There’s a great deal of scepticism surrounding the Xbox One X and it’s launch, with many seeing it as a dollar short and a day late when stacked up to its main rival, the PlayStation 4 Pro. A big part of the reason for that was the dearth of first party releases announced for the platform for the end of this year, with only Crackdown 3 set to launch alongside the console as a major AAA game.
The recent news that the game has been pushed back to an early 2018 release is certainly a blow to Microsoft’s plans. However, with the game being playable at Gamescom – oddly seeming to run on PC instead of on the console it was meant to be a showcase for – it’s clear to see why that delay was necessary. It’s also difficult to see how just a few months extra can turn this into a major success story.
Simply put, the game world is just very bland, shrouded in darkness and with a futuristic design that strays on the wrong side of minimalism. There’s many buildings that just seem like weird parking garages, with ramps that lead up a floor to what is essentially blank space. For some reason, NPCs happily walk around these areas, but there’s no possible reason why that I can think of. In comparison to the lacklustre Agents of Mayhem and it’s inventive take on Seoul, it’s just too bland.
A lot of it will have been built with the city wide destruction systems in mind, which has always been a cornerstone of Crackdown 3’s pitch. Unfortunately, if you take that away, as is done for the game’s single player, it doesn’t feel as compelling.
However, the city design does lend itself to the kind of over the top antics that the Crackdown series is known for, as you leap through the world with a jet pack assisted double jump looking for baddies whose heads you can knock together. There’s tons of little pockets of enemies dotted around the city, letting you head in practically any direction and find someone to fight. There’s some on the ground, others on ledges and more on the walkways that connect tall buildings. Often there’s a little objective to complete, such as destroying a vehicle behind energy walls or ejecting a pair of power cores, in addition to defeating all the enemies.
There’s no real consideration for stealth here, you just go in guns blazing and fists flying, and it’s the latter option that feels best to me. You can leap and perform a ground pounding smash attack, batter enemies with fists, and then pick them up and fling them at their comrades. In fact, you can pick up lots of things and throw them around, and any fight the spills out onto the streets of the city tends to end up with cars blowing, both intentionally and unintentionally.
There’s a nice blend of colours to the game’s the slightly cel shaded art style, even if it’s not going to wow people as a next gen showcase of power – again, as a consequence of the intention to allow for city destruction. The road vehicles in particular do have the right mix of minimalist futurism, though they’re really just there to provide collateral as throwable objects when you want to knock a fight up a notch.
Even at its best, Crackdown 3 can still feel somewhat muted, though, and I feel that the voice acting over the comms from the support characters misses the mark. Someone saying “This is fun!” is always a line that sticks out like a sore thumb for me in games, like the forced laugh track and painted on smiles of a cheesy American sitcom that does little to deserve it. There is fun to be had, certainly, but you don’t need to remind me that I’m enjoying myself.
As disappointing a demo as it is, it’s obviously not truly representative of what the final game will be like. It was simply a 10 minute window in which to wreak as much havoc in a limited area, with the only objectives being to draw you to further groups of enemies. Microsoft will hopefully be holding back content for the full game, for whatever reason, but it makes for a disappointing first impression.
Chances are it will be bolstered by the online co-op play and being able to demolish this playground thanks to the distributed computing on Microsoft’s servers. Playing Crackdown 3 in single player and offline, though, it just feels a bit ordinary and like a game that needs more than a few added months of development to be more than that.