Years after first playing it at Gamescom 2015, and after multiple delays spanning almost the entirety of a console generation, I’ve finally played the finished version of Crackdown 3 … and it’s everything I expected and hoped it would be.
That’s not to say it’s a great game, because it’s not. And I understand criticisms aimed at the game’s aged, repetitive sandbox structure. But Crackdown 3 is the best type of sequel you could hope for: one that maintains the philosophy and fundamentals of its predecessor, while subtlety expanding in other key areas, thus giving it a fresh, albeit recognisable coat of paint.
To make it clear, I’m referring to Crackdown 3‘s campaign, not its ambitious but ultimately broken multiplayer in Wrecking Zone. The campaign for me stands as the game’s true identity: single or cooperative chaos in a large, open world, structured around strongholds, propaganda towers, and agility Orbs.
Crackdown 3‘s campaign certainly isn’t Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry, or even Saint’s Row. It may lack the level of self-awareness that could make it easier for some to forgive its more damning design and gameplay decisions, but at least it’s not trying to be something it isn’t.
It doesn’t spend hours telling you a story. It doesn’t want to make you care about the story or characters. Granted, even some sort of narrative focus here could have made Crackdown 3 that little bit better, but anyone that played the original and says they actually cared for the enemies is blatantly lying … or probably has their standards strung up way too tight.
That’s not to say Crackdown 3 isn’t deserving of some of the criticism aimed its way: it’s repetitive, casual, and rough around the edges. The world lacks life, and looks more like an early-gen demo running on the Screamride engine.
But the same could be said of Crackdown back in 2007 (aside from the Screamride part). You were doing the same thing in hour 15 than you were in hour 1, albeit with more freedom. The world was static and just “there”, the baddies were just goons painted in different ethnic garbs, and the overarching story was forgettable: you were an Agent, there were bad guys, you had to kill them. That’s it.
Those standards, however, need to be looked at exactly as they’re intended to be critiqued. We don’t view movies on the same level playing field, so why do games need to be judged to the same standard as those that fall within the same genre? Sometimes we fall into the trap of comparing with those close enough to be considered, without actually realising how different they’re actually supposed to be.
Again, this isn’t intended to justify Crackdown 3‘s inefficiencies. Instead, my intent is to, hopefully, raise awareness about a game that needs to be viewed in a much different light than I feel it’s being painted. If you’re expecting an open-world game with complex mechanics and deep storytelling, then the standard is already far too high for Crackdown 3 to reach, and no number of Agility orbs will help it reach those heights.
If, however, you’re expecting Crackdown 3 to be more of a remake-sequel, and if you found the original games to be the therapeutic collect-a-thons that they were, then you may find yourself spending 20-or-so hours causing chaos in this game. Because that’s what Crackdown 3 feels like: Crackdown 1, with a fresh albeit cheap coat of paint, some new weapons, more explosions, a few new moves, and the same old obsessive Orb-collecting drive.
I can’t say I really disagree with a lot of the commentary around about this game: Crackdown 3 doesn’t feel like a 2019 game … if you want to compare it to the aforementioned blockbusters. If you actually want it to fit into the Crackdown philosophy, then it’s actually a resounding success. The multiple delays are irrelevant: the end product still feels like a Crackdown game.
If you played the original Crackdown games, loved them, but are unsure about Crackdown 3 based on reviews alone, then I’d highly recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, set a new standard for the genre, or try to be anything special, aside from simply being, well, Crackdown.
And that, Agent, should be enough for you to take Crackdown 3 for a spin.