With the likes of Anthem, Metro Exodus and Far Cry: New Dawn providing stiff competition right out of the gate, it's fair to say Crackdown 3 has a bloody battle on its hands despite shaking free and escaping victorious from its well-documented development woes. The Microsoft exclusive was first revealed way back in 2014 and boasted untapped potential for the Xbox One with the power of its destructible cloud processing. It also promised to be the Terry Crews simulator, with the star appearing as a playable character and serving as a focal point in its marketing. The game's development has been troubled to say the least, but we've already seen projects such as Kingdom Hearts 3 escape development hell earlier this year to fanfare and critical acclaim. Can the same be achieved for Crackdown?
If you've played Crackdown or its 2010 sequel then this plot may sound familiar. You play as a superpowered agent who has been tasked with taking down an evil corporation known as Terra Nova by executing its various kingpins. This group was responsible for transforming you and your fellow agents into dust at the start of the game so revenge is the main motivator here as well as freeing the region of New Providence from its vice-like grip. The zaniness the series has been known has been amplified tenfold this time with the inclusion of Crews but besides the odd cutscene, we were just left with all but the occasional one-liner from his character as we gunned down troops or blew up attack drones.
There are nine enemy kingpins to defeat here and each can be lured out by causing enough destruction to their shady operations. This saw us repeating the same objective multiple times and things quickly grew tedious. To eliminate one kingpin, we had to shut down several chemical plants and this was done by tossing several boulders into the machinery. Each one of these five objectives was essentially the same task with the only exception being that there were more enemies to kill and more machines for us to destroy. To Crackdown 3's credit though, these objectives are all open to the player from the start, so if you start to get bored you can always mix things up and seek out another.
We played the campaign through on agent mode (the medium difficulty) and found ourselves breezing through areas where our survival chance was as low as 30%. Advancing our strength, explosive and stamina powers was the hook that helped us endure the repetition but it was a double-edged sword that made things feel too easy. Progression just felt flat out broken and it wasn't too long before we could just triple jump out the way of danger, ground pound anyone around us into oblivion, and unload a seemingly unlimited supply of bullets and explosives.
For the most part, Crackdown 3 plays things safe but one welcome change is the inclusion of 21 unlockable agents that all have their own backstories and perks. You unlock new agents by finding DNA strands which are scattered across the city and these encourage exploration just like the main glowing agility orbs. Each of these agents can be alternated between during supply points and your skills carry over allowing for flexibility in switching. We found switching agents beneficial for levelling up skills we were lagging behind on as each has their own XP boosts (such as a 10% increase in driving experience, for example).
New Providence does have a handful of other distractions to keep you busy if you find yourself losing steam on the core objectives. There are giant propaganda towers that you can scale and shutdown; races across the city both in a car and on foot; and civilian prisoners that you can free from the enemy's capture. There are also many collectable orbs that you can find across the rooftops of the city and collecting these still has the same addictive buzz all of these years later. The world does feel like a huge destructible sandbox though where you are free to scale any building, explore wherever you wish, and complete objectives in any order that you desire.
There's no denying that Crackdown 3 isn't the prettiest of AAA releases to have made it onto store shelves as of late. It does retain that cel-shaded comic book style from the first two instalments and it's definitely a leap forward for the series in the graphical department but compared to its current peers in the open-world genre it just doesn't hold up. The explorable sandbox of New Providence also has its problems. The neon cityscape really lacked character with no notable locales springing to mind and its many war-torn streets felt desolate and empty (not in an intended way either).
Not only can the campaign be played in co-op, but there's multiplayer on offer as well. Wrecking Zone is the name of Crackdown 3's ten-player multiplayer mode and this is where the cloud technology we touched upon earlier makes its debut, and it comes in two flavours, Agent Hunter and Territories. The pacing, despite feeling intense at first, isn't all that high, and while the destructible elements mean more chaos, the tactical and strategic layer isn't always there and often it's down to who locks onto the other player first. At least you're more mobile than you are in single-player which means you can get away, and it does add an extra thrill to escape using quick thinking and skilful manoeuvres. The higher tempo, the great mobility, and the added chaos do make Wrecking Zone a more enjoyable experience overall, but even here it lacks the tactical depth and strategic variation that any multiplayer needs in the long run.
Those looking for a simple retread of 2007's Crackdown may come away from this one feeling satisfied but we found little here that grabbed our interest and helped to propel the series forward. The repetitive mission structure and dated visuals hurt the experience for us even if we did have fleeting moments of joy snatching orbs and causing chaos across the city. As it is available as part of the Xbox Game Pass we'd say it wouldn't hurt to sample this one if you are a fan of the first two instalments, but if that doesn't apply to you we'd advise you steer clear.