The original Crackdown kind of came out of nowhere and was a surprise hit for the Xbox 360. People like to say it only sold well because it included a Halo 3 beta key, but I think what really sold people on Crackdown was the Crackdown demo. It launched in January 2007 and was instantly a smash hit, eventually becoming the second most played game on the 360 in early 2007, only trailing Gears of War. It was one of the best demos ever made, allowing co-op play in a huge sandbox world and giving you up to an hour to do whatever you wanted. It was the perfect sampling for what Crackdown is all about: dropping you into an open world and letting you just cause as much mayhem as possible. The game reviewed great and sold very well, eventually spawning a sequel, Crackdown 2. The less we talk about Crackdown 2 the better, but as a whole, the series was one of the bigger franchises Microsoft had, and fans routinely requested a sequel for the Xbox One. Enter, Crackdown 3.
The development of Crackdown 3 shares a lot of parallels with the Xbox One itself. Announced with a slew of confusing buzz words and always online features, Crackdown 3 made its debut almost five years ago at E3 2014. Cloud computing was the big push and Crackdown was set to be one of the showcase titles for this new technology for Microsoft. At E3 2015 a gorgeous tech demo was shown of the games multiplayer featuring cloud based destruction of the entire demo city. Amazing technology, but it was just a tech demo, and we were told it would be limited to the games competitive multiplayer.
That multiplayer would be handled by at least four different developers over the course of the games development, which, thanks to the cloud aspect, would result in multiple delays of the games release. Much like the core focus of Microsoft has shifted since they revealed the Xbox One, the PR behind Crackdown 3 has shifted as well. Where you used to hear nothing except cloud talk, you now hear virtually nothing regarding the games cloud technology. As the game neared release, the cloud based MP aspect that delayed the game was almost an afterthought. Microsoft even split the game up into two different pieces, Crackdown Campaign, and Crackdown Wrecking Zone. Campaign of course you can play offline alone or in co-op with friends. Wrecking Zone is the games competitive multiplayer.
The premise is your typical action game situation. The world is in danger, you have to save it. This world has been hit with a terrorist attack that wiped out power in most of the world. The Agency, the all powerful corporation that polices the world, sends in a squad of their agents to the area where that attack was traced back to, New Providence. However, upon arriving, they're immediately wiped out by another mega corporation, TerraNova. Unbeknownst to The Agency, TerraNova was behind the attack and are using the opportunity to create and unleash a new wave of super soldiers and weapons by harvesting Chimera, an unstable resource being mined all over New Providence.
You begin as Commander Jaxson, portrayed by Terry Crews. The developers did a great job capturing his personality in cut scenes and writing good dialogue for him to use during gameplay. You're resurrected by Echo, who is a freedom fighter struggling to maintain a militia under heavy TerraNova oppression. With her help you heal back up and begin the fight to take back the city. What sets Crackdown apart from almost every other open world game is that you can take the city back in any order you want. There are no towers to climb to reveal new areas of the map, you don't have to collect the bones of various animals to unlock a particular weapon upgrade to blast open a door blocking your progression. You can literally climb out of the underground bunker you start in, finish the tutorial area and go straight for the final boss. The fast completion time I have seen for the game is a tick under seven minutes.
How you progress your character while you play through the game is also a welcome throwback compared to modern titles. You just kill enemies. Your abilities are separated into five categories:
Want to move faster and jump higher? Collect agility orbs scattered around the game. Want to do more damage with your guns? Shoot enemies. Want to cause bigger explosions? Blow shit up. You start the game not very strong but by beating the TerraNova enemies to death, you can eventually pick tanks up and hurl them 100 feet. There are also rooftop races, secret orbs that increase all abilities, and vehicle races spread throughout the game to help you level those abilities up as well. And it can take a long time. I'm currently at about 24 hours played in the campaign and I have strength maxed out at level 6, and my driving is at 5.99. Everything else is mid 5's. Now, you can progress it however you want. I have friends who don't care to drive so their driving is still level 2 or 3 and they have everything else maxed out. You can also collect the DNA of your dead squad mates throughout the city and doing so unlocks more characters you can use for the campaign, each with their own attributes. Jaxson is all about strength and explosions. Some agents excel in firearms. Some driving. Some agility. etc etc.
TerraNova has numerous thugs and underlings around the map for you to take out, which will open up a boss fight for that particular section of the company. For example, the AI that automates a large portion of the company is ROXY. Take out her monorail stations and she'll get angry and you can fight her. Other bosses are available from the start, just make your way to their towers. The cool thing about the game is you're welcome to progress through it in whatever order you want, but there is a Mega Man type cause and effect element where eliminating certain divisions of TerraNova makes fighting others different and/or easier. For example, take out ROXY, and none of the other bosses have as many robotics to defend them. You also take over the city's monorail system, and laser turrets patrol the monorail for you, assisting in battles when you're in range. There are multiple missile bunkers in the city, taking them out removes TerraNova's ability to launch them at you when you're attacking. One of the final bosses in the game floods her building with poisonous Chimera gas. However, you eliminate the leader of the chemical division, and that gas is gone, making the boss fight easier. Little wrinkles like this add depth to what seems like a pretty simple design.
You'll notice immediately when playing that everything is super smooth and the game runs very well. The graphics are nothing to write home about, but that's never been the Crackdown style. You'll also notice that compared to the first two games, the third throws A LOT more at you in terms of enemies. Each division of TerraNova has their own types of enemies and their own levels of progression from simple low level soldier to behemoth elite enemy. For example the security division may start by sending officers in SUV's after you. Then they'll graduate to big hulking soldiers holding giant shields. Then the drone attacks will join in. Next you'll start seeing big military vehicles with giant machine guns on top. Then air ships and tanks. Same for robotics. You'll graduate from simple mindless attack robot to giant melee oriented juggernaut robots, etc. Do enough damage and cause TerraNova enough havoc and they'll start flooding you with enemies. You have three levels of aggro you can achieve with each division. Hit level 3 on any of them and withstand that assault and you'll trigger a lockdown, where all three divisions go to level 3 and it feels like the end of the world has kicked off. On the harder settings, these lockdowns are very challenging.
The game excels in many areas where the original did not. For starters, the AI is much more of a challenge and there is much more variety in the enemies in general. There are also better, more varied weapons. Platforming in the game is very nice, a huge step up from the first game. Some of the propaganda towers and the climbs towards bosses are very fun thanks to the need to utilize all of your double and triple jumps and thrusts. It falls short of the original in a couple areas, too. Mainly, the city design is quite different. There's much less verticality than in the original. Outside of the main TerraNova tower, there's little in the game that offers extreme heights. And the city itself can at times just seem lifeless compared to the original. There are always tons of people on the highways, and on street corners standing there almost daring you to hit them as you drift around the edge, but there's little going on elsewhere. Also the driving mostly sucks outside of the races. Some of the races are extremely challenging and a lot of fun. Some are not. The controls for the spider, which can climb walls, are terrible for example. You can't even control the camera while you're driving on walls. And whoever decided to do races in the tank should be fired.
Overall there's nothing reinventing the wheel when it comes to the campaign, but it's just a blast to play through and level your character up. As I said I'm around 24 hours or so, I think a bit higher, and I've done everything except the most time consuming stuff which is collecting all the orbs, and doing the stunt rings. You also unlock cool bonus stuff for hitting level 6 of each ability. Driving for example, doesn't unlock a new vehicle at 6, but you get a horn that blasts everything around you away with concussive force. When I hit 6 on strength, it added explosive effect to my melee. At firearms 6, your ammo regenerates and does massive damage. So I'll be playing more to level those up, but outside of that I'm likely done until DLC hits. There's also co-op for the campaign, and you can start a new game with your leveled up character.
Which brings us to the multiplayer. It's not good. It reminds me of the shooters we used to see when the PS2 first got the Network Adapter. Just very basic, simple minded games. You can't even matchmake with friends yet. There's nothing to unlock, there's no customization of character or weapons. The cloud damage is nice, and the lock on makes the game a lot more fun than it would be otherwise, but with a small handful of maps and only two modes with such bare bones content outside of that, you have to wonder if the delays and bad taste from the MP was really worth it in the end. This is the last game from the Mattrick era and it feels like they kept the cloud stuff in because they had to.
Overall it's the best Crackdown yet. I wouldn't buy at $60 unless you have friends for co-op. Microsoft has done a good job supporting recent titles like SoD2, Horizon 4, and SoT with free content, I can't see them not doing the same with Crackdown.
Overall score: 7.5
I would love to link the other Unbiased Reviews I have done here like Titanfall, Guardians of Middle Earth, The Order, etc, but is it just me or does the search function here suck?