Rectify Gaming

Review: Crackdown 3

Posted on February 21, 2019 by David Rodriguez

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  • 8.6/10
    Total Score - 8.6/10


Kills for skills makes a grand return, and Crackdown 3 is the sequel fans have been waiting patiently for since the original launched.


Crackdown – a game with two very different versions that existed in its history. Pre-release, it was Microsoft’s Zone of the Enders. It was simply a Halo 3 beta delivery mechanism. Then post release, it became a different story: a massive city, run by various gangs, in a future where a group called the Agency dispatched superhero agents to go out and fight those gangs head on.

Soon after, all of the hallmarks Crackdown was known for would infect anybody who actually gave it a chance. It grew far beyond a mere bonus that shipped with the Halo 3 beta. Kills for skills, the hum of agility orbs, transforming agency vehicles – all are embedded into the minds of anybody who played the original. A sequel followed, but it was a massive letdown despite adding four player co-op, and it seemed the simplicity and feel of the original would never come back.

It took a long time, a reveal here and a cloud there, but finally Crackdown is back with Sumo Digital’s Crackdown 3.

Right away I’m going to go a different route and discuss some of the things I think are a bit of a step-down from the original game.

One of my favorite elements of the original game was the agency vehicles. Each one of them was very unique, even at level one, and as your driving skill leveled up, the transformed states of each of those vehicles was always a satisfying moment of gameplay.

Crackdown 3 opts for an all-in-one Agency vehicle with a very futuristic look. This one vehicle now transforms into three different forms as the driver level increases. The three vehicles aren’t bad per se, but I miss the real-time transformation each vehicle brought to the table. I was excited about maxing out my driving level just to see how different each of the old vehicles looked, and that entire aspect is gone from Crackdown 3.

My only other real complaint is something that’s a bit tougher to explain. Agility orbs and stunt circles were two aspects of the original game that once again become beacons for players to follow into the city. In the original game, everything from the player’s starting point and the drive into the amusement park felt very carefully constructed. Each agility orb and stunt circle in the world felt very carefully placed. Their placement felt like the perfect balance between player freedom and just the right amount of teasing. Just when you felt like you found a way to get that one agility orb or stunt ring, you would catch a glimpse of another one just out of your reach.

That balance was essential to what kept Crackdown such a gripping experience. An open-world action game with the precision and exploration of a great platformer. The platforming is what truly made Crackdown stand above other open world GTA clones at the time.

Crackdown 2 was a massive letdown because it failed at maintaining that balance. Crackdown 3 does a far better job at coming close, but it doesn’t quite have that special balance between platforming precision and a tease of the next level of agility to obtain. Stunt circles follow a similar trajectory as well.

In the outer edges of the city, when you first begin your campaign, agility orbs can sometimes feel like they were chucked like dice across the environment. Stunt circles can be placed in seemingly impossible areas, and then you will have a handful of others that just require you to drive to a ramp and fall off the edge. They don’t feel engaging or tease massive jumps in ways the original did. Agility orbs seem placed at random with no regards to how you start the game and what a new player can access right away. Now this only really pertains to the early phase of the game, as the deeper you go into the city the better the placement of those same agility orbs and stunt rings.

It seems like a trivial issue, but to me it’s important. The build up in Crackdown 3 feels jarring. You start the game and, in a very short amount of time, it seems like the ramp becomes a jump and you are all of a sudden starting the mid-game tiers of platforming and exploring.

With all of that said, those are my only real problems with Crackdown 3. In every other possible way this game is the sequel I have wanted since the original game launched more than a decade ago. For the handful of things that feel like they don’t quite measure up to the original, this game outclasses it in every other regard. Right up front you’re treated to an incredible opening cinematic with a very pumped up Terry Crews giving his crew of agents all of the motivation in the world.

From that moment until you beat it, Crackdown 3 presents a much more cohesive and solid narrative than the original even bothered to try. New Providence is the new city and it’s ruled very matter-of-factly by Terra Nova. New Providence goes for a far more sleek, “Demolition Man”-style future vibe than the real world feeling of Pacific City.

I loved the new environment. The various districts encircle the Terra Nova center piece with towering skyscrapers built to overlook the polluted slums and people they rule over. A high-tech monorail flows in and out of the city and the entire look feels like its straight out of a graphic novel.

Visually the entire game pops, with enemies, your agent and the weapons causing massive amounts of destruction. Some larger battles can literally fill the screen with explosions and chaos, but it’s all easy to keep track of. All of the weapons look unique, vehicles are interesting design-wise, and the day to night cycle is phenomenal. One of the biggest highlights of the original Crackdown was the incredible draw distance, and I’m very happy to report that it comes back in full force.

As soon as you leave the training area and step into the city you’re treated to breathtaking views of the Blade Runner-inspired holograms and sight-lines full of orbs inviting you to explore the city.

Crackdown’s excellent audio design is also back and better than ever. Crackdown’s impact was largely due to the graphics and sound really combining to make small moments memorable. It wasn’t just that you could see the Agent leveling up, it was the swirling and the suction of air around them. The pulse they let out as the Agency voice broke down how much better you became was a signature moment that makes its return. Every orb, weapon and explosion stands out and really helps sell the super hero aspect of what you’re doing. Even beam weapons have a nice heft to their sound design, which goes a long way towards making them fun to use.

Speaking of weapons and gadgets, the variety of tools the agents have at their disposal has grown considerably. Standards such as shotguns, machine guns and grenades are accompanied by bombastic weaponry including the Jackhammer, the Mass Driver, and gadgets like the Replicator. It almost feels like they took weapons that feel like cheats and incorporated them into a sandbox of creativity and destruction for you to experiment with. It’s always fun to explore and find new weapons to play around with and the game encourages you to experiment at your leisure with them.

Even better is the combat. The lock-on mechanics of the original return, but the enemies have seen a massive upgrade. Terra Nova employs enemies of various types, from robotic drones and armed guards to mechs that shoot acid and hurl huge boulders at you. Each enemy type comes equipped with unique weapons, visual design and have several different elemental affinities and weaknesses. Attempting to exploit enemy weaknesses with your vast array of tools leads to a much stronger combat dynamic across the entire game. Most times in Crackdown you could merely jump right next to a boss, roundhouse kick him to death and be on your merry way, but that just isn’t going to happen in this installment.

Even the bosses you hunt down are varied and different, everything from a two-story mech to a hostile AI with an army of robots at her disposal. Each boss is highlighted with a very slick motion comic motif that emphasizes the graphic novel feel and sets the stage for their showdowns.

Rounding out the package are the multiplayer options. Now the tried and true co-op returns and is just as good as ever. It allows you to select your partner before you even boot the game up and if you have a friend to play with you can experience the entire game front-to-back as a duo.

Also included in the multiplayer suite is a mode called Wrecking Zone. In fact, the Campaign and Wrecking Zone modes are two separate launchers. A curious choice, as competitive multiplayer has never been something the series was known for. Wrecking Zone is the home of the now infamous cloud-based destruction people have clamored for since that first tech demo years ago.

What is on hand is not as broad as what was displayed in that tech demo, but in all honesty, that was always billed as a tech demo and nothing more. What Wrecking Zone does do is deliver on the promise of cloud-based destruction, and although it loses its luster after a few rounds, it does impact gameplay in a meaningful way. It’s a far better idea and mode than the competitive multiplayer Crackdown 2 implemented but still doesn’t compare to the campaign in terms of lasting power, despite the fun I have with it. The omission of any kind of party system is baffling, but as of this writing that has been addressed and will be coming soon via update.

Wrecking Zone is a novel idea but not one that will last for any length of significant time. Crackdown will always be a series centered around it’s non-linear campaigns and the creativity the tool set gives players to be their own brand of super hero.

Kills for skills makes a grand return, and Crackdown 3 is the sequel fans have been waiting patiently for since the original launched.

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David Rodriguez is a senior editor at Rectify Gaming and a freelance writer at Gamepur and has been gaming for 30 years.His work has also appeared at NTF Gaming, Rectify Gaming, Gamepur, Opencritic, and Metacritic.

About The Author

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez is a senior editor at Rectify Gaming and a freelance writer at Gamepur and has been gaming for 30 years.

His work has also appeared at NTF Gaming, Rectify Gaming, Gamepur, Opencritic, and Metacritic.