal when the game slows to a crawl during frenetic firefights, with the game straining to keep up with the blasts and bodies flying across the screen. The loading screens, too, are laborious and feel more in line with a last-gen game than anything approaching the end of the Xbox One’s lifespan.
Crackdown 3 Review | It gets a Pass
But, despite that, it’s still entertaining. A repetitive kind of entertaining, but entertaining nonetheless. You’ll get a kick out of smashing robots up with your bare hands and you’ll fist pump in joy when you make a death-defying leap across a tower block. Its clipped length works in its favor as it never truly outstays its welcome. As an Xbox Game Pass day-one exclusive, too, it’s something that people aren’t likely going to shell out $60 for anyway. If that’s the case, it can be heartily recommended as a title you’ll breeze through in a weekend and probably never think about again. Not every game needs to be an epic that’s been years-in-the-making, you know.
But that’s the crux of the issue: Crackdown 3 has had years of build-up and, well, it’s just Crackdown with a tiny bit of new-gen polish. That’s not a bad thing, not by any stretch, but in a February dotted with potentially fantastic releases, it’s going to be an ultimate forgettable one.
Crackdown 3 reviewed on Xbox One. Copy provided by publisher.