Everyone has different gaming habits, right? Mine goes something like this. I play AAA games until I unlock all the achievements. When that starts getting laborious, I go on an indie game binge and then try what’s new. In between all of this, I take a look back and redownload some old games that I didn’t quite finish or that I just wish to relive for one reason or another. A few days ago, out of nowhere, I felt like revisiting the world of “Crackdown 3.” Now, despite the game’s negative reception, I liked it when it came out and had a blast, so I thought to myself, “Isn’t it about time to check the game out once again and maybe unlock the remaining achievements?” I downloaded the game and started playing it, and I was quickly reminded of why I liked this game in the first place. It was incredibly fun, which it still is. Don’t get me wrong, this game is mediocre at best and deserves most, if not all, of the criticism that was thrown its way. Despite that, however, it’s not all doom and gloom as to what this game does; it does well, and I am glad I got to experience it in the first place.
The criticisms that the game faced upon its launch were regarding its poor visuals, dated gameplay, forgettable story, and an overall Xbox 360-ish experience that was ten years too late. The biggest point of contention, however, was the falsely advertised promise of fully destructible environments, which, let’s face it, was not delivered, not even in the slightest. All of that is true, and yet this game delivers on the one thing that matters to me when I play any game. “Crackdown 3” is incredibly fun, and that’s all that matters. The visuals can be piss poor, the gameplay can be outdated, the story can be terrible, or heck, it can even not exist, and yet, if the game is fun, I am there. In an era where a game gets an instant ten if it boasts stunning lifelike visuals and the fact that it practically is a movie disguised as a game is ignored, I am glad there are “mediocre” titles like “Crackdown 3” that exist that know they are games, that don’t take themselves seriously, that only care about being a fun experience, and that, despite being lackluster in every department, deliver on the promise they set out. I grow tired of these so-called movie games, and if there’s one thing I can say about “Crackdown 3,” then it would be that this game didn’t bore me even for a second.
I have already made the point I set out to make, but let’s dive a bit deeper here. Once again, every aspect of this game is bathing in mediocrity, and yet, it is what it is, and I like what it is. There’s a story in this game but trust me when I say that nobody plays “Crackdown” games for their stories, and god forbid, I can’t remember what the story was here even if I tried, so let’s skip that part. One thing to note here is that the game features Terry Crews as Commander Jaxon, who, despite only being in the opening cutscene, is hilarious as always. Come on, man; it’s Terry Crews! You can play as Terry Crews, but it’s just a character skin that amounts to nothing and delivers no extra or unique dialogue. With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at what makes “Crackdown 3” worth playing.
This is the one department where “Crackdown 3” shines, in my opinion. The game is a third-person open-world action game that lets you loose in the city of New Providence and asks you to blowit up. Simple as that. As an agent of the agency, aka a “supercop,” your mission is to take back the city by blowing up all the architecture and propaganda set up by the bad guys so you can challenge them and take back the city for the people. The goons you fight are generic and mindless, but the boss fights are creative and unique and very fun to tackle.
For most of your gameplay, you’ll be running around the city, jumping on rooftops, and leveling up your skills. There are five of them: agility, strength, weapons, explosions, and driving, each of which gets upgraded as you practice said activities. The perks of upgrading them literally turn your hero into a jacked-up force of nature. You’ll be jumping at normal heights in the beginning, but as you upgrade your agility, you’ll be jumping as high as buildings. The same can be said for other skills like strength; you’ll be throwing grenades and trash cans in the beginning, but with increased strength, you’ll be able to chuck cars across the map. It’s a fun mechanic, and I like that it not only improves your gameplay but brings visual changes to your agent, making them more buff and so on.
Then we have the shooting and gunplay, which is fine. There’s nothing to it, as it is very outdated but fits perfectly in the world of “Crackdown.” You lock onto enemies, and you shoot bullets their way while jumping, dodging, and gliding through the air. Simple as that. Is it revolutionary? No. Is it fun? Yes. On the other hand, the guns on offer are just awesome. A gun that shoots black holes, a gun that shoots a cluster of explosive rubber duckies, a rocket launcher that locks on and sprays a barrage of missiles, laser weapons, and so much more are available to mess around with. The same can be said for the equipment, which takes the form of grenades and other things that offer good variety and are fun to experiment with.
The city is covered with 750 agility orbs and 250 hidden orbs, all of which you can find and should find; that’s “Crackdown” for you. Because of this, the game feels like an open-world platformer collectathon, and it was fun when the original “Crackdown” came out, and it is still fun here in “Crackdown 3.” I like how there are some orbs that are practically impossible to reach in the beginning, but as you level up your agility and collect more orbs, the ones you couldn’t reach before become child’s play. A natural and somewhat rewarding progression that doesn’t throw any hurdles in your way.
Then you can drive cars (driving is horrible in this game for some reason, by the way) and summon your agency vehicle, which can transform into a sports car, a spider buggy that can scale buildings and a tank at the press of a button. As you level up your driving skills, street races unlock, which, despite the abysmal driving model in the game, are fun to tackle. You also unlock platforming challenges and wingsuit races as you progress. You can also collect agent DNA scattered around the city to unlock more agents that you can play as, but as I said in the beginning, there’s no point to it, and why’d you play as anyone else if Terry Crews is available in the first place?
When it comes to having a good time by blowing stuff up or getting lost collecting a billion things and taking part in side activities, “Crackdown 3” delivers all of that and then some. The best part, in my opinion, is that all of these things reward you in some way and are not there for the sake of being there. Sure, there are tons of orbs, but each time you pick one, you upgrade because of it, and your gameplay is bolstered by it. The same can be said for the other side activities, as they reward you with new weapons and equipment constantly. It’s old-school game design at its best, and the entire city is literally your playground here, and I don’t see a problem with that.
The second best part is that all of this can be experienced with a buddy in co-op, and need I say more? Double the people means double the fun and double the chaos. This is “Crackdown 3” in a nutshell, a generic, “bland” open-world game that focuses on being fun to play, and you can hate it all you want, but for me, this game was fun when it came out, and I am still having fun with it as I am running around the city and collecting the last few orbs I missed. The game also has a multiplayer mode called “Wrecking Zone,” and I couldn’t care less about its existence. This is where the destructible environments come into play, so check it out if you wish and if the servers are still active, but if you can easily skip this, you won’t be missing out on much.
The only reason this section exists is because of how integral the world is to the “Crackdown” experience. The city of New Providence is not the biggest out there; it’s not the most beautiful, and it’s not even the most interactive one out there. It’s your playground—a sandbox if you will—and it does its job. You won’t remember this city in the future; it’s not a place you’d want to live in, but regardless, it was designed to be a giant metropolis that you can jump around, and it does that just fine. The one thing about the city that stands out is its verticality. The towering skyscrapers and the ability to play “the floor is lava” by constantly being in the air and jumping from rooftop to rooftop without touching the ground never get old. If you look at this city and compare it to other open worlds in games, then it will come up short, and you’ll be left extremely disappointed, but if you look at it like a hub world from platformers, then you’ll see how well designed it is, and that’s all there is to it. The cyberpunk/neon-drenched aesthetic also looks cool, by the way.
The Technical Stuff
Mediocre, as I said, but okay at the same time. The visuals and aesthetics are alright; they are cell-shaded and stylized, and I swear to you, I don’t agree with the sentiment that this game is “ugly,” as the internet would have you believe. It looks okay. Sure, it’s very outdated and doesn’t hold a candle to other games, but that doesn’t automatically mean bad, now, does it? Play it on a 4K TV with HDR enabled, and you’ll see that the game has its moments and can look good. The moment-to-moment sounds are also fine, and the music is serviceable. The voice acting, on the other hand, is good. What little lines Terry Crews has, he delivers them earnestly, and the characters, the Voice of the Agency and Echo, steal the show here with their performances. Obviously, it’s not Oscar-worthy stuff, nor is it phenomenal. It is what it is, and what it is, is good. Unfortunately, 30 fps on consoles is a shame, but as I said, technically, this game isn’t that bad. It’s okay, and it runs well.
There’s a preconceived notion surrounding this game that it’s bad. People judged it too quickly simply based on the visual presentation, and yes, the gameplay here is not something revolutionary and worth singing songs about, but at the same time, it’s “Crackdown,” and it has always been like that. Microsoft is to blame here as well, as they overhyped this game, revealed it way too quickly, and promised things like 100% destructible environments, which is a straight-up lie. If Microsoft had handled this properly and marketed the game correctly, we wouldn’t have had this problem. “Crackdown 3” is alright. If video games weren’t meant to be fun, then this game would belong in the garbage, but since video games are meant to be fun, thankfully, this game delivers on that promise. I like to blow off some steam while I play video games and not get hit by depression with each game I experience because of its story, and for that reason alone, I consider “Crackdown 3” to be a good time. There are better options, yes, but mediocrity is comforting at times, and this game fits the bill perfectly. We need to stop being so harsh on games and just enjoy them for what they are; ever since I have started doing that, my cynicism has died, and my expectations have tempered, and because of that, my enjoyment of this medium I love so much has increased once again. If you are a Game Pass member and have not played this game, check it out; you may like it. I hope we get another entry in this series before it dies. A better-realized and well-made game that will be remembered; if and when that happens, I’ll be there, but until then, try sinking your teeth into the mediocrity of “Crackdown 3” if you wish; you may like it, as it’s not that bad.