Crackdown 3 is finally here, but it wasn't worth the wait. Sumo Digital's Crackdown 3 was originally announced way back at E3 2014 - a little less than a year after Microsoft's Xbox One hit store shelves - and it's only now releasing just as the current console generation is starting to wind down. Coming 12 years after the first Crackdown released and nine years after the second, Crackdown 3 aims to revive the series for a new batch of gamers around the world. The problem is, it's not the game to do that.
Is Crackdown 3 bad? No. Is Crackdown 3 good? Not really. It's about average. In fact, it's filled to the brim with destruction and mindless fun, truly. That's what many people would want in a game like this, but as a whole, it's also a game that appears to be underdeveloped and a concession for making a triple-A title rather than being one. This is evident in Crackdown 3's single-player campaign. It has all the touchstones of previous Crackdown games, like the neon-lit streets, the Skills for Kills leveling system, and an extensive arsenal of weapons, but there's little that sets it apart from those original games. Crackdown 3 is an Xbox 360 game pretending to belong in the current console generation.
There's a surprising lack of innovation in Crackdown 3, specifically with regards to gameplay and fundamental franchise mechanics. It's more of the same; while that's not necessarily a bad thing for most video games, primarily since those games at least attempt to revolutionize their own series, it's rather disappointing for Crackdown 3. And when we say it's more of the same, we mean it literally. At its best, Crackdown 3 has more in common with an overhauled remaster than it does being a brand-new title. But that doesn't mean there aren't some redeeming qualities.
Fundamentally, the gameplay is in line with previous Crackdown games - and it's still fun. Traversing through the open world of New Providence is easy, quick, and deadly for those that stand in your way. Glowing orbs are still there, and they're littered across the map, so obtaining them is always an easy but engaging task. Furthermore, the combat and exploration systems (including the climbing and ability to drive any vehicle in the game) are quite refined for this particular series, in that they work within the confines of what they're supposed to be. Sumo Digital plays it safe so that people who try out their game can be served a second dish of Crackdown 2 but with current-gen technology.
Certain mechanics, though, are unquestionably outdated, namely the lock-on aiming system, and that's what makes the otherwise exciting gameplay feel monotonous after a few hours. But since Crackdown 3's campaign only lasts for approximately 15 hours, the antiquated combat system isn't detrimental enough to the gameplay to warrant passing over the sequel completely. Of course, that could depend entirely on the person playing.
Aside from the gameplay, franchise fans will appreciate Crackdown 3's story, which takes place 10 years after the events of Crackdown 2. It's every bit what has been promised, and more in some cases. (We won't spoil the story or the boss fights.) Instead of spending extra time trying to find the bosses, players can now harness the new Gangs Bite Back system, which has Terra Nova's lieutenants and gang leaders attack you after you've caused enough problems for them. What's most impressive about Crackdown 3, though, is something that gamers won't even notice in their play sessions; it's a first-party title from Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios) that harnesses the power of Microsoft's Azure, thereby allowing cloud-based destruction throughout the entire game. It's a wonderful step forward in game development and delivers on tech that was first promised several years ago.
One thing's for sure: Crackdown is unique; there's nothing out there that remotely resembles what this franchise is or does, at least not on a big scale - and that notion certainly applies to Crackdown 3. But taking everything into account, Crackdown 3 is essentially a testament to Microsoft's willingness to prolong a game's development so that it could reach a playable state - and it shows in the game's single-player campaign. It's not bad, but it's not great either; it's just average. Long-time Crackdown fans will love Crackdown 3's gameplay and narrative, and perhaps may want to play it again (after beating it the first time). But where the game lacks is in its ability to draw in new players in and truly become a flagship title for Xbox. As it stands, it's second-tier.
For everyone else, Crackdown 3 is a game that people will enjoy but forget about shortly after the campaign is completed. It's the perfect game to try on the Xbox Game Pass, but it's not a title worth its $60 price tag... yet. Perhaps if it released a few years ago, it could've been forgiven for its uninspired development objectives. But it didn't, so it can't. As for the online component, we were, unfortunately, unable to review Crackdown 3's multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone, as it was - first - only made available to reviewers one day ahead of the embargo and - second - only playable during two very short sessions. It's not surprising, though, given the fact that Wrecking Zone doesn't even allow friends to play together.
Crackdown 3 releases on Xbox One and PC, as well as on Game Pass, on February 15. Screen Rant was provided with an Xbox One copy for review.