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Crackdown 3

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: Feb. 15, 2019


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Xbox One Review - 'Crackdown 3'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 19, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Crackdown 3 is a sandbox of mayhem and destruction featuring an open-world campaign that you're able to play cooperatively online.

Buy Crackdown 3

Back in 2007, Microsoft used the hype around the Halo 3 beta to launch a new franchise. Plenty of gamers bought the original Crackdown just to get access to the Halo 3 beta, but once the beta was over, realized that a pretty solid game had come along with it. Twelve years later, Crackdown 3 has landed on the Xbox One X, though with more of a whimper than a bang.

The best way to describe Crackdown 3 is painfully average. As a game, it takes inspiration from a number of different titles, but it doesn't build on any of them well, and it doesn't innovate on what came before. Superhero action? Saints Row IV did it better. Destruction? Red Faction: Guerrilla set the standard for that. Traversal during combat? Sunset Overdrive says hello. Each of these games stood out from the pack because they focused on one thing and did it well. Instead of prioritizing a specific type of gameplay, Crackdown 3 tries to throw too much into its toolkit and ends up as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

This disconnected approach even applies to the main storyline in Crackdown 3. The game takes a non-linear, open-world approach to progression, similar to the Assassin's Creed or Far Cry games, but here, there aren't any core "story" missions. There is merely a collection of independent missions that lead to bosses. Kill the bosses to unlock the final boss. Kill her to win the game.

There are vague references to a shadowy puppet master who is supposedly pulling the strings, but the lack of a core story makes it all feel like random lore. It's as if the creators of "Lost" decided to write the script for a video game. There are plenty of possible questions, and there aren't any concrete answers beyond the player being good and the bad lady being bad. The mission progression doesn't even seem to register with the AI banter. For example, Roxy the AI boss was one of the first ones I took down. Later on in the game, the radio chatter was talking about how I need to take out Roxy. Little things like this make Crackdown 3 feel like a collection of side missions rather than a coherent adventure.

Like other open-world games, Crackdown 3 doesn't directly block you from exploring. Certain areas have stronger enemies, but that doesn't prevent you from exploring. Exploring (and doing) is how you level up your primary attributes. Want to jump higher and farther? Collect agility orbs. Want to be more effective with guns? Use them. The system works, but the game design doesn't scale with your powers — with the exception of throwing more enemies at you.

Even in the very last level of the game, when the Agency boss was telling me that I wasn't leveled up enough and should come back later, it was easy to fight my way through the tower because I could pick enemies off from a distance. It's the same technique I was able to use for most of the game. I could usually see (and lock on to) enemies before they could see me. As a result, I moved forward a bit, shot a few baddies, stepped back, and repeated the cycle again. Progression through the levels in the world was usually straightforward, with the challenge being the boss fights. That's not due to a skill requirement, but the boss fights ramp up the challenge because they dump extra sets of grunts at you in an attempt to overwhelm.


What's surprising about all of this is that while your guns can lock on, your traversal does not. Even when you've leveled up your agility score, it's still easy to overshoot a ledge. Given that Crackdown 3 has multiple sections where you need to hop from narrow beam to narrow beam, this will likely be a source of some frustration. Your character is supposed to be a super agile fighter, but he can easily overshoot a short hop.

Agility is an issue because as you make your way up the towers, elevators don't always continue to function once the game marks you as having moved past it. I had to reload because a blast knocked me back down a floor, and there was no way to get back up since the elevator platform was already raised.

Small rough edges like this are seen throughout the game, with the aforementioned enemies that just stand there while you pick them off from afar, sound that momentarily drops (both using headphones via the controller and via an external amp), or even the subtitles that suddenly change in font and size when you trigger the end game.

Perhaps the biggest miss in the single-player game has to do with the Monkey Moonshine missions. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have a black NPC be the one staffing the Monkey Moonshine locations was either running an epic troll or epically clueless. It's hard to believe that no one at Microsoft or Sumo looked at this and said, "You know, maybe this isn't the best look, especially for a game that's releasing in the middle of Black History Month."


Crackdown 3's multiplayer mode had the potential to lift up the game, especially since the level of destruction in the campaign was pretty much nil, but it also feels rushed and unpolished.

The biggest miss here is the relatively mild level of destruction that is available. When you compare this to Red Faction: Guerrilla, the difference is night and day. Yes, the construction is more compact here, but the destruction is, for lack of a better word, basic. In Red Faction: Guerrilla, you actually could bring down a building (or buildings) by taking out the supports. You could crush someone by dropping a building on them. In Crackdown 3, you can't do that in campaign, and in multiplayer, you can ... knock large chunks out of walls, so you can shoot through them.

It's destruction, but it's not really that impressive. Instead of looking and feeling like a physics-driven engine, it plays out like a series of scripted sequences. There's no emergent gameplay here. Crackdown 3's multiplayer is nothing more than two basic modes (deathmatch and a king-of-the-hill variant) on a limited set of environments. You can't even party up with a group of friends for matchmaking. Instead, it's just random matchmaking for everyone.

The actual combat in multiplayer leaves something to be desired, as multiplayer has the same lock-on aiming style as the campaign. While this does make it easier for new players to get kills, it also means there is no point in trying to duke it out with someone. In most multiplayer deathmatch games, you can trade shots, and the better player comes out on top. Here, whoever gets the lock-on first is going to win a face-to-face showdown.


The minimal destruction in multiplayer is doubly disappointing given Microsoft's previous focus on "the power of the cloud" for Crackdown 3. It's difficult to see how that is implemented here, or if it is, what benefit it brings. At the very least, I would have assumed that relying on Azure to host the servers would have meant a rock-solid connection. Alas, I didn't even get that. I tested Crackdown 3 on a gigabit Google Fiber connection. This same connection regularly gets me 200+ Mbps downloads from Xbox Live and reports a 3-4 millisecond ping time to Xbox Live, depending on time of day. However, in my first set of matches, I was getting a "poor connection" indicator, which is something I'd expect from a P2P connection, not one to a data center sitting on an Internet backbone.

When it comes right down to it, everything in Crackdown 3 is by-the-numbers game design, and the end result is not more than the sum of its parts. There are hints of good ideas in Crackdown 3, but the end product isn't worth the $60 purchase. Unless you're getting it free with your Game Pass subscription, you're better off downloading the original game (currently free for all) and playing that instead.

Score: 5.0/10


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