Putting the surprise release of Hi-Fi Rush aside, it’s rare for a game like Crime Boss: Rockay City to have such a short period of time between announcement and release. Revealed during The Game Awards 2022 in mid-December, this “organized crime” FPS from Ingame Studios — a new developer based in the Czech Republic with team members who have worked on the Mafia and Arma series — will launch on PC first as a timed Epic Games Store exclusive this March. Luckily, we had the opportunity to get our hands on the game before it releases in just a month’s time.
Crime Boss tells the story of Travis Baker, voiced by actor Michael Madsen, who wants to become the King of Rockay City after the last boss’s death created a power vacuum in the metropolis, which feels loosely based on Miami and the general South Florida area. The game is split between a single-player campaign called Baker’s Battle and two co-operative multiplayer modes: the fast and furious Crime Time and the longer, three-act Urban Legends. It’s a bit unclear how these modes interact with one another, since we only had the chance to check out Urban Legends, but it looks like you can hop into any of the multiplayer modes regardless of where you are in the main story.
A star-studded crime drama
Winning the turf war in Rockay City is easier said than done, as Travis will need to face off against numerous gang leaders who are vying to be the boss of the underworld, all while evading the leader of the police, Sheriff Norris. And before you ask, yes, that’s Chuck Norris. If you leave too much evidence after each chapter in Baker’s Battle, mainly by running and gunning down too many thugs, then Norris will eventually catch Travis regardless of how well you do in a level. That may be tough since one of the rival gang leaders is Dollar Dragon (Danny Trejo) and Hielo (Vanilla Ice), but Travis has more than several allies in his organization. This includes the manager Casey (Kim Basinger), the inside man Gloves (Danny Glover), the strategist Nasara (Damion Poitier), and “the muscle” Captain Touchdown (Michael Rooker).
Even with their help, though, the developers don’t intend for you to finish the game on your first run. Not only can your playthrough end if Sheriff Norris catches you, but Travis can perish as well if you choose to select him and fail the mission. If you’re willing to risk it, though, you will be rewarded with a higher percentage of the loot. Similar to Hades and other roguelites, every death will give Travis some experience points that can lead to perks that will make subsequent runs easier, like the Hoarder boon that gives extra cash at the start of a run. Every playthrough will be different as well, with alternate paths, missions, and objectives that will make every attempt a surprise..
Partners in crime
Meanwhile, both Crime Time and Urban Legends are co-operative multiplayer experiences that will reward Travis with more cash, respect, weapons, and mercenaries. Crime Time is better for a short burst of action, a quick heist where you typically infiltrate an area, extract drugs or kill all of the enemies, and then leave hopefully before the cops take you down. Urban Legends is a longer extension of that, with six mini-campaigns that have cutscenes and three missions that get progressively more challenging. Completing these unlocks bigger heists as well as unique teammates in Crime Mode.
We had the chance to play two of these Urban Legends stories with a full four-player team, though you can opt for bots instead. Having human players, though, makes coordination a lot easier, especially if your team decides to go the stealthier route or needs to find, say, as many packs of cocaine as they can on a yacht. Alerting just one enemy of your team’s presence usually leads to a firefight, which then leads to the cops rushing in to deal with your shenanigans.
Grab all the “candy” and get out fast
It took a while for our team to coordinate our approach and familiarize ourselves with the keyboard and mouse controls (controller support is expected at launch). While we could revive each other if any of us went down, it was easy to get surrounded and overwhelmed without the proper strategy. Spending too much time spraying bullets at goons and cops usually meant that we couldn’t finish the objective in time. Other times, we got too greedy with side objectives or overloaded ourselves with too much loot, which takes away your ability to use your primary weapon. Compounding our mistakes, characters who die on a mission are also permanently removed from the selection screen, which typically leaves only the weaker mercenaries on the roster.
But after several attempts, we slowly got our act together. We crouched behind furniture and walls, took our time with sneaking, and stuck close for quick revivals. I took the time to hide behind cover to restore my health more frequently and got quicker in switching to my secondary. During some missions that had us drill open a safe, we had one person deal with the drill mini-game while the others defended the point as best we could. Overall, the combat was fairly simple and Payday fans will likely have a good handle on how Crime Boss works. The main downside, though, is that we ran into several crashes in our session, but hopefully they’re ironed out by the time the game launches.
This preview is based on a PC build at a press event. Crime Boss: Rockay City will release on March 28, 2023 on PC via Epic Games Store for $39.99. A console version on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S is planned but don’t have a release date yet.
Nick Tan posted a new article, Crime Boss Rockay City features four-player heists, a roguelite campaign, and Chuck Norris
Timely Chuck Norris humor