Crackdown 3 review: Years late and full of disappointment

Crackdown 3 is finally here. Announced almost five years ago, Crackdown 3 has become a bit notorious for its lengthy development cycle. Was it all worth it?

Crackdown 3 Jaxon
(Image: © Sumo Digital)

Crackdown 3 was revealed almost five years ago at E3 2014. Since then, the game has become notorious for its lengthy and storied development history, with Cloudgine departing mid-way through development, coupled with extensive delays.

Crackdown 3 is the third entry in an open world series that revolves around superhero-style open world mayhem. As a member of the crime-fighting Agency, you're a super-soldier tasked with single-handedly infiltrating and dismantling criminal factions.

The third game takes place after a devastating global attack, resulting in the loss of power across the world. A mysterious corporation, known as Terra Nova, has taken over the island of New Providence, and fashioned it as a new nation, and safe haven for the world's beleaguered refugees. However, all is it not as it seems.

A contingent of Agency operatives head out to New Providence to investigate the source of the global blackout, only to be met with heavy militarized resistance. It's on you to bring Terra Nova to justice.

Crackdown 3 is ultimately a tale of two price points. At $60, the game is aggressively difficult to recommend for a litany of reasons. But as part of a $10 Xbox Game Pass monthly subscription, it offers some genuinely satisfying open world chaos and some truly impressive technical achievements in its cloud-powered Wrecking Zone, that make it a worthy addition to the library.

Here's our review of Crackdown 3.

Sandbox mayhem

Crackdown 3

$60 | $10 (Xbox Game Pass)

Bottom line: Crackdown 3 is a relatively shallow experience across the board, but fans of sandbox destruction will find plenty of fun.


  • Vibrant art style and special effects.
  • Good character designs.
  • High-octane sandbox destruction.
  • Available in Xbox Game Pass.
  • Terry Crews.


  • Forgettable story.
  • Dated level design.
  • Poor multiplayer component.
  • Not enough Terry Crews.

Crackdown 3 Visuals and sound

Crackdown 3, like its predecessors, sports comic book-style designs with vibrant, outlined 3D models. The art direction is decent, with interesting characters and a neon-washed sci-fi city that makes for great screencaps. The lighting and modelling work leaves a lot to be desired, however. Crackdown 3 is a relatively dated-looking game, even when taking into account that stylized art. Luckily for Crackdown 3, the action is so incredibly fast-paced you'll rarely have time to sit back and examine the sights.

Speaking of action, this is clearly where Crackdown 3 prioritized its time, with some spectacular particle effects and explosions. As you leap and cavort through New Providence, the game world provides ample opportunity to create these cascading explosive effects with a wide array of weapons and vehicles, most of which have unique visuals of their own.

In terms of performance, I didn't experience any slowdown even when the action on-screen reached its most chaotic levels towards the end of the game. The Xbox One X handles the game well at 4K with 30 FPS, although I did suffer a couple of crashes throughout my time with the game.

It's a little frustrating because there are shades of greatness throughout the design direction, including the (brief) animated vignettes and the detailed pre-rendered scenes (all two of them). The vast majority of the game, however, looks like it was dragged out of the Xbox 360 era.

Crackdown 3 Story

This will be a short section, since Crackdown 3 is incredibly light on narrative. Crackdown 3 rarely takes control away from the player with traditional cutscenes, save for a few character introductions. The vast majority of the dialogue is delivered over the radio, from both the Agency director and a local militia member who helps your agent take the fight to Terra Nova.

Like most comic book-inspired stories, Crackdown 3's plot is a little cheesy and obvious. Some of the villain designs and delivery are rather good, but they're all under utilized. By the time you start to get an idea of what makes a particular baddie tick, you've probably killed them off.

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of Crackdown 3's story delivery is that Terry Crews' bombastic portrayal of Commander Jaxon is barely present. Perhaps this is down to the game's marketing being out of sync with the game, but the fact Terry Crews' Jaxon feels more prevalent in the game's trailers than Crackdown 3 itself, seems like a poor allocation of resources.

The game offers brief audio dialogue as the game's villains chatter and bicker over your explosive infiltration of the island, and there are some audio dialogue files to uncover for further context. However, beyond that, the narrative as bare bones as it comes, split across brief comic-book style vignettes, Xbox 360-era facial animations, and just a couple of high-quality pre-rendered scenes that appear only at the start and at the end of the campaign. You might get some fleeting joy at Crackdown 3's one-liners as you tear up the city, but the truth is that you're probably not here for the story, though. Crackdown is pretty upfront about revolving around explosive action, and in that, the game delivers fairly well.

Crackdown 3 Campaign Gameplay

Crackdown 3 is split across two separate clients, one granting access to the 2-player co-op campaign and the other granting access to the Wrecking Zone multiplayer. The campaign offers around seven hours of gameplay depending on how many of the side activities you want to partake in. The primary gameplay loop barely changes throughout, however. Once you've taken down your first outpost, you basically do the same thing over and over, with little to break things up. Thankfully, though, it's pretty fun.

Crackdown 3 is good mindless fun.

Like previous Crackdown games, Crackdown 3 features incremental progression mechanics that rewards players with increasing strength, gun control, vehicle handling, and other powers. If you favour beating enemies down, it'll increase your strength rating. Utilizing lots of explosives will increase the power of your rocket-powered weapons, and so on. Eventually, your agility skill will be high enough to allow you to leap over large buildings, double jumping and aerial dashing across the map.

I don't think a lot of work went in to testing some of the gameplay features on offer in Crackdown 3, though. For example, regular firearms such as assault rifles are too weak to bother with, when rocket launchers and ammunition are in such huge abundance. By the end of the game, I had forgotten about firearms entirely, even though I had spent a significant amount of time levelling them up. They lack versatility, and well, fun, since they don't create gigantic explosions, and a lot of the more powerful units you meet towards the end of the game are practically immune to them.

Vehicle handling is also dissatisfying poor, to the point where I just opted to run around and use fast travel points most of the time. There are time trials and stunts you can do if you're a completionist, though, and it'll reward you with various vehicular upgrades, including a battle tank, if you suffer through it.

When you disregard the bad stuff, though, Crackdown 3 is good mindless fun. Picking up tanks and throwing them across the map, vacuuming up enemies into a singularity grenade, and punching enemies off buildings is endlessly amusing. Targeting can be frustrating at times and, larger objects can actually get stuck on the floor when you attempt to throw them, but they're minor problems that Microsoft's partners could probably address quite easily.

Crackdown 3 follows a typical open world model where you defeat enemy lieutenants, each with unique armies and different abilities. The thing is, the approach to combat is pretty much the same regardless of who you fight, despite some weapons gain advantages when attacking robots, for example, while others are better against vehicles. Explosive weapons, however, just seem to be by far the best option in almost every situation. Some of the other guns that are fun to use, like the force-blasting vortex gun, are simply sub optimal, lacking area-of-effect capabilities and, well, raw power.

Throwing trucks at crowds of bad dudes has an odd therapeutic quality.

There are a few simple boss battles and different types of outposts to tackle as you work your way up to the game's big evil, but Crackdown 3 doesn't dictate how you should approach any of these objectives.

While I found it to be optimal to simply jump around spamming rockets and throwing cars, others may prefer other means of destruction. In that sense, Crackdown 3 is a true sandbox, granting you the tools, but not telling you how to use them.

Crackdown 3 certainly isn't going to appeal to everyone, nor is it what I would call an experience I'll recall fondly in a few years, but I completed the game in almost one sitting. I was never bored. Throwing trucks at crowds of bad dudes has an odd therapeutic quality. If that's your jam, then Crackdown 3's campaign should satisfy you.

Crackdown 3 Wrecking Zone Multiplayer

As of writing, we haven't had hands-on time with the final build of Crackdown 3's Wrecking Zone mode, its long-anticipated cloud-powered destruction arena. We have however played the recent beta tests, and we'll offer some initial thoughts on that experience, updating this section if the final build is significantly different.

Like much of Crackdown 3, Wrecking Zone feels as though it emerged from the Xbox 360 generation on the one hand, contrasted against the monumental technical achievement that is its dynamic, cloud-powered destruction tech on the other hand. It's an odd juxtaposition that such staggeringly powerful technology sits on top of what is an painfully simplistic auto-aim arena shooter, with gameplay from a bygone era.

In Wrecking Zone, you're dropped into team-based scenarios across a variety of holographic-style maps, in what is narratively an Agency training simulation. Players must leap and dash across the environment, laying waste to cover while attempting to remain out of enemy player's line of sight.

Combat in the Wrecking Zone isn't as dynamic as I would have hoped. Caught out in the open, the player who shot first, with the higher DPS weapon will effectively win any conflict thanks to auto-aim, unless the defender has some kind of shield buff. You can mitigate this by punching through walls to break the line of sight, or using jump pads to get out of range, but beyond that there isn't much by way of forethought or strategy that goes into play. That isn't necessarily such a terrible thing, though.

Much like the game's campaign sandbox, the wanton destruction is satisfying to partake in, even if the competitive aspects of the game are a little muted. Taking out huge walkways with a rocket launcher, seeing the chunks collapse in real time with full physics sparks the imagination. It's just that the actual game layered on top feels almost like it gets in the way. There's no doubt a high-quality competitive game that can emerge from this technology, but I can't see Wrecking Zone having the staying power of competing multiplayer titles out there, particularly given that it is launching without any sort of party system to play with friends.

Should you buy Crackdown 3?

Crackdown 3

Crackdown 3 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Crackdown 3 is ultimately the tale of two price points. At $60, it's pretty difficult to recommend. The content spread just isn't there, there are other games available now or very soon that will probably be a far better investment. However, Xbox Game Pass completely changes the argument. As a $10 payment for a month's worth of access, Crackdown 3 is some decent mindless fun, tossing tanks into the sky, spraying rockets across the map, or punching dudes into buildings. Wrecking Zone is also worth a look, if for no reason other than the impressive destruction mechanics.

Crackdown 3 just doesn't meet contemporary standards as a premium $60 title, with dated visuals, thin gameplay features, and an under-delivered story. There are too many open world superhero-style games that simply do it better. That said, it's not a bad game, by any means. To enjoy Crackdown 3, you probably need to be the type of person who really likes basic sandbox mayhem, because that's effectively all Crackdown 3 has (and wants) to offer.

Jez reviewed Crackdown 3 on Xbox One X, using a copy provided by Microsoft.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!