Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Vogster
Developer: Vogster Interactive
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2009

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'CrimeCraft'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Sept. 16, 2009 @ 4:20 a.m. PDT

CrimeCraft, powered by the Unreal Engine 3, is an MMO that combines the action of a tactical shooter with the strategy of an RPG. Set in a modern world you take part in the political, economical and social life of a big city.

Shooter MMO games don't exactly have a long and storied history of successes, and though games such as Planetside and Tabula Rasa have tried to carve out a niche, few have been successful in doing so. CrimeCraft approaches the idea in a different light, combining team-based instanced gameplay with a persistent backend rather than having everything in one big world. It's a decent concept, and though the game has some notable flaws and balance issues, it is also quite addictive and easy to pick up and play.

Plot doesn't exactly make a large appearance in the game, other than to explain that the title is set in a postapocalyptic future where gangs of criminals roam the bleak urban landscapes of our fallen civilization. Your character escaped these dangers and made it to Sunrise City, a somewhat fortified metropolis. However, while you may have escaped the thugs on the outside, the same cannot be said for violence, and before long, you find yourself participating in gang warfare for money and reputation.

Starting off in the game, you are a lowly level one, armed only with a three-shot burst SMG that does about as much damage as a wet fish. While in Sunrise City (also known as the "lobby"), you are free from harm and able to visit the various vendors and objects of interest such as ATMs to store your items, mailboxes to send mail, and the entrance to your gang's hideout — assuming one has been purchased. Though the city's three zones are relatively large and complex, they don't have a lot of content and mainly serve as the hub from which you buy and sell with other players, train up new skills, craft items, or simply chat.

The meat of the gameplay is centered on the instanced combat maps, structured around either PvE or PvP. PvE play pits any players who join the map against respawning bots and tasks them with either protecting an area from the bots' assault or scouring the map to kill groups of them and picking up the crates of random items that they are protecting. Playing against the bots is ultimately a matter of gunning them down before they do the same to you because although the bots do a good job of taking cover and trading fire, they can fling a grenade with pinpoint accuracy across vast distances.

PvP is much more varied and is where the majority of your time will be spent. PvP instances have many different modes, such as Robbery, which has each team defending its safe while trying to get to and steal money from the enemy team's safe, and Turf War, which is essentially capture and hold with each team fighting a tug of war over five points distributed in a loose line across the map. Other modes are the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. PvP matches are fast-paced and unpredictable, both due to how the level designs are very non-linear and how nimble yet vulnerable players can be. You cannot jump in the game, but you can sprint and roll around to quickly reach cover or dodge enemy fire at the expense of your stamina. It is important to do so, as many weapons in the game are easily capable of killing you with a handful of bullets, if not just one well-placed shot.

You gain money and experience as you play in any instance, and you eventually level up. Every time you gain a level, you also gain a skill point, which you can stockpile and spend on new skills. Learning how to use one of the four heavy weapons — such as LMGs, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and grenade launchers — takes seven skill points, while the majority of the other skills only take one point to learn the first rank, four points to learn the second rank, etc. Skills in the game range from health grenades, which heal all allies in a radius from the explosion, to active camouflage and proximity mines. Though you can have as many passive skills as you want, you can only equip two active skills at the outset, and a third once you have reached level 20 and complete a quest to unlock it. There are no classes or anything of the sort in CrimeCraft; it all boils down to how you spec your skill points. This makes choosing your skills somewhat strategic and lets you pick skills based on your play style or even the map in which you're about to play.

One of the big aspects of CrimeCraft revolves around the ability to join a gang, which is similar to clans in other MMOs. Teaming up with other people doesn't necessarily give you an edge, but the game allows you to join up with three other members from the lobby so that you can join instances at the same time and on the same side. Forming or joining a gang really becomes important when you save up enough in-game cash to acquire a hideout and link it to one of the four professions in the game, giving you extra crafting options. A hideout is more of a virtual gathering location than a base, as the entrance is shared by all other gangs, but you have a few customization options. Everything in the game costs money, from buying new clothes to sending in-game e-mail or re-arranging your skills, so although your gang hideout will intially look pretty bleak and boring, once you level up your gang stats, you'll be able to change the floor, walls and ceiling, outfit it with furniture, install a bank (to share money and crafting materials with other gang members) or even have your own personal vendor so you don't have to run around the city to visit the various shops. One annoyance is that although you can join instances when you're inside the hideout, once you are done, it kicks you back to the entrance in the game's main lobby instead of letting you stay within the hideout.

It won't be long before you'll be looking to replace that lowly SMG for something with a bit more firepower, and you have a fairly good-sized selection to do so. Your character can equip three weapon types at any given time: pistols in one slot, assault rifles and shotguns in the second, and you can equip heavy weapons in the third slot. Each weapon type usually has two or more manufacturers, which equates to different weapon handling and stats, such as how sniper rifles have powerful bolt-action models and less powerful semiautomatic ones.

Breaking things down even further is how each weapon can have up to five modification slots so that you can add replacement barrels, sights, modules, stocks and triggers; these modifications are really what change the gun from a lesser model. Stats-wise, there is no difference between the level one Valley Forge assault rifle and a stock level 50 Valley Forge assault rifle, but the latter can take on a bunch of modifications to really amp it up. These mods work like socketing in other games, you can put any mod on a gun assuming you are of a sufficient skill level to use them both, and although you can replace mods, you cannot remove them.

Vendors sell the no-mod-slot and one-mod-slot versions of all the weapons in the game, but if you want to get anything better, you need to get lucky with an item drop out of a crate in PvE, look in the loot from any instance, or look toward the crafting community. Players can choose one of the four crafting paths in the game: chemist, engineer, gunsmith and tailor. Gunsmiths make bigger and better guns with increasing numbers of mod slots, chemists make stimulants and augmentations, engineers make weapons mods and ammunition, and tailors make clothing for your character. To progress in crafting, you are nearly completely reliant upon getting your raw materials from random loot in the instances or purchasing them at obscene prices from other players through the in-game auction system.

Going through the hassle is worth it, however, as crafting such items will give you more of an edge. Other than getting bigger guns and stronger mods, your advantages in combat can also be in the form of stimulants and serums, ammo and your clothing. Stimulants and serums are limited-use items that can increase your damage output, restore your health or increase your resistance to gunfire. Clothing can add a small degree of protection against specific weapon types or explosives, which can add up to significant protection. Ammunition in the game is more of a weapon buff, increasing your magazine size, number of magazines and damage per bullet for one whole instance. Though these things are usually quite expendable and you'll go through them quickly, their benefits can really add up.

However, these benefits can quickly have quirky impacts on the game's balance. Bolt-action sniper rifles loaded up with mods and ammo so that they can one-shot someone at range are somewhat common, as are LMGs that have enough recoil reduction to deliver a similar level of deadly force at the same range, albeit with a lot more than one shot. Balance issues such as these aren't game breakers, especially given how easy it is to flank other players and catch them unaware, but when you have players electing to use an LMG in close quarters rather than a shotgun because the former doesn't kill fast enough, you know things are in need of some tweaking.

Other flaws in CrimeCraft are of varying levels of importance, such as how you can lag out of the session in PvE instances and the bots will turn invisible but can still kill you, or how sometimes when you start up a game, you won't have access to your equipped skills and serums right away. Neither of these issues affects PvP play, but they can be bothersome for those who are looking to blast through some PvE since they tend to drop crafting goods more often. The PvP mode is actually quite solid, lacking any real stability or gameplay issues other than the weapon balance ones that I mentioned. The lobby is solid for the most part, though the UI can often come across as cumbersome due to how the instance list can slag and show incorrect information. Additionally, when an instance queue pops up, it only shows up on the main screen, inconveniently located behind any windows that you might have open.

Flaws aside, I'm finding that I'm having a difficult time turning off CrimeCraft. Sure, it has its rough edges, and you will certainly curse every time someone with an LMG sprays you down from across the map or when a queue pops up without you noticing, but CrimeCraft delivers on its premise of instance-based and easy-to-play combat tied together by a persistent backend. It's surprisingly rewarding to climb in levels and get a new gun only to trick it out with some mods and a new paint scheme, and for what the game lacks in complexity or a plot, it definitely makes up for it with its fast-paced and enjoyable gameplay.

Score: 8.3/10

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