Crackdown 3: Campaign Review – The Little Sequel That Could

I was pretty much resigned to the fact that Crackdown 3 would probably never come out, or if it did, it would be less than impressive given its numerous delays. It’s a franchise that so far has two games, of which only one was truly great, but one that I always felt had potential on the Xbox. Thankfully, I can conclusively say that the Crackdown 3 campaign offers the best Crackdown experience thus far though still doesn’t stray too far from the formula it established twelve years ago, which may or may not be a deal breaker for you.

Crackdown 3 takes place ten years after the events of Crackdown 2, but you honestly don’t need to have played any of them to understand this simple story. The whole game takes place in the city of New Providence, of which the agency traces a shady terrorist attack back to a corporation called Terra Nova. Lead by the Agency Voice and Terry Crews’ Commander Jaxon, the agency attempts to dismantle Terra Nova’s hold on the city piece by piece. It’s a simple story that serves its purpose in giving context for the game but it’s very simple with little to no surprises.Crackdown 3 as a game is pretty much what most fans would expect – the game builds more on the original game rather than continuing the zombie shenanigans of the second. As such, what we have here is essentially the first Crackdown game, but bigger and much, much better. Out of morbid curiosity I revisited the original Crackdown to just compare how far we’d come since that game released twelve years ago. It was at that point that I realised Crackdown 3 is a huge improvement over it’s predecessors and easily the best Crackdown yet.

Using a comparison to a game that’s over a decade old is hardly flattering, however, but Crackdown 3 really does feel like an improvement in every aspect. The spirit of the original game is there – you have an open city that serves as a veritable playground for your antics and a corrupt “kingpin” at the top who must be taken out. You can literally go straight into this battle as soon as you begin the game, though it’ll be much more difficult than if you were to defeat some of her lieutenants first.This is the biggest and most noticeable change with Crackdown 3 – that every lieutenant you face on the way to the top feels distinct and unique. I struggle to remember any of the encounters I had with the gang leaders in the original game as the battles back then just felt like bullet sponge enhanced versions of normal enemies. Instead, in Crackdown 3, every lieutenant has their own backstory and a unique boss battle associated with them. I won’t lie – the stories and the characters themselves are forgettable – but the battles themselves are much more interesting than anything I was expecting. This is complimented with a huge amount of enemy variety too.

One of my biggest issues with open world games is the filler or padding that the developers often put in to make their game seem fuller. Crackdown 3 still has a slight issue with repetition, but it’s ultimately saved by it’s effectual and dynamic moment-to-moment gameplay. Your agent can jump several stories with one jump, eventually triple jump and even air dash through the air at any given time which gives you a degree of mobility not really seen in other games.It’s the dynamic combat system that really sets Crackdown 3 apart from its peers. In just one battle I summoned my car, turned it into a tank, blew up some enemy vehicles, then literally picked up and threw my tank at a group of enemies before cycling through a black hole launcher, a rocket launcher and an acid spray gun to mow down the rest. There’s an unwavering amount of options with how you approach your battles in Crackdown 3 and it’s one of the reasons I was never bored with it.

These options are all bolstered by your suite of abilities that level up as you play. The way you play affects how your agent levels up, with each skill becoming more useful while also unlocking new abilities. For example, killing an enemy with guns will improve the firearm skill, while using your fists will improve the strength skill. An improved strength skill will not only mean that you do more damage with your melee abilities, but also that your agent will be able to pick up heavier items. Eventually, upgrading this skill completely will give each of your melee attacks an explosive property, ramping up the ridiculously over-the-top nature of your skillset. And that’s just one of the skills.Each of the skills can be levelled up to six times and can also unlock abilities or properties that make it easier to be as destructive as possible. Explosive melee attacks, bullets that have kinetic impact properties and even a longer, more sustained jetpack boost ability are just some that come to mind off the top of my head. The ability system is great because it encourages you to switch up your playstyle, though one issue stands out to me. The abilities you unlock for maxing each skill are great, but most players will only realistically reach the fifth level of most skills. To be blunt – the road to the sixth level of each of the skills is a grind and not one that most players will bother with.

But despite this, Crackdown 3 is still a great game and as I previously eluded to, easily the best Crackdown to release thus far. The moment-to-moment gameplay is absolutely ambrosial, but there’s still something about the oversaturation of this kind of open world design that has me struggling to acknowledge the game for being more than just another open world game. The game plays like the original game, but with all the modern bells and whistles, but never truly breaks any ground. It’s not terrible, it’s not absolutely mindblowing, it just is. Ironically, I probably wouldn’t have felt this way if the game released when it was supposed to three years ago.Thankfully, staying true to its roots, Crackdown 3 utilises an extremely stylised cel-shading technique to make the game look like a moving comic book. Rather than sticking with the more subdued, near-futuristic look of the original game, Crackdown 3 goes completely science fiction with the city of New Providence. Everything in the city is bathed in flashy holograms with bright and distinct neon lights dancing across the cityscape. While not the best-looking game on the Xbox One, the distinct and striking artistic direction easily saves Crackdown 3 from being a visual disaster.

The biggest surprise for me with Crackdown 3 was just how strong the soundtrack is. There’s a track for pretty much every encounter you’ll come across in the city, and it’s an incredibly eclectic score that elevates the action to something else entirely. The soundtrack blends drum and bass, breakbeat, dubstep and grime elements to create something frenetic and fast paced that matches the action beautifully. In terms of the voice work, the much-publicized involvement of Terry Crews feels kind of flat here – he’ll only speak every now and then during gameplay (in a typical Terry Crews fashion, mind you) and takes a huge backseat in the story. Regardless, the whole cast gives a performance that’s hammy but appropriate, especially the main villain.You might have noticed that I haven’t spoken at all about Wrecking Zone, which is the multiplayer component of the game. Wrecking Zone was the most interesting aspect of the original Crackdown 3 reveal for me – offering cloud powered, fully destructible environments in a multiplayer setting. Unfortunately, in the early review period, I didn’t have access to nor was able to play the Wrecking Zone for the purposes of this review. As such, this review covers the Campaign in its entirety, and Wrecking Zone impressions will be added in a separate article post-launch.

Crackdown 3 is without a doubt the best Crackdown yet. It successfully builds upon the previous two games to offer an open world experience that, while formulaic, is still incredibly enticing. This is in part due to the very flexible combat system, which offers heaps of different ways to be as destructive as possible. It’s structure has been seen before, sure, and as such Crackdown 3 doesn’t break ground in many ways, but it’s still such an enjoyable experience that I’m not sure it entirely matters.
Great Weaponry
Dynamic Combat
Standout Soundtrack
Slightly Repetitive
The Ability Grind
Plainly Structured