Crime Boss: Rockay City Preview – A co-op shooter looking for a Payday

Crime Boss Rockay City Header

Crime Boss: Rockay City was a bit of a mystery following its announcement and reveal at The Game Awards last year. Here was a game with a snazzy trailer filled with Hollywood talent, all eerily lip synced to a familiar song in a neon-baked Vice City-esque locale. But what actually is it?

A gameplay reveal trailer long after gave us our first real look at Crime Boss, a first person co-op shooter with some serious Payday vibes, and that’s an impression that is backed up by going hands on with the game.

Except that it’s aiming to be more than just a Payday wannabe, even if it’s sure to appeal to that series’ long-time fans the most. As well as diving into Crime Time mode co-op jobs, there’s a full single player campaign here – a story that plays out around a roguelike structure with Chuck Norris’ Sheriff hunting after Michael Madsen’s up and coming gangster, while you try to expand to control all of Rockay City at the expense of rival gangs – and then there’s mini-campaigns called Urban Legends as a different twist on the co-op experience.

We got to sample two of these Urban Legends, each one coming in at three missions long and linking together short and sharp levels and scenarios. Whether it’s pulling off a hit on a rival gang’s lieutenant, robbing a warehouse for stolen contraband, or making an escape from a cop ambush, there’s a good variety here to what you’ll be asked to do.

Crime Boss Rockay City – stealth

The general intention here is that, while stealth might be an option for certain parts of a stage, you’re always going to end up in a gunfight. That certainly held true to what (and how) we played, though you can absolutely have some fun with sneaking in the early stages, scoping out a location before an alert is raised (if it’s not a level that throws you straight into the action), whacking enemies from behind and shouting down nearby civilians to avoid them getting in the crossfire. It will be really interesting to see how much of the classic Payday formula carries forward to the regular co-op jobs.

Naturally, you’ll want to assemble a team that’s got the best people in it for the job. At the start you and your co-op buddies will get to select from a handful of randomised characters, each with a defined loadout that you can then enhance and adapt, and a bunch of stat buffs and debuffs. Importantly, they also only have a set number of downs, so as you get to the third and final mission, recklessness at the start might see you better off turning to one of the more basic generated characters that come with lesser weapons, but have more lives. Something that will help here is that, while you can be downed quickly in a gunfight, Crime Boss does feature health regeneration, which Payday does not.

Crime Boss Rockay City – shootout

It’s all wrapped up in a story that leans on Hollywood stars of the 90s, and has borrowed the likenesses of the actors from that time. They’re quick cutscenes that set out the stall for a mission, whether it’s Kim Basinger on the phone to warn of an incoming ambush, Michael Rooker and Michael Madsen organising a crew for a job, or Vanilla Ice making a supposed peace offering from a rival gang. For the Urban Legends, they’re fleeting moments, but I’d hope they get a little more screen time during the single player.

In the long run, Crime Boss: Rockay City will survive off the Crime Time mode for online co-op, and this is immediately familiar as a former Payday player. Jobs are generated and time out on a city map, and you can take them on or look for a different kind of challenge. Interestingly, you’ll have to complete the Urban Legends in order the unlock certain mission types for Crime Time.

The parallels between Crime Boss: Rockay City and Payday are undeniable, and the question will be whether it can be a true rival to that dormant series. From what we’ve played, it’s certainly got the same kind of co-op heisting fun, and it’s finding new ways to wrap it up to get players connected.

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