It is the distant future... Advanced technology is not used to liberate or enlighten humans, but instead used to fight, track, and manipulate the world's citizens. It is a time ripe for exploitation and oppression, dark days indeed. Suddenly without warning, a hidden enemy unleashes what has been named "the blackout attacks" on Earth's major cities. One-by-one every major metropolis is plunged instantly into darkness by a terrifying new weapon known only as "Chimera", toxic and destructive to both man and machine. The unwitting victims faced with downed power grids and no means of communication flee the cities in desperation.
Only one city remains in an operational state, the mega-city of New Providence. Headquartered in this last bastion of artificial light is TerraNova, the all-power corporation that controls New Providence with an iron fist. Enforcing its draconian rules is a vast army of security forces, comprised of human soldiers, enforcer robots, gigantic mech suits, and a network of artificial intelligence.
The most ruthless corporate gangsters and psychopaths rise to power within TerraNova, each executive leader bringing their particular brand of evil to the operations they manage. At the helm of this nefarious organisation sits the fiercest and most corrupt of them all, CEO Elizabeth Niemand.
It's up to the remaining members of the elite global police force "Agent" to launch a mission to stop TerraNova from its’ conquest of world domination. Enter our hero Jaxon, played by actor and comedian Terry Crews. Commander Jaxon leads a squad of the most elite, badass, DNA-enhanced cyber suit wearing, operators in the world.
The Agent's assault on TerraNova's corrupt elite sees Jaxon and his team destroyed, and it's only thanks to a civilian militia that Jaxon's body is retrieved and regenerated. A new body and cyber suit result in the loss of any skills earned and learned from past battles, effectively starting our hero off as a rookie agent. Jaxon joins the militia and under the guidance of their operatives, breaches the city to deliver some justice, Agent style!
New Providence is an aesthetically futuristic city. Neon-glowing lights adorn every building, complemented by dancing holographic models. When the sun sets, and the sky darkens, arrays of electric red, green, pink and blue artificial lights beam into the night sky. Overhead rails snake through the air, while highways of LED lit cars travel below. Massive machines drill, grind and move the Earth in the mining areas while across the bridge, TerraNova's skyscrapers tower above the rest of the city. It would almost be beautiful here, were it not for the pervasive propaganda, booted thugs, and screams of the abused citizens on the streets below.
There are initially eight agents to choose from including Commander Jaxon. Each agent has a natural talent that will provide a slight boost for specific skills. For example; Commander Jaxon is a specialist in explosives, and thus receives a +5% points boost to the explosives skill. There are also over a dozen bits of DNA belonging to fallen agents scattered throughout New Providence. For each piece of agent DNA that is found and collected, it will unlock the fallen agent to be regenerated and deployed under your control. Depending on the mission at hand, sometimes it is helpful to switch to an agent with more desirable talents, as the skill boosts and levels belong to the player and not the agents themselves.
Crackdown 3 employs a basic RPG-like levelling system for the agents and their cybernetic DNA-enhanced suits. "Skills for kills" is the name of the game, as you gain skill experience points based on the method used to dispatch your enemies. Mow down an enforcer with your rifle or pistol, and he will drop blue orbs gaining you firearms experience. Bash a robot into the ground with your bare knuckles in a melee attack, and he will drop red orbs netting you strength experience. Chuck a frag grenade into a convoy of TerraNova vehicles and you will be rewarded with yellow orbs that make your explosive experience climb. As you level up these different core skills, additional bonuses and enhancements are unlocked, and the more powerful our agents become. As firearms and driving skills are levelled up, you'll also unlock new weapons and vehicles.
Not all skills are kill-related though, the agility skill is linked with our agent's ability to jump and scale the rooftops of New Providence. Green agility orbs are placed strategically throughout the city, with some of them in very high-up and challenging locations. As more of the agility orbs are collected, the agent's suit unlocks additional thrusters and dashes enabling some epic hang time. The enhanced cyber suit gives our agent a superhero-like jumping ability, with satisfying mid-air moves that defy gravity. This ability to leap from roof-to-roof creates two distinct environments for navigating through New Providence. One option is by foot or car on the ground level with armed security forces, busy traffic, and civilians, all potential sources of danger. The other option to strategically glide short distances from structure to structure collecting agility orbs and avoiding the chaos below.
The primary campaign missions are simple; disrupt TerraNova's operations, and take down key executives to work your way towards eliminating Elizabeth Niemand. New Providence is a large city, segmented into many different areas. The missions are open, meaning you can choose to attack any TerraNova stronghold that you wish, regardless of power level. There is no shortage of target choices when it comes to committing corporate terrorism.
Logistics and transport facilitate the rails and trains and move soldiers and enforcer robots quickly through the city to put down any opposition. Security enforces the rules, neutralises threats, and detains refugees airlifted in from outside the city borders and keeps them locked in laser walled prison cells. The Industry arm of TerraNova engages in twisted science experiments, and mines deadly Chimera. Each operation has a series of facilities or strongholds to hack, disable, or destroy, each victory bringing our agents closer to the executive in charge. There are three tiers of bosses, and you must defeat each sub-boss to reach the next.
In addition to the primary corporate targets, there are also secondary missions. There are communication links that can be hacked to gain intelligence on corporate activities, militia members to liberate from their cells, propaganda towers to shut down to silence Elizabeth's brainwashing, and supply points to capture and use for our agent's benefit. As if all these options weren't enough, there are also skill trials to master, such as the agility trials to test the finesse and accuracy of your jumps, and stunt driving trials to increase your vehicular prowess.
With so many missions, side missions, targets, and locations, navigating through New Providence can be challenging. The map and HUD is an integral component of the game, and I found them both to be intuitive and straightforward to use. Setting waypoints to your desired target makes it easy to find where you need to go next. Vehicles are everywhere in New Providence, and commandeering some poor pleb’s ride provides a quick means of travelling long distances in a hurry when you’re away from captured supply points. Supply points are where you can swap out your agents, switch up your weapon selection, deploy a vehicle from your collection, and re-supply ammunition.
I appreciate the ability to "warp" from different captured supply points on the map, which is not only the fastest way to travel in the game but will also cool down your hostility meter with corporate forces. The more havoc your agent wreaks on a specific arm of the corporation; the higher your hostility meter will mount, causing the corporation to call in additional and stronger reinforcements. Let your hostility meter stay too high for too long, and Elizabeth will issue a city-wide lockdown. During a city lockdown, your agent is targeted by waves of enforcer robots that spawn at your location continuously until they are all destroyed, preventing you from engaging in any other missions.
There is a decent selection of weapons in the game, some taking advantage of the futuristic technology written into the storyline. In addition to your typical automatic rifles and knock-down powered pistols, there are kinetic shotguns, electromagnetic pulse guns, Chimera based weapons, cryo-freeze guns, a variety of rocket launchers & grenades and some other surprises I won't spoil for you (hint: matter duplicator?!). Like the agents themselves, certain weapons will be better suited and more effective for specific missions and scenarios. Weapons and ammo drops are located at specific spawn points in the city. All you have to do to unlock a new weapon is walk up to its location and hold LB... in the words of Commander Jackson, "Eazy peezy, point and squeezy!".
I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the combat in Crackdown 3. One skill the creators did not seem to care about is aiming. The left trigger to lock on to the enemy, right trigger to smoke 'em combo is very simple and devoid of the challenge of manually aiming. This feels like it was the best choice for this game. There are an enormous amount of enemies and objectives to cut through as you slaughter your way up the corporate ladder, and a manual aiming system, in my opinion, would have been tedious and slowed down the action.
Instead, you have other tools offering the chance to be creative in battle, such as telekinetic powers to lift heavy objects from short distances and hurl them at enemies for maximum impact. The aerial assault “ground-pound” is an Earth-shattering, enemy smashing attack that makes for a super satisfying entrance. When an enemy is killed they drop experience orbs that in addition to increasing your skill level, also provides a health boost to your cyber suit's shield meter. This “self-healing on kill” feature encourages the player to rush into groups of enemies in a burst of melee attacks and close quarter combat shotgun blasts to the face. I think the omission of a manual aiming system is key to keeping the combat fast-paced and feeling as overpowered as possible, which I believe is a merit to the game.
When it comes to the multiplayer modes of Crackdown 3, I think the co-operative campaign mode was a great addition. Overall, the single-player campaign mode is well thought out, well designed, and most importantly, a lot of fun. Getting to share this gameplay with a mate in a teamwork capacity is a great addition that leverages the strengths of the campaign mode. However, I am not super enthused about the competitive multiplayer mode. This mode is radically different than the campaign modes and pits 5v5 teams against each other in a massively destructible environment. Explosive weapons can destroy buildings, players, and any other objects in between you and your line of sight.
While I thought the destruction of the environment was cool at first, it is a novelty that quickly loses its appeal. In this mode of gameplay, I felt that the lack of a manual aiming system is a big detractor. With the simple lock-on targeting system, shoot-outs are won by whoever starts shooting first, which usually comes down to who saw who first. There are exceptions of course, but between all of the pieces of building flying everywhere and each player having multiple air boosts, dashes, ground pounds, and rolls, this makes for an extremely chaotic environment. This mode is also lacking in basic party & matchmaking features, and to me feels more like a demo than a complete competitive experience. While it does have its moments, competitive multiplayer quickly lost its replay appeal.
Thankfully the campaign kept me interested throughout, and I'm still hunting down those crack-orbs hours after the credits rolled. While Crackdown 3 may feel a bit too similar to some, it's over the top combat, and the sheer joy found in actually playing the game more than makes up for its shortcomings. If you were a fan of the previous entries and aren't overly worried about photo-realism and polygon counts, there's a gem of an action game here that hearkens back to the simpler times in gaming. It may not be packed with cutting-edge features and gameplay innovations, but the games unabashed adherence to its foundation makes it feel like the gaming equivalent of a cheat meal. It may not be good for you, but you're going to enjoy every damn bite.