Recent delays for the third entry in this super-powered series have bummed out Crackdown fans, as Microsoft announced Crackdown 3 is now due to ship out in 2018. During Gamescom 2017, I had the chance to spend a little time throwing cars and evildoers around in a slice of Crackdown 3 and while I had a load of fun, I also have some concerns.
The original Crackdown was the forefront of sandbox games that delighted in giving players as much power as possible and then setting them loose upon an open-world to wreak havoc. It was an impressive entry the super-powered strain of open-world games (like Mercenaries, The Saboteur) that followed in the wake of Grand Theft Auto III's revolutionary open-world design. For its time and place, Crackdown wasn't just a great game: it was also an important one.
However, Crackdown was also released in 2007. Better games that utilize its systems and thematic focus have come and gone. This leaves the a huge, lingering question: how does Crackdown 3 set itself apart from the likes of Saints Row and Agents of Mayhem? And the answer after having stomped around Crackdown 3's city for half an hour with my super-powered agent, their arsenal of weapons, and some hand grenades? Well, I'm not quite sure to be honest.
Don't get me wrong. I had a good bit of fun with Crackdown 3. Loading up a prebuilt agent with a shotgun and super strength, I tore down streets, picking up cars and hurling them into henchmen. I blew away bad guys, picked up their corpses, and flung them into the sky. It was a hoot. But these thrills are the sort that fade after you do them a few hundred times and you're left with a desire for something more. I'm still having trouble fathoming what that hook is.
Crackdown 3's city seems pretty but otherwise uninteresting. The shooting is clunky and not fun. There's also a narrator that's incessantly cheering and criticizing you, as you go after enemy agents and clear the city of foes.
I walked away from my demo of Crackdown 3 mostly enjoying the experience but not being sold on the full game as an enticing, multi-hour journey. Crackdown 3 feels like a game from another era, one that didn't worry too much about story but just wanted players to have action-packed, ludicrous fun. However, open-world games have changed so much since the original game that I find myself wondering why I'd choose to play this over the zany, over-the-top action of Saints Row IV. And despite multiple informative marketing pushes, a hands-on demo, and a goofy vibe that's easy to appreciate (Terry Crews!): I still don't have an answer, and I don't think I'm alone in that boat either.
Hopefully Microsoft will use the time afforded by the game's most recent delay to craft an answer to that question.
For more on Crackdown 3, you can check out our previous preview by Joe Juba.