The only reason I can tell you the name of Crackdown 3’s main villain – Elizabeth Niemand – is because I Googled it right before writing this sentence. The story is as memorable as a Friends spin-off and as inoffensive as a Rich Tea biscuit. It’s just there. Within the first three minutes, Terry Crews utters one of the most marvellously silly lines in a recent video game; it sets up a ridiculous caper that never delivers the chuckles it promises. You’re asked to consider The Agency’s efforts to reclaim the city from The Evil that’s thrown everything into disarray with the utmost importance. But how crucial is that when you’re lobbing grenades at enemies, sucking them into a vortex of despair and hurtiness, while scooting up a building with the precision of a Fisher Price Buzz Lightyear.

… Well, a bit, I suppose, but still.

The city of New Providence plays to the child in each of us, patting you on the back with ever-increasing numbers whilst you kill the cannon fodder in front of you. These expendables are made up of stat boosters, rather than blood and guts or nuts and bolts. Seeing their souls disperse into a collection of glowy balls that improve your ability to murder more is joyous: explode them and you’ll get better at exploding others, shoot them with bullets and you’ll get better at shooting others with bullets. There is no moment of reflection afforded to recognise the lives of these soldiers, because there’s another relentless mob around the corner, and they have lovely glowing balls that I want too!

The action never flags, so neither do you. You’re in a perpetual tumble, dodging incoming gunfire, whilst rolling your way towards the fight. Every rank of antagonist in Crackdown 3 is stuck on 11, so you must match them at every turn with your delightful arsenal. There’s some management involved in your loadout, with situational recommendations attached to each, but they’re all decent deathbringers. Firing a sticky grenade from your launcher at a group of rage-fuelled rivals before swapping to your homing missiles for the helicopter overhead is chaotic. It’s samey, throughout, yet stupidly satisfying, which cushions the blow of the repetitive mission structure.

There’s a hierarchy to Crackdown 3’s adversarial group: five at the bottom, three above them, and the big bad at the top. In order to take out the first tier you must first draw them out by completing a number of different tasks that boil down to ‘go to area, kill the baddies, press the button / blow up the thing.’ Do that, on average, six or seven times and you’ll then be able to face off against a boss. The framework would be slightly more forgivable if restricted to sidequests, but this is such a dull and antiquated way to deliver the main objective. It would grate more if the runtime wasn’t so thankfully modest. In contrast, what’s more interesting is that you can tackle… eh… Niemand from the off.

If you do choose to head to her tower from the start, you’ll come across vents spewing poisonous gas and turrets that will learn ya. Go about taking out those below her first and the impenetrable fort’s defences will be weakened, allowing for a more achievable ascent. Thing is, though, it is doable. Crackdown 3 invites you to attempt things almost constantly, and I appreciate that. I climbed one baddie’s building by propelling myself upwards with my equipped launch pad, and hugging the ledge above, because there was no available platforms in sight. Over and over again. I don’t know if I *was* getting one over the game, but it *felt like I was*. Orb placement encourages similar.

The difference between these and the other distractions in New Providence is that they matter. There are 1000 orbs scattered about the moderately-sized map: each green one upgrades your agility, and the hidden orbs buff all your stats. Grabbing them feels like time well spent in comparison to the other optionals. The humming of a nearby orb is persuasive, even if you at first think it’s out of reach. A hop, double jump, and a dash is all it takes to find out. You are The SuperClimberPerson™, after all.

Yes, you can drive around the city in your vehicle that can drive up walls after transforming, but why do that when your pal can jump into your game, hop into a car, and be flung across the map thanks to your superhuman strength. Co-op with friends is a good laugh, and the only way you’ll get to play with friends at launch, because you certainly can’t jump into the competitive multiplayer with them. 

The suitably named Wrecking Zone is a 5-a-side battle arena where pretty much everything can be demolished. If you spot a coward someone running for the safe haven of cover, blast it with some rockets for a clear shot. There’s a lock-on system, which is a nice addition for those of us with hours of play in other multiplayer games and not a kill to our name – again, Crackdown 3 wants to supports your entertainment rather than hinder it. 

It furthers that notion by giving all players the most suped-up possible version of their character. Agent Hunter sees you killing members of the other team and collecting their floating emblems after they’ve fallen, and Territories, which is your typical turf war battle. Like most multiplayer modes that aren’t battle royale, it’ll live and die by its community, but Crackdown 3 is at least offering something that feels a little bit different in today’s landscape.

More than anything, play is important in the jungle gym of New Providence. Through a barrage of bullets from soldiers with the persistence of an army of toddlers negotiating ice cream for breakfast, and a mission structure that repeats itself to the point of nausea, like a stale school lesson plan, Crackdown 3 maintains its level of fun. You’re a superhero with an arsenal of ludicrous weapons that are a delight to wield, in a world that dares you to break it at every turn. Sometimes, that’s enough.

Developer: Sumo Digital / Elbow Rocket

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

Available on: Xbox One [reviewed on], PC

Release date: February 15, 2019
 
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