It seems so long ago now but, there was once a time when all games were judged on how fun they were. Gamepro (a print magazine popular in the 1990s) even had one of their review rating categories listed as Fun Factor. I’m not sure exactly when we moved away from that but it seems to be when we, as a gaming community, decided that games were art. I suppose our thought process was that in order for the medium to be taken seriously we needed to distance ourselves from the entertainment aspect.
We became obsessed with visuals (always striving for photo realism) and narrative (even if most game’s are terribly written) and let gameplay slip to the side. Sure, some companies continued on just making straight up fun games, Nintendo being a big example, but so many others drove in the opposite direction that we ended up last year with a mediocre playing slow cowboy simulator being declared by many as the greatest game ever created.
I think I’m getting a bit off track but my point is that Fun Factor is important. Maybe not in all cases but I’d wager that is is in more cases than not.
Now defining fun is of course a subjective matter. What you find fun, I may not find fun and that is perfectly fine.
Which brings me to Crackdown 3, a game that has spent far too long in development, looks like a game from a decade ago, hardly features a story, is filled with repetitive tasks and far too many things to collect, and I also think it is one of the most perfect examples of a video game ass video game that doesn’t come from a company named Nintendo.
When Microsoft revealed Crackdown 3 about 700 years ago, it was touted as a game so technilogically superior in its terrain deformation that it actually exceeded the specifications of the system and would require the power of the cloud. Look, I don’t know what the hell they were babbling about there because New Providence is pretty sturdy and and there isn’t much you can do to bring it to rubble. But also who the hell cares?
Would it have been fun to be able to destory buildings and watch them fall over like dominoes? Sure but it’s not in the single player campaign and the game is not worse off because of it. Do you want to know why? Because Crackdown 3 offers plenty of other means of causing wanton mayhem, including being able to jump up in the air and turn your fist in to a balistic missle that lands on top of a convoy of enemies and blows them up (and you) real nice like.
And at its core, Crackdown 3 is a game where you are personally a weapon of mass destruction set out in the world to destroy your enemies assets so they get angry enough to fight you. After the ridiculously long opening cinematic, where Terry Crewes gets Deep Blue See’d, the game runs you through a short tutorial introducing you to its five primary components and then sets you loose in the world. The game then turns in to a true sandbox, where you can go do pretty much whatever you want.
Certain things are gated by your agility skill level but with 1000 orbs to find (750 agility orbs and 250 hidden orbs), your agent will quickly be evolving into a straight up superhero. Everything else in the game gains experience by just doing it. Shoot enemies to death, get firearm orbs. Kick enemies in the crotch (to death), get strength orbs. Blow enemies up, get explosive orbs. And drive around town drifting and running over enemies and get driving orbs. As you get more orbs you’ll level up those skills and gain access to more and more cool things to do, like a double jump and an air dash, a ground pound, grenades that create black holes, and a car that can climb the sides of walls.
The game’s unlocks encourage you to just go to town and wreck your enemies but how you do it is entirely up to you. Gunplay is snappy and responsive and you can target individual body parts with a flick of the stick. Explosives make things go boom real well. And agility and strength combined make you a lightning quick melee master. The game allowed me to adopt my usual thrid person shooter style while infusing me with confidence that I could get close and mix things up and by the end I was shooting, exploding, and jumping, dashing, and pounding my way up the final boss’s helish skyscraper.
There was never a moment in my time with Crackdown 3 (20 hours if you must know) where I wasn’t having fun. I’d jump in to the game just to hunt orbs, run rooftop races, cimb towers to put Terry Crewes on them, or achievement hunt and each time offered something completely different. But it was always fun.
No, the city isn’t alive. The inhabitants of New Providence are just window dressing and occassional annoyances. No, the game doesn’t look amazing, although it is slick looking and has a appealing enough art style. No, there isn’t a story worth caring about past Terry Crewes dying during his motivational speech. No, there is no reason to drive around in the city and cars absolutely suck in the game. Yes, Crackdown 3 is pretty much just the first game. And yes, all of this was probably done better by Saints Row IV six years ago. But you know what, Crackdown 3 offers the perfect antivenom to all the self serious bullshit we’ve been playing for the past few years. Games that forgot that they actually could be fun and sometimes that is the most important thing needed.
Look, Crackdown 3 might not be for you and that is all right. But let’s let those that are having fun with it enjoy it. It’s not trying to be Superhero Redemption, it’s just trying to be a good time. And for my 2 cents, it succeeds.
For clarity’s sake, I also scored RDR2 and God of War as a 3.