As I stepped up to play the demo of Crackdown 3, the guy running the booth made sure that I was aware how much the game played like the original Crackdown. "Ever play the first Crackdown?" he said. "It's like that." And like that it was, to my delight. I haven't experienced Crackdown's particular brand of crazy fun in over a decade, since I purchased the original game to gain access to the Halo 3 beta and discovered it was a great game on its own. Original creator David Jones is back (if you didn't know, he's the guy that created GTA) as director this time, and Halo designer Joseph Staten is writing it. It's a much more appropriate team than Crackdown 2's brand new unproven studio, Ruffian, and it shows.
In an attempt to erase Crackdown 2 from the collective gamer consciousness, Crackdown 3 is designed to be a sequel to the original while the second game has been rectonned into being an alternate reality future. All the staples of the first game are back: collecting orbs, transforming cars, fighting gangs, shooting guys in specific body parts... but there are a few additions to the gameplay this time. The most significant change is the addition of jetpack that lets you strafe on the ground or in the air. It feels a little bit like Sunset Overdrive, which makes a lot of sense for Crackdown because it fits into the game's moveset very naturally. The other change I noticed were limited-use super weapons scattered around the map. These things were stupidly powerful and a lot of fun, capable of obliterating huge groups of enemies in one shot. Run of of ammo and you'll have to scavenge for another one, so they won't be breaking the game.
Now you can zip around with jet boosters!
I have to say, even though Crackdown 3 was pretty much literally felt like Crackdown+, I've missed it so much. It's been a decade since I've played Crackdown's unique brand of open world action. Crackdown 2 was released at a point where zombies were really at their height of popularity and everything just had to have them. Those stupid things ruined what might have been a decent sequel. They clogged up the streets and made the game just basically un-fun at nighttime. Plus, the main objectives involved infiltrating zombie nests and doing a stupid point defense thing. It kind of lacked its own identity, and ended up feeling something like Prototype. But with Crackdown 3? I'm taking down mob bosses again and it feels so good!
Not every open world game has to have some sort of deep narrative or intricate world. Sometimes, you just want to jump over buildings, kick guys in the face, and collect colorful orbs. Crackdown 3 doesn't feel like a modern game following modern trends, and it's better for it. Sometimes you just want to have some dumb fun. It's a shame the game was delayed so close to release, though. Not only was it the only Xbox game I was looking forward to in a long time, but was one of only three games Microsoft had in its slate this year. Now all they've got for the fall is the annual Forza. I'll admit Crackdown 3 definitely looked like a last-gen game, so hopefully they use the time to spruce up those visuals a bit. The gameplay was just what I wanted out of a crackdown sequel Crackdown, though, and I can't wait to play more.