I must be level with you for a moment. I did not play Crackdowns 1 and 2. I was busy killing Sims in my swimming pool for the graveyard on my property. But gazing into the past, I am witness to a franchise that, while not having aged well, amounts to a pretty fun time. The first Crackdown was an addictive combination of parkour and explosions, offering a satisfying third-person experience wherein hordes of NPCs could be wiped out while leaping from one tall building to the next, collecting all those sweet, sweet glowing orbs. Gotta have them all. I can see why the first game was so beloved, and also why the second was lambasted for doing very little with what it had.

And after having spent a week playing the third installment in this franchise, while also binging footage of the previous two games, I would be hard-pressed to tell you that Sumo Digital didn’t just go and remake the exact same game. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

At a very first glance, Crackdown 3 is certainly not the best looking of the triple-A giants. While the environment makes use of bright colours and its levels bear a unique aesthetic, they appear to have undergone one too few renderings. The first two Crackdowns were not lookers either and instead opting for substance over style, as it should. This does not warrant a substantial complaint, but then you have the stop-motion CGI work on the game’s human face; one of the lords of the meme, Terry Crews. His reveal in the opening cutscene had me reeling. Surely this could have been done better?

Jumping into the campaign, you will play as Crews. No arguments. Out of all the playable characters in this game, he is essential to this narrative. You will go around plastering his pouting face on the walls of buildings you capture, and project his hologram from spread-out communications towers where it will spread his gospel. Quack quack, motherducker! The man was not joking when he said that this game was his simulator.

Crews headlines as Commander Jaxon, a respected member of the Agency tasked with taking down New Providence, an island metropolis run by the Terra Nova corporation. Terra Nova may bill itself as a humanitarian organisation, but the reality is by far the opposite. They’re oppressing their population and carrying out a devilish scheme that involves the deadly substance Chimera, which they are mining and experimenting with. It is up to you to take Terra Nova down, piece by piece. Taking out each leader of a sub-industry by demolishing their operations and calling them out into the open, each leading up to battling the head of the corporation and the secret weapons at their disposal.

Plot-wise, Crackdown 3 makes more of an effort than its predecessors to establish characters and the motivations for why you are going around blowing the place up. It adds meaning to your actions, despite being as deep as a bucket of toxic waste. It also gives us a reason to hear the badass dialogue that comes from your handler over the radio. The head of the Agency is a man of inspiring words. The campaign’s story is not really intertwined with the first two games, so don’t worry about being confused by the plot, bare as it is.

That dialogue is delivered to you during what is a well-structured campaign. Being new to the franchise, I was pleased to see a gameplay layout that was easy to utilise and navigate. Starting out after the brief tutorial, players can travel to parts of the frankly huge map, to supply points where they can switch out their weapons and vehicles. There is no confusion about what each weapon does. All one needs anyway is an arc rifle in one hand and a mortar launcher in the other, and you are good to go, ready to destroy everything in your path. You can carry one item of a secondary weapon, ranging from an assortment of grenades, to launch pads and ammo-stocking fields. The hand cannon was especially fun too.

These weapons and equipment are available at a series of supply points scattered across the map, with some of them also serving as vehicle depots. Ammo is also spread out across the map, which helps urge players to keep moving. The map is big, so walking everywhere on foot is not feasible. And while you can just loot your enemies’ corpses for guns and pull a Grand Theft Auto for a set of wheels, these points are a big advantage for getting around the place. This is a good thing because navigating the actual map can be frustrating. Setting a waypoint to your chosen objective is not helpful and the vertical map design, combined with overhanging roads and monorails, means that it may take you a while to get where you want to go.

The good structure of choosing your gameplay style and movement continues into the priorities of the campaign. Dependent on the difficulty that you play at, each objective as tasked by the mini-bosses bears a survival rate suggesting your odds of completing it or not. This may be a free-for-all mashup, but you will need to pay heed to your skill levels unless you want to consistently end up full of holes or crushed by giant rocks. Those levels make up a primary component of the experience. Climb up to the top of buildings to collect those green agility orbs. Uppercut guards and robots to up your melee numbers. Throw grenades and amass high kill numbers (an act which also restores your health while you are in combat). Drive like a maniac to unlock weaponized tanks and mow down your enemies. Only then will you be strong and agile enough to take down those in charge. And while I joke about using Crews and only him, each agent comes with a pre-ascribed set of skill advantages, giving you a little more choice in your preferred approach to the gameplay.

But there is a flipside. When not on a killing spree, the island of New Providence does not boast much else to do. Most of the objectives are to either kill a certain NPC, or to flick a switch on a machine. There are a few platform-based objectives where you need to climb very tall towers, but that is about it. Priorities lie with the movement and the completion of your assignments. This would be less of a criticism if Crackdown 3 had delivered on the notion that you could blow up entire city blocks, but that feature has been relegated to the online multiplayer. A conscious decision I understand, as it places emphasis on the campaign’s verticality. Good luck on reaching that agility orb if you’ve blown up the building underneath it. But it does result in less attention to the peripheral experience, and it compromises the game’s longevity.

There are only so many ways to kill people and so many cars to pick up and chuck around before they blow up. Like the previous Crackdowns, the camerawork is also a bit wonky. Auto-targeting means that it can be tricky to focus a particular hostile NPC when they are lost in a cluster of them. You can try to land the shot by freehand, but that proved downright impossible.

But nevertheless, the collect-a-thon that made the previous Crackdowns so addictive is there, and it remains a great deal of fun. The campaign further benefits from a co-op-option, wherein you and a friend can coordinate and streamline the experience. For now, that co-op will have to do, as Crackdown 3 at launch will not yet allow you to team up with friends in the Wrecking Zone multiplayer, when it arrives.

Crackdown 3 is exactly you might expect. The parkour and explosions are there, and you will completely submit to the inner drive to collect every glowing skill ball. It is a well thought-out progression that clearly indicates what your priorities should be, and how best you will achieve them.

What will potentially draw players away is not the visuals (and that should never be the case), but the lack of anything above and beyond what they expect from the game. I enjoyed Crackdown 3. You should too, as long as you don’t expect anything other well, more Crackdown.

Last Updated: February 14, 2019

Crackdown 3
Cracking the formula it set out with 12 years ago, Crackdown 3 delivers the solid and structured, though limited, gameplay of gunning down your enemies while leaping across vast distance and heights. Even if nothing especially new has been added to that formula.
Crackdown 3 was reviewed on Xbox One and PC
60 / 100

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