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July 2024

Crime Boss: Rockay City

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: InGame Studios
Release Date: June 18, 2024


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PC Review - 'Crime Boss: Rockay City'

by Cody Medellin on June 27, 2024 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Crime Boss: Rockay City is a star-studded co-op organized crime game FPS set in the seedy underbelly of '90s Florida.

When it came out last year, Crime Boss: Rockay City landed with a thud. The solo campaign was more memorable for its terrible and nonsensical cut scenes, while the multiplayer was fine but had the potential to get old very quickly. It was destined to be a game that would be ridiculed and forgotten. The release of the game on Steam after a period of exclusivity on Epic Games Store has caused many to give the title a second look. Part of that comes from how badly Payday 3 botched its release, causing players who were exhausted with Payday 2 to look for something similar but new. Another reason comes from the low price tag and inclusion of several pieces of DLC for a limited time. (We couldn't analyze the DLC, since we were only given the base game.) There's also the fact that the developers have been working on the game since its initial release, and the changes have been so numerous that it's quite a different experience when compared to the initial version.

The game is split into three modes, with the campaign being the main single-player experience. You play the role of Travis Baker, a drug dealer who's moved to Rockay City in search of success. After the king of the underworld dies at his party in a big explosion, a power vacuum appears, and Baker is keen on filling that void. To do that, he'll need a crew and the means to take on the city's various gangs until he's the last one left standing.

The story follows the basic blueprint of most crime games in taking your underworld underdog to the top by any means necessary. If you played this game when it first came out, you'll find that the cut scenes have changed substantially. Some cut scenes have been edited down so much that they're a fraction of the original length. Other scenes are gone. The benefit is that you don't have to subject yourself to scenes that try too hard to be humorous when the jokes fall flat or scenes feel tacked on. On the other hand, it means that a majority of the characters you encounter appear with little explanation, and they're subsequently robbed of a personality or quirks. The heavy editing is ultimately more beneficial to the game.

The campaign starts off with your map, which shows which missions you can engage in based on where you are, and those missions break down into a few different types. You have heists that can vary in scope and complexity. Some have you going into a garage to grab the cash. Others are more elaborate, where you take down a bank or jewelry store using drills to break through safes and ziptying civilians and guards like you would in Payday. You can take on a stealth approach or go in shooting everything, but these missions fall under a strict timer that counts down once you do anything. Have that timer expire, and the cops start coming. Just like Grand Theft Auto, there's a star system that increases the more you fight until the cops bring in military-grade weapons to take you down. No matter your approach, the objective is to grab as much as you can and get out via a getaway van.

Another type of mission in is territory takeover or defense. In both cases, the game plays like a standard match from Battlefield or Dynasty Warriors where enemy forces are whittled down with every kill made. Get to a certain threshold, and the boss of the area comes out. Gun them down, and everyone else flees to indicate a successful takeover. Unlike the heists, these aren't time constrained, but the fight areas are small enough that missions of this type don't last for more than a few minutes.

Then there are the variations that are new to the campaign but are related to its overall progress. You'll run heists to drain the supply of rival gangs, and you can also partake in missions to kill enemy gang members and leaders. The same thing can be done to the cops when they investigate your crimes, as evidence sites can be ransacked to diminish the heat on you. Compared to the original incarnation of the game, participating in these kinds of missions is more sensible than missions that sent you to far-off places.

Governing all of this is an economy where successful heists and taking over territory pulls in cash either directly or through selling goods. That cash is paramount to upgrading your crew, whether it's new members or weapons or simply keeping the business running. The economy also creates an interesting mechanic when it comes to mission completion, so you can decide whether to leave with the bare minimum to guarantee some success or get greedy and clean out the place for the maximum possible amount of cash. In addition to this, your actions now feed into a global player XP system, where you can unlock weapons and cosmetics in a vast arsenal; it feeds into a desire to keep playing if you're a completionist.

The campaign has been completely overhauled compared to the initial release. In addition to the culling of cut scenes, Rockay City ditches the linear approach in favor of a roguelike system. Aside from the level and mission randomization, the title allows you to level up your crew with their own XP system. However, it also introduces permadeath, so being sloppy can cost you a ton of progress. You'll still be able to continue with the campaign after death unless you send Baker on a mission and let him die. Do this, and the whole campaign is reset but, in typical roguelike fashion, this will also mean that you'll come back with a random buff. That buff may be the ability to hire more people at a cheaper rate or getting a better starting assortment of weapons. It seems strange initially, but it won't take long before you appreciate that this keeps the campaign interesting — even if the missions blend together after a while.

Aside from the fact that all of the missions now make sense, one of the reasons why the campaign works better is because of the improved AI companions. In combat, they do a great job of actually hitting their targets and not leaving themselves open to death. If you fall, they'll make a beeline to revive you, and they'll do the same for the other AI companions. When it comes to looting, they'll do so intelligently, and you can be sure that they'll pick up any bags you throw at them and not linger. They never break stealth, either, and they're generally more competent, which makes each mission type less frustrating.

There is one game element that still needs work: the stealth mechanic. Getting into stealth and executing moves works completely fine, and it is entirely viable to get through a heist without alerting anyone. The minute anyone spots you, though, you're pretty much done with stealth, as the camera or eyewitness alertness gauge still fills up even when you're completely out of sight. Eliminating the threat before that meter fills doesn't reset things, so expect to see silent missions go loud if there's a single mistake.

For a game like this, the online mode is just as important as the offline one, and what's on offer works fairly well. The online community is pretty robust at the moment, but you can also use bots to accompany you. Lag is pretty much nonexistent, so don't expect to see players move erratically or doing any warping. Player XP is also gained no matter the mission, and the game is pretty generous when it comes to DLC use. You can join any match type whether or not you own the DLC, but you can't host a match if you don't own the DLC. Just keep in mind that the multiplayer is completely PvE based, so don't expect to fight human players anytime soon.

The multiplayer is split into multiple game types. The first lets you select any individual mission you want, whether it's a simple shootout with AI-controlled gangsters, small robbery jobs, or bigger objectives like robbing yachts or large hidden vaults. The Shuffle feature lets you cycle through randomly selected jobs and missions, while Urban Legends is more fascinating since you take on missions with a structure similar to a mini-campaign instead of a roguelike. All of the modes generate player XP and cash to spruce up your boss, the hideout, or let you hire more people for your gang. In a way, the multiplayer mode provides an experience similar to the main campaign, so you aren't missing much if you focus on online play versus offline play.

The final mode isn't a different mode at all; it's just online Quick Play. Here, you're randomly thrust into any of the available game types with a random assortment of strangers in your team. The only reason it is worth mentioning as a different game mode is because it appears in the main menu and the online menu. While the idea of playing with complete strangers might not be appealing to some, the game tries to entice you to give it a go with what appears to be a permanent 20% profile XP boost when playing; it's a nice bonus if you're trying to unlock every cosmetic the game offers.

Graphically, the visuals can be quite impressive. The cut scenes show off a number of de-aged actors, but their rendering is quite good, as is their lip sync and general animation. The environments also look fine, especially with some of the places that have light bloom. During gunfights, however, things break down. You'll notice that almost all enemies are essentially clones of one another, and while one might expect that from the cops, it also happens to the various gang members, so it feels like every enemy just been cloned and mass produced. The game happens to have all of the available forms of upscaling thus far, so it's fairly easy to hit a solid 60fps or above.

For the most part, the audio is fine, but it can only be considered good if you're familiar with the original game's audio. The actual voice work in Rockay City hasn't been touched up. There are some of the more seasoned actors with voice work experience, such as Michael Rooker, Michael Madsen and Damion Poitier. Vanilla Ice is decent, while Kim Basinger and Danny Glover do well enough. Chuck Norris is awful, as he never seems to add much emotion to his lines or pay attention to how the lines would be spoken in a normal conversation. The drastic editing and reduction of the cut scenes means that you aren't going to hear from these actors as much, so you won't hear lines get stepped over or have a flat delivery. Elsewhere, the sound effects are fine, but there are only slight enhancements to things like gunfire and drill sounds. The music is very good, since they're mostly big hits from the '90s, and their restriction to the game's menus means they don't get played so much that you start to tire of them.

Steam Deck users will find that the game runs quite well on Valve's device. Except for the pre-rendered cut scenes, the game runs at the device's native 1280x800 resolution. The game defaults all settings to low and employs Intel's XeSS upscaling, which is fine as it means the game hits roughly between 30-35fps during gameplay. Turning off XeSS gets the same performance results, so going with native scaling instead is ideal. The battery life averages around 90 minutes or so on a full charge, which is decent when you consider that the game looks good even at low graphical settings.

Crime Boss: Rockay City has done something that few other games have accomplished since the advent of patching. The team has taken what was a very bad game at launch and made it good enough to be enjoyable. The missions may be short, but the lack of lag and the presence of better-than-expected AI companions makes each encounter fun. The presence of the player XP system makes the tweaked campaign and online modes worth grinding through. Coming in at a cheaper base price than its Epic Games Store launch price, Rockay City is a decent purchase for those who were disappointed with Payday 3 and exhausted with Payday 2.

Score: 7.0/10

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