Welcome to the island of dreams. Blackouts have destroyed many major cities and millions of refugees have found this one place that was previously off the radar, “Terranova”. By some miracle, it’s the only major city that wasn’t attacked. Must be great! Everyone get in line.
This place reeks of filthy propaganda and corruption to the point where it is literally projected in the air. What a wonderful direction technology has gone. Join us for a wonderful future! Sure, what could possibly go wrong? What could possibly be fishy about one organization deciding all the information you will hear? Good thing this is just a videogame. That would never happen in our world.
The idea of an artificial future is so depressing it makes you want to revolt and spring into action immediately. The fact I’m seeing all this in a digital videogame just compounds the realism. It helps to have a heroic goal of taking down corporate scum and liberating humanity. Everyone on your team has a positive attitude that really has no place in this oppressive landscape, but that just makes it ring with even more power. This is not the typical Fortnite-style dancing “optimism” and memes approach that rots your brain, rather Crackdown 3 relies more on its artistic merits, with witty dialogue and a more comic book style approach to presenting the story.
You know what, this place isn’t so bad when you’re a secret agent. What’s the gameplay like? Well it’s easy to mistake this for a shooter… because it has a lot of guns. It feels more like an open world platformer though when you start playing. You can jump reaaaaally high up buildings, and grab and throw pretty much anything. Then you get an air dash, then a double jump, then a double air dash, then a triple jump, so you technically have 5 jumps and can go anywhere.
The city is littered with collectibles and missions on the rooftops that really makes the movement the highlight of this game for me. You can see two collectible orbs in the screenshot above, and by the time you get there you can probably see another 2 or 3 orbs in the distance that you can reach. These slowly upgrade your abilities and there’s 500 in total. It’s a very satisfying exploration loop. Sometimes while hunting orbs you’ll stumble upon propaganda towers that you can hack and replace with your own agency message, destroy enemy resources, or find innocent prisoners to free. All in a day’s work.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. The more I played, the more I realised that… this actually is a generic shooter, exactly what it was marketed as. The more of the map you explore, the more you “liberate” the good people and the bad people send endless soldiers after you that follow you everywhere. Oops, I’m a target now. They are easy to mow down but it gets tiresome and repetitive very quickly. Suddenly drones fly around the sky so you’re not safe on rooftops. They’ll arrive in cars on the ground. They’ll just literally be everywhere and all the fun platforming turns into busy management work all of a sudden. You can’t do anything without hearing gunfire. Like Twitter trolls, there’s always a new one with a different combination of numbers.
I wouldn’t call the shooting itself bad, it’s just incredibly basic and unsatisfying. Enemies don’t react to your shots, some are bullet sponges that drain your ammo, things randomly explode that you can’t see, and the enemies just get more and more annoying with shields and infinite rockets. The Twitter trolls suddenly have avatars and followers. Join our sentient future.
To break up the monotony there is the occasional satisfying moment in combat, I’ll give it that. You can pick up objects like cars, other enemies, huge rocks, rubber ducks, and throw them at enemies for massive damage. The explosions and chaos can sometimes slow the framerate to a crawl and give moments of brief amusement. Unfortunately, for every good combat moment there’s 10 minutes of holding the shoot button and thinking about other games you wish you were playing.
Dynasty Warriors is a good example. That’s a series with mindless combat that I really enjoy, just for a bit of chill stress relief. Crackdown 3 conjures the opposite feeling when the screen is a mess, gunfire is constant, too much is happening, the audio isn’t appealing, and you barely get any feedback from taking out enemies. I eventually started ignoring enemies entirely, and I could still complete missions just by running up to the objective. I think it was at that point when I stopped playing seriously. The corporations can keep Terranova to themselves, I’m building a bigger better island soon in Animal Crossing. Music there is gonna be free, man.
Crackdown 3 goes to show that fighting guns with more guns is not the answer. The endless shooting almost feels like propaganda itself. There are so many games of various genres with shooting shoehorned in, it makes you wonder. Besides that, there’s still an interesting world here with crazy platforming and movement. I recommend at least playing until you get the wingsuit.
Overall the game is not bad, just run of the mill and exactly what it looks like. I debated whether this was even worth a writeup because I don’t really have anything interesting to say about it outside of an appreciation of the scenario. Can’t love everything though, right? All things big or small deserve coverage. I do think the platforming is fun and the whole scenario is good for a laugh, with some thoughtful writing and strong concepts sprinkled in. It also feels very nice to fight against an awful regime and make a difference. Recommended to anyone with Game Pass who’s played all the best games on it already.