Crackdown 3: (Self)-Destructible Environments

There have been many promises made over the development cycle of Crackdown 3. Now that the game has finally been released it’s time to see if those promises have been kept.

The quick answer? Eh, sort of.

In short, Crackdown 3 is a game that has suffered from bad timing. Partially due to the business dealings of the publisher Microsoft, and partially due to the apathetic fates that ignore our petty existence, the world that Crackdown 3 found itself born into was not the world it was conceived in.

PUBG, Fortnite, and Overwatch have changed the way online deathmatch is played, for better or worse. There’s very little room left in the market for a casual, unpolished, options-lite online multiplayer experience. Unfortunately that’s exactly what Wrecking Zone, Crackdown 3’s deathmatch mode, has presented.

With astronomical load times, spartan options, little-to-no customization, and continuous issues with freezing, stuttering, and crashing, it is fair to think that this is a dish that needed to spend a little more time in the oven.

Dated Character Model
This is every option you have in Wrecking Zone. There are no more screens.

A huge blow to its desirability is the lack of server selection and squading up. There is no solo play, only squad vs. squad. So it is a bit puzzling when you discover that you and your friends can not play together on one of these squads. You can’t even pick a server instance to make joining up randomly a little easier. It’s just you and some randos, and good luck with that.

Not allowing friends lists or group invites to a squad-only multiplayer game makes no sense. There is no chance of unbalanced play. No reason to stop people from ganging up on others. There are always two teams, and ONLY two teams. To hamstring your enjoyment by removing play with your friends is an insane oversight.

The long-promised destructible environments are here in this mode–and in this mode only–and although they do deliver a fresh and unique approach to deathmatch problem solving (Enemy up above you? Just shoot the ceiling out! Need to get to street-level fast? Just shoot the floor out!) the innate problems with server instability and everyone-has-a-lock-on-shooting-mechanic do too much to counteract that bit of success.

Destructible Environments
Watching a big stone statue crumble before you IS a pretty satisfying experience. 

Perhaps where the game will find a temporary home in the hearts of gamers is in the campaign mode. Chock-full of simple arcadey action and momentum-based exploration, there is lots to enjoy for an afternoon or weekend. Collecting orbs and watching your parkour skills improve is a satisfying if mindless time-killer that will send you off course to greedily gobble up more and more glowing globes like some modern acrobatic Pac-Man. Increasing your arsenal of weapons, gadgets, vehicles, and agents will provide short-term goals and constantly-changing combat techniques.

There seems to be a large design focus on vehicles, which makes it all the more surprising that the actual driving mechanics are buggy, confusing, and unrewarding. It’s almost always more efficient–and because of hidden orbs, beneficial–to go everywhere on foot. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop is the most pleasurable experience in this game, so you will seldom find the need to switch into a clunky driving mechanic that slows and confounds you.

Combat encounters lack the uniqueness of the original Crackdown. There are basically three different setups that you will constantly be revisiting, and the lack of variety in enemy types and environments will turn them into a samey-samey grind after not too long. Random wandering enemies has been replaced by a “wanted level” mechanic that continuously sends waves of enemies to your location until you FAST TRAVEL AWAY. Seriously, the game tells you to leave the area you are purposely exploring in order to make this nuisance stop. It’s an interruption to the flow and pacing of the game that serves little purpose other than to increase how long you have to play in order to accomplish your goals.

And speaking of interruptions, let’s talk about cut-scenes. They are NONSTOP. Picked up a DNA strand? Cut-scene. Killed some people? Cut-scene. Climbed a tower? Cut-scene. Got too close to a map marker? Cu–well, you get the picture. Play is constantly being interrupted, sometimes mid-fight. This has the added bonus frustration of sometimes teleporting you to a new location, leaving you disoriented and without that orb you were just about to grab. And all the while your actions have running commentary and un-followable exposition by not just one, but TWO narrators. You spend more time wondering what you just missed than you do gleaning anything valuable about the storyline or game world.

The game does have a sort of beauty to its environments, but it feels like a dated beauty. They’ve stuck close to the aesthetics that are known and loved from the original titles–which is a good thing–but the character models feel like they came from 2012 instead of 2019. There’s a bit of overly-simplistic level design, but it is interrupted with quick moments of brilliance with momentum climbing and lore-friendly signage that allow for it to be by-and-large forgiven.

Nice View
Sunset, palm trees, and…a big multi-platform tower that moves around for some reason?

Running the campaign mode cooperatively with friends is definitely a huge boon. You may not find a ton of difference in the actual way you play as opposed to solo, but getting into a firefight with a buddy is always a rife environment for humor and excitement. This is one thing the Crackdown games have always got right, and although there are still way too many server issues even when playing the campaign, it’s the mode that should likely have the most draw.

The base of what makes the Crackdown franchise good simple fun is still here, it just lacks the polish we as gamers have come to expect from a big publisher like Xbox Game Studios. Clearly it needed more time, which leads one to wonder after considering how many times the release date was pushed back by months and years: What were they doing all that time?



Wrecking Zone First Look:

Humorous Co-op Campaign (Explicit Version):

Humorous Co-op Campaign (Censored Version):