Crackdown 3 review: The boom stops here

It's been 9 years since Crackdown 2, and after countless delays, Crackdown 3 is here. Find out whether it's been worth the wait in our review.

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Catching up with a friend you knew years ago is always an interesting time. You reminisce about old memories, about all the fun you’ve had together. You smile, laugh and generally have a good time. But there’s a small niggling feeling that perhaps you two drifted apart for a reason.

It’s not a malicious thought, but you realize that this old friend doesn’t quite fit in your life these days. Maybe you’ve grown as a person while they’ve kind of treaded water. Whatever the case, you’ve enjoyed the catch up, you had a great time, but you’re fine with never seeing them again. It’s a sad thought, almost melancholic in nature, but the reality is that they might better serve as a story to be told and a memory to share. The same can be said about Crackdown 3.

Let’s catch up

A combined effort from Sumo Digital and Elbow Rocket, Crackdown 3 is the third game in a series that started back in February of 2007. Since then, Crackdown 2 hit the market, receiving a lukewarm response from critics and gamers alike. The story on offer in Crackdown 3 is rather straightforward: a company called TerraNova are causing blackouts all over the world and the Agency wants to get right in the middle and set them straight.

Crackdown 3 New Providence
New Providence, home to TerraNova, and the city where you'll be jumping around blowing things up.

On the way to New Providence (the vertical metropolis where players will spend their time blowing stuff up and jumping around), the Agency ship gets hit with a blast wave, turning all the Agents on board to ash, dust, and bone. One Agent survives, thanks to a Good Samaritan called Echo. With Echo’s help, the Agent regenerates, albeit without all their fancy skills. Taking on the role of the Agent, the player must acquire said skills while wreaking havoc on TerraNova’s three pillars of industry: logistics, industry, and security.

What have you been doing?

From the get go, I’m smiling. There’s a sense of joy to be felt leaping around the city, collecting Agility orbs and blowing up vehicles with grenades – it took me right back to 2007. It’s all a spectacle to behold as I slowly grow in power. My Agent, the one and only Terry Crews (the bombastic face of Crackdown 3), talks smack, shoots bad guys, and generally kicks a lot of ass.

Though heavier on the narrative than the original, Crackdown 3 manages to strike a balance between telling you the story and letting you unleash destruction. While there are cinematics, they are short and action-packed. The dialog of the two handlers also reflects a sense of understanding: you want to know what’s going on, but you also want to get back to the action. Echo will remind you of the reason why you’re doing this while the Director of the Agency will cut to the chase with, “Doesn’t matter, go get ‘em, Agent.” This helps both types of players: the ones interested in story and the ones who just want to blow things up as Terry Crews.

The explosive gunplay in Crackdown 3 offers lots of
Shooting bad guys, throwing grenades, and jumping around are the three pillars of combat in Crackdown.

Blowing things up is exactly what you’ll be doing in Crackdown 3. Whether you’re saving militia from prisons, shutting down mining facilities, or taking over monorail stations, you’ll be shooting from the ground and while leaping through the air.

There’s very little downtime between the action, which makes the entire story zip past. Despite the nonstop action, there are a few moments where Crackdown 3 gives players a moment to breath. Scattered around the vast and vertical map are propaganda towers, huge climbing puzzles with moving platforms, lazer grids, and air vents. Unlike other games, these towers are not a prerequisite for progression, quite the opposite. These towers offer a moment to see how your upgraded Agility skill fairs. Each tower increases in difficulty, requiring the player to string together the jump and dash ability. Unfortunately, there’s not much challenge to be found, especially once the triple jump and double dash skills are unlocked.

Despite the lack of challenge, the movement in Crackdown 3 is sublime. Running and jumping feels as freeing as it was in the original, with the added pleasure of the aforementioned dash and extra leaps. Finding a way up a building to collect an out of reach Agility orb is a pure form of joy, thanks especially to the chime.

Agility orbs litter the city, begging players to come and collect them all.
Agility orbs litter the city, begging players to come and collect them all.

The sounds of Crackdown 3 ignite all kinds of fond memories. The delightful ping of picking up an Agility orb is immediately recognisable and immensely pleasing, which is good because there are 750 of them to collect along with 250 Hidden orbs.

As for the soundtrack, it manages to match the excitement of what’s happening on-screen. Intense shootouts are coupled with ripping electronic music, keeping the pulse rate high. Even something simple like climbing one of the propaganda towers comes with its own adrenaline-fuelling tracks.

It’s all a lot of fun in the moment, but there’s still that gut feeling that perhaps you’ve grown out of it.

An awkward moment

I accidentally overwrote my game save when trying to play co-op. Let me explain. When you join a friend for co-op, you don’t take your Agent in and start playing immediately. Crackdown 3 prompts you to select an Agent slot and then a world slot. You will be choosing which one of your account’s world save slots will be used to save your friend’s world.

I selected my Agent and selected my 90% complete world. The assumption was that I was just selecting what stats to load – an easy mistake to make. Another easy mistake is to quickly mash “A” to get to the co-op fun, completely missing the warning screen that asks: overwrite save slot, are you sure?

Why you have to save your friend's world to your own account is beyond me.
Why you have to save your friend's world to your own account is beyond me.

This is my fault entirely, but it also seems like a poor design choice. Why would I want to have my friend’s world saved among my own? Why was it so easy for me to mash my way to overwriting my game save? Why was there no indication that I was selecting a world to overwrite and merely told to “select world”? The lack of player protection in this moment is baffling. My cursor wasn’t hovering over a pre-selected “cancel”, nor do I have to hold a button to confirm my choice. It’s baffling why I couldn’t just select my Agent and load in.

The silver lining to my idiotic mistake was that Agent Terry Crews retained all of his stats, all the Agility orbs he’d collected, every gun, gadget, and vehicle I had unlocked. It meant I was able to play through the entire story again, with significantly more power. I’m no gaming genius by any stretch of the imagination, but if it’s a mistake I could make in a moment’s lapse of concentration, it would be very easy for someone else to do the same.

A sinking realization

The problem with trying to revisit a nostalgic moment is that it never really lives up to the memory. For its time, Crackdown was phenomenal. While some will argue that the Halo 3 multiplayer is what drove sales, Crackdown’s gameplay is what brought people back. Unfortunately, Crackdown 3 doesn’t revolutionize the series in any meaningful way. There is undeniably more to do than the original, and feels superior to Crackdown 2, but it’s still the same game we played 12 years ago.

There are technically more mission types in Crackdown 3, but you’re still just shooting while running and jumping. None of the weapons or grenades offer valuable or unique changes to the experience, nor are there any mission that mix it up with vehicle combat. In fact, the vehicles are arguably the biggest let down in the series.

Crackdown 3's vehicles pale in comparison to the original's.
Crackdown 3's vehicles pale in comparison to the original's.

Driving in Crackdown 3 is a chore, regardless of whether it’s a civilian vehicle or a super Agency vehicle. The cars just do not handle well. The amount of times I spun comically out of control when trying to run over a bad guy was too many to count. Vehicles would get stuck upside down or blow up too quickly.

The Agency vehicles would be my biggest gripe. They’re a disappointing collection of 4-wheeled vehicles that don’t spice up the gameplay in any meaningful way. And to hammer it home: they do not transform. Probably one of the greatest moments from the original was hopping into the ordinary Agency vehicle and watching it hulk-out as the engine busted out of the hood and exhausts swelled out of the back. Crackdown 3’s speedy Lightning and bouncy Spider were so underwhelming, and the game offered so little opportunity to use them, that I saw no reason to even attempt to unlock the Minotaur, a tank-like vehicle.

And let’s talk about performance. It’s 2019 and games still run at 30fps on console. Even using my Xbox One X, Crackdown 3 looked like it was chugging along at half the frames my PC can reach in its sleep. If you’re a gamer who doesn’t care about framerates, then it’s no problem at all, but it’s just another disappointment, especially when using “the most powerful console on the market”.

Two-player co-op is as you'd remember it from the original, but the lack of 4-player co-op is disappointing.
Two-player co-op is as you'd remember it from the original, but the lack of 4-player co-op is disappointing.

I mentioned my dumb problem with the co-op functionality above, but to speak of the actual experience once in: it’s as fun as it was in the original. Runnin’ and gunnin’ with a friend around New Providence is a quality experience, provided international waters aren’t separating you, else the delay will be too much to handle.

In saying this, the lack of 4-player co-op is certainly a step-back from the 2010 entry, and doesn’t do the game any favors. It would be incredible to experience New Providence with three other friends, and after all these years in development, you'd think there would have been a way to balance it.

Last chance to reconnect

Cloud-based destruction. It was a term thrown around a lot during the development of Crackdown 3. At first it was an integral part of the singleplayer experience, allowing players to rip the world apart, but after years of development, it was removed from the story mode. It appears that instead of scrapping the technology, Microsoft wanted it used, and so we have Wrecking Zone.

Wrecking Zone's main appeal will be its destructible environments.
Wrecking Zone's main appeal will be its destructible environments.

Wrecking Zone is Crackdown 3’s multiplayer made that utilizes the Azure cloud-based technology to track the destruction of the terrain so that each player sees the same mess and annihilation. And what a mess it is. Debris and buildings crash and fall down as Agents punch through them or blow them up.

There are two modes in Wrecking Zone: Agent Hunter and Territories. Agent Hunter is a classic kill and collect mode while Territories has players fighting over control zones. Out of both of these, Territories offers the greatest potential for strategy and teamwork, with some players holding zones while others seek out would-be threats.

Dealing damage to another player isn't challenging, but securing the kill will take a while as they dash behind cover.
Dealing damage to another player isn't challenging, but securing the kill will take a while as they dash behind cover.

The gameplay in multiplayer works similar to the storymode where holding the left trigger locks-on to an enemy. This is helpful, as it would be nigh impossible to track a player as they double-jump and double-dash around the large maps while debris rains down.

Despite the cacophony of destruction, Wrecking Zone likely won’t keep players coming back. There’s nothing really too inspired or unique to be found outside of the destructible environments. I would have loved to see a PvPvE mode where both teams are challenged with unleashing as much destruction as possible within a time limit or a free-for-all juggernaut mode where one player has max levels and the others have to take them down.

Overall, Wrecking Zone ends up feeling more like an afterthought or an excuse to keep the Microsoft Azure cloud-based destruction alive. There’s not much longevity on offer here, no progression or unlocks, no deep customization, and nothing in the game modes that screams “Crackdown 3”.

A parting of ways

There’s a time and place for games like Crackdown 3. It’s not bad by any means, it’s even quantifiably good and enjoyable. However, while games can be lauded for not following trends, there’s a difference between carving your own path and simply not innovating. You will have a blast playing Crackdown 3, but it won’t stay with you after the credits roll and even the 1,000 orbs to collect might not keep you playing. Much like the old friend, perhaps our lives don’t gel as well as they used to, maybe Crackdown is better left as a cherished memory.


This review is based on a game code provided by the game's publisher. Crackdown 3 will be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 February 15.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler is relatively new to the industry, getting his start a few years ago as a writer-for-hire. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and finding his feet, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

Review for
Crackdown 3
7
Pros
  • Terry Crews is a champ
  • Shooting is explosive and rewarding
  • Movement feels fluid
  • 2-player co-op
  • Agility orbs
Cons
  • No 4-player co-op
  • Playing co-op takes up a world save slot, potentially causing a game save to be overwritten
  • Little innovation to the core gameplay loop
  • Multiplayer feels tacked-on
  • Vehicles don't transform based on level and feel bad to drive
  • 30FPS on Xbox One X
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 14, 2019 5:01 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Crackdown 3 review: The boom stops here

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 5:27 AM

      Can't really muster any interest. However how it looks/runs on the original Xbox One?

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        February 14, 2019 5:32 AM

        I mentioned it in the review. It runs at 30FPS on Xbox One X. Which is, and the only word I can really use to describe it, disappointing.

        • reply
          February 14, 2019 5:43 AM

          Unless I missed it, it only mentions how it runs on the Xbox One X, not the Xbox one original.

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            February 14, 2019 6:10 AM

            Oh, sorry! I misread your question. I haven't test it on the original Xbox One unfortunately.

          • reply
            February 14, 2019 10:03 AM

            Digital Foundry has a breakdown up right now https://youtu.be/4Lks6E81EWE

            1080p on One S with dynamic resolution scaling on the horizontal axis up to a maximum of 60% lower. But it stays close to native res and 30fps most of the time. One X stays close to 4k 30fps most of the time.

            • reply
              February 14, 2019 10:03 AM

              lol didn't see faildorn's post with no context :)

        • reply
          February 14, 2019 7:26 PM

          Console games generally prioritize resolution over frame rate. This is not surprising in the least. If you want 60fps, play on PC.

        • reply
          February 14, 2019 7:40 PM

          Solid 30 fps @ 4k is the console holy grail right now, far from disappointing. Like way far from it.

          • reply
            February 14, 2019 9:00 PM

            If that's what you're fine with playing, then that is great! It is still a solid experience, but switching from PC to Xbox One X to see how they compare was rough. However, this is a really "1%er" type of problem.

      • reply
        February 14, 2019 6:21 AM

        https://youtu.be/4Lks6E81EWE

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 5:30 AM

      Daaaayum

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 5:58 AM

      I saw limited footage of people playing, but the world and environments looked super empty and unfinished. Graphics looked like a last gen game as well, was kinda surprised by that since it's first party.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 6:01 AM

      Bummer. But hey the price is right (free on gamepass)

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 6:01 AM

      I downloaded it for both my xbox and PC. I'll give it a shot.

      • reply
        February 14, 2019 7:57 AM

        oh fuck, I forgot, that's an option isn't it? I wasn't even going to touch it if it was just on Xbox (don't own one), but I might have to give it a stab on my PC

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      February 14, 2019 6:53 AM

      Now we now why it was delayed for years and had no marketing. Microsoft can’t get a good exclusive it seems besides Forza.

      • reply
        February 14, 2019 8:29 AM

        Well, I think they've already realised they can't dine out on last gen sequels alone.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 8:36 AM

      The problem of the gameplay not really evolving is something I was concerned about, especially after Crackdown 2. The first Crackdown predates the first Assassin's Creed by some 9 months. Open world gameplay has changed and evolved a ton since then. Saint's Row 4 in 2013 seems like the closest modern comparison, and it improves on the basic Crackdown play dramatically.

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        February 14, 2019 10:02 AM

        Yes, SR4 is a open world game!

        • reply
          February 14, 2019 10:04 AM

          It also has a lot of super hero-like and shooting mechanics similar to those in Crackdown.

          • reply
            February 14, 2019 7:50 PM

            Sorry missed a awesome in my post I was meaning to say it was a awesome open world game.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 8:41 AM

      This actually is kind of a reassuring review to me. The best I ever anticipated this game to be was more Crackdown but nothing new, with all those delays it could have turned out MUCH worse. I'll keep my gamepass sub long enough to get tired of playing this, and hopefully it keeps me busy into March, when some other stuff starts to come out.

      • reply
        February 14, 2019 6:52 PM

        Exactly, do people see a score of "7" and acquaint it to a "4" these days? Like, seven is still good! It's still a really enjoyable game, it's just nothing special. You will have a blast playing it.

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          February 14, 2019 7:11 PM

          I look at review numbers as grades, like in school. 7.0 to 7.9, or 70% to 79%, is a C. It's not bad, and it's certainly not failing, but it's not great either. It's decent to good. It's middle of the road. It's probably either has a bunch of small but not fatal problems that bug everyone, or a couple major flaws that will completely infuriate some people but not bother others at all.

          • reply
            February 14, 2019 8:53 PM

            I assume that's the North America grading system? Still blows my mind. But you're not wrong, it's good, but not going to blow you away.

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          February 14, 2019 7:31 PM

          I do. Too many other awesome games to spend time with instead. Not a 15 year old who can spend 8 hours a day gaming anymore.

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            February 14, 2019 7:43 PM

            The original Assassin’s Creed was a 7/10 game. That game was super repetitive but still something special. Ever since then, I decided to not care so much about review scores and just try it if it seems interesting.

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              February 14, 2019 7:47 PM

              The original AC did something new. This looks exactly like something they put out nearly a decade ago.

              But by all means enjoy it.

          • reply
            February 14, 2019 8:54 PM

            I guess if your time is precious than playing a game that scores lower than an 8 is probably going to be a waste. Better to play something you know is excellent than to play something that might be a bit of fun but otherwise forgetful.

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      February 14, 2019 9:26 AM

      I have to say the shots of seen of the game world made me a lot more interested than the pictures they were showing before. It appears to look more alive and more colourful (As opposed to the hundreds of shots we got of the multiplayer). Since it's on gamepass it's a no brainer for me.

      Also putting "the most powerful console on the market" in quotes unattributed seems disingenuous when it is, in fact, the most powerful console on the market.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 9:46 AM

      I still have gamepass so I'm going to give it a try but I can't imagine it's going to do much to pull me away from Rocket League or Apex Legends

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 9:59 AM

      Man I loved Crackdown. Sucks it's come to this.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 9:59 AM

      All of the cons are non issues imo. Complaining about a locked 30 fps 4k experience on console is so silly. That's exactly what we should be getting.

      • reply
        February 14, 2019 11:03 AM

        I think the game is fun, but it has elements of jank. They didn’t really polish the level design, gameplay is pretty much the same, and the online coop multiplayer is pretty messy.

        That being said, it has orbs.

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 10:17 AM

      crackdown 3 fun: https://www.twitch.tv/eatgames

    • reply
      February 14, 2019 7:34 PM

      How did so many years go by and something as bland as this be the result. :(

    • reply
      February 15, 2019 10:14 AM

      I started playing the moment it unlocked around 9pm PST and was up til 4am and only put it down to get a little sleep before work today. Is it more of the same? Yeah it is. Does it live up to all the fun and laughs I had with Crackdown 1? I think it does. I mean sure its not 'new' like C1. The soundtrack is awesome, game play feels good, graphics aren't mind boggling amazing but they're good.

      I'm playing on an X1X on a 4K TV. The audio glitched a few times and I had a framerate hiccup here and there, but nothing that stopped the fun (just one more orb...). I can't wait to go home and play more.