Crackdown 3

FBT gets the feeling he’s been down this crack before.

Crackdown 3 should be subtitled “déjà vu” - in looking up how to spell that, I discovered the literal translation is ‘already seen’ so maybe, according to Google Translate, it should be “Crackdown 3 Déjà Joué” meaning already played.

Set sometime after the previous Crackdowns, a terrorist group is causing power outages around the world. The only place spared is New Providence, where the super-rich live, and the refugees now live in shanty towns; and are mysteriously disappearing. TerraNova, the corporation that runs New Prov is the likely suspect in all the goings on, so to investigate, ‘The Agency’ is reactivated and flown in – only to be shot down. As the only surviving agent, it’s on to you to disrupt TerraNova’s nefarious plans.

As with most free-roamers, we get to choose our character. But for once, the choice is obvious – Terry Crews is one of the agents. Crews as a choice? That’s no choice at all.

Unfortunately, being Terry Crews is as exciting as it gets. It’s got Just Cause 3’s ridiculous explosions, a heavy lean into Saint’s Row 4 and its spin-off Agents of Mayhem, we have Borderlands’ cell-drawing look, Red Faction’s destructible environments… if you’ve played it, it’s here. Take over regions, attack bases, collect vehicles, do challenges, find collectables …

Obviously this is the bread and butter of free-roamers, and if it were missing I’d be moaning, but its main mission is other games’ side missions and there’s not a spit of innovation or risk to it. I love every Far Cry, feel comfortable in each game’s familiar refresh, but this has no edge, no energy, no actual point; it’s like we’ve not reached the main mission trigger yet and still dealing with the tutorial mission giver.

Crackdown 3 had a troubled production and it does show. It was set for release in 2016 then delayed yearly until limping out in 2019. And it feels like we’re playing something from 2013. Its core selling point was total destruction – unlike most games where carefully considered elements could be destroyed, Crackdown could see you levelling the entire city if you wanted. Eventually that was shifted into a multiplayer called Wrecking Zone, so what we’re left with is an unimaginative free-roamer where random elements seem to be made of bone china – just walking close to a bench causes it to shatter into a million pieces. And that’s it.

Another indicator that this struggled is the opening has an awesome, high-end mo-cap cut-scene that gets you very excited – even Terry is hyped to be here - but then the rest of the story is told in MS Paint and voice over. I’ve never played such a bare-bones basic game. It just feels plasticly and cheap – it’s obviously cartoony, and that’s fine, but there’s so little weight or detail to it you don’t get remotely invested – all you do is blow crap up, and it’s not even very good crap.

Each area has a mini-boss, and you have to reduce their influence by taking out their strongholds. And that's the plot. The whole thing just feels like you’ve done this already, on top of how repetitive it all feels. Once, I thought a location I’d secured had repopulated. Nope, they were just samey. The fights are quite intense, least while you’re under-levelled, but it just hammers home how repetitive tramping through a world looking for a fight can be if it’s not done right. At least this has given me a new appreciation for the work in other free-roamers.

Rather than a skill-tree, here we have the GTA-style playstyle rewards, where the more you do a thing or use a thing, the better you get with the thing. You can also spend time tagging collectables that increase your speed, leaping and so on, and once you get enough, it gets upgraded. You can drive around the city, but even the muscle cars feel like e-cars and the physics are all over the place. You can pilot cars over ramps through hoops to get more xp if you want to, but I had more fun chasing after those trucks with the car carriers lowered on the back trying to jump them. I loved doing that in GTA San Andreas.

Shooting isn’t quite as free as it should be, if you aim you lock on, causing you to constantly unlock and reacquire once they go behind something annoyingly indestructible. It’s good that the guns understand object permanence, but not really helpful when they’re behind cover and I want to quickly switch to the guy who’s not. There’s a fair amount of platforming too, leaping and jetpacking about but while it’s fun within the shootouts, the game’s tendency to put power-ups and needed objects high up feels forced. As you build Terry, he gains the strength to start throwing things about, like huge boulders and cars, but its often too fussy to actually be fun, and its inconsistent in what’s throwable or the damage it does.

There’s two mission-givers, one the leader of the rebellion who saved you and sends you off to do stuff, and the Director of the Agency who chimes in with aggravating commentary and ‘jokes’. He’s only got one joke per event, so you will hear the joke a lot. Yes, it was a fiery death. All the deaths while I’m using a heat-ray will be fiery, boss.

This just feels like one of those games that missed its window, and then got tangled up trying to emulate every game trend – I’m surprised it doesn’t have a Minecraft mode. It feels like a Fortnite clone in Early Access and I imagine the single-player campaign was really built as a tutorial for the Multiplayer mode where they pictured millions of super-charged players spending billions on microtransactions; but Crackdown 3’s Multiplayer is dead too. And that’s not surprising. How are you going to tempt players away from GTAV Online, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Overwatch etc., when your core game is so copy-paste vanilla?

I do have fun at times, but I've had the same fun elsewhere. This just takes what other games did but without the wit. I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed in a free-roam shooter since Agents of Mayhem, or Just Cause 4. But this really is worse than those – JC4 was well-intentioned but badly put together, while any game with Johnny Gat in it is worth a throw-down, but literally all Crackdown 3 has going for it is how good Terry looks in spandex.