Tuesday 30 April 2019

Crackdown 3 ★★☆☆☆

If repetition is the mother of learning, Crackdown 3 is a lesson in disappointment. The much-hyped Xbox One exclusive has finally been released after five years in various stages of development, but it’s not clear what they’ve been up to in all that time. 

It’s been several years since Crackdown 2 released on the Xbox 360, but the latest game feels like more of the same. The player is placed in the shoes of a super agent, (there’s a choice of characters but 99% will pick Terry Crews’ Commander Jaxon) tasked with travelling the sprawling city of New Providence while fighting various criminals and kingpins that have taken hold. You’re generally attacked by swarms of uninspired robots, with the game ramping up the difficulty by throwing increasing numbers at you as the story wears on. Sections of the map lack any cover, so you’re constantly being shot at from all sides, but it’s easy enough to shoot everything in sight thanks to auto-aim and an abundance of weaponry.

If it sounds fun, it can be. The drawback is that it’s also pretty repetitive, and it begins to offer diminishing returns fairly quickly. The snooze factor isn’t helped by a simple 10-hour campaign which generally involves navigating the city to kill someone or blow something up. That’s about it, with no real reason to keep going to the next map marker unless you have nothing else to play. Fully destroyable Wrecking Zone maps add extra longevity, while collectables abound in the main game, which can also be played in co-op. Collectables tie into the upgrade system, which also affects you physically in-game. You’ll literally get bigger and stronger, jumping higher and further as you gain more experience. You can unlock new characters by finding DNA strands littered around the map, while driving will eventually give you access to an Agency car. Weapons also improve as you level up, so you’ll always have a choice of how to kill everything you meet.

The shading gives it a nice feel graphically, but it’s far from a looker. It’s somewhat forgivable considering the scale of the sandbox and the way you navigate buildings by climbing and jumping, and it does allow for more enemies and explosions in the background. It’s also not the easiest to control, but it does get better as you level up.

Overall, it’s not bad, but it’s not the sequel most fans were hoping for after such a long wait. It hardly improves on a game that released light years ago in terms of development, and the core gameplay is still the same. You lock on to things and shoot them, and jump around a bit. The fanfare and hype that preceded the game make it more difficult to be forgiving of the many flaws and limitations, but there’s dumb fun to be had underneath it all. Crackdown 3 is fine if you’re looking for a mindless gaming session, but it feels like a missed opportunity. It looks like a reskinned Saints Row at times, but even that would be more interesting than what we ended up with here. The series deserves better than a low budget entry that uses comic book effects for cutscenes and disappoints regularly, but it’ll probably distract you during a rainy weekend.

James Millin-Ashmore

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