Crackdown 3’s Agility Orbs Are Still Enough [REVIEW]

Plenty of games have collectibles; few weave them into the gameplay loop like Crackdown. When I think of Crackdown, I see little green agility orbs and the sound they make when you run into them. If that’s what Crackdown is for you, the third entry is more of the awesome same.

The Gist: The hunt for agility orbs returns in Crackdown 3 and continues to carry a franchise that hasn’t evolved all that much in 12 years. It’s a prettier version of Crackdown you’ve already played. But the hum of agility orbs keeps pulling me back to find more. And Terry Crews (aka Daddy Duck) is fantastic. “Quack, quack, motherfu@#!$.”

Everything you do in Crackdown 3 is tied to attributes. Agility orbs make you jump farther and unlock more platforming skills. Keep shooting stuff, and you’ll carry more ammo or get access to better guns. Same goes for punching and blowing stuff up. There’s driving too, but c’mon who does that? Jumping from rooftop to rooftop is the only way to get around Crackdown 3’s city, New Providence.

Jumping from building to building or climbing the tallest tower feels as good now as it did when we all bought Crackdown 1 to play the Halo 3 beta. New tweaks to jumping with extra jumps and mid-air dashes make it a little more forgiving but still a blast. Once you get to level 5, you gain two extra jumps and two dashes every time your feet leave the ground. It makes grabbing agility orbs a breeze in the latter game, but still fun.

Running through an agility orb is one of my favorite gaming moments. There’s something about the visual/audio presentation that does it for me. It’s like a melon busting headshot from Gears of War, or the moment Kratos catches his axe in God of War. They’re small but memorable moments that help build a franchise’s identity.

Running, jumping, and punching are the standouts in Crackdown 3. There are plenty of agility orbs to grab, agility races to run, and random orbs to hunt down to keep you busy for a while. Propaganda Towers give you a new reason to jump to new heights. Think Assassin’s Creed synchronizing towers but built around Crackdown’s platforming strengths.

They start as simple jumping puzzles. But soon I was using my gun to trigger new platforms, jump to moving platforms, and jump around forcefields to get to the top. It’s a fun addition to the agility orb hunt. I do wish Sumo Digital went an extra step here. Give us the option to create Propaganda Towers. Take the best of Crackdown and run with it.

When I’m not hunting down agility orbs, I’m shooting evil folks in the face. Gunplay is decent and coupled with the lock-on system that’s been there since the franchise’s start. All the guns feel fine, but none of them are all that memorable. Part of the problem is the lack of destructibility. You have all this firepower plus those cannons Terry Crews calls his arms, and outside of blowing up cars, there’s no destruction.

The cloud destructibility we saw in Crackdown 3’s previews always felt too good to be true, but it would have been nice to see a more noticeable impact we were making on the world. And, you could even use some story beat to explain how the buildings come back shortly after tearing them down. That way it doesn’t affect agility orb placement or use up too many dev resources rendering an entire city ripped to shreds.

The gunplay is fine, but again, I wish the devs leaned more on Crackdown’s strength – your Agent. Punching and throwing stuff is clunky, but I’ll admit – a charged punch to the face of a bad guy with the accompanying smack is so damn satisfying. I kept wishing I could dash around through the air landing haymakers on enemy drones. I want less gun toting, more Hulk.

There’s a story here too, but it’s just an excuse to go from one part of the city to the next to hunt for more agility orbs. It’s your typical evil corporation doing evil stuff, and you’re here to kick their ass. Terry Crews and the Agency Director help elevate the story a little with their funny quips. And Crews is perfect as the over-the-top leader of the Crackdown agents.

Too bad the audio mixing fails Crews. I don’t know if my game was glitched, but anytime Crews was talking in-game it was a struggle to hear. I had to stand still to hear what he was saying. If anything, Crews’ voice should be overwhelming.

But the rest of the story is just there. It’s not some sweeping narrative that the gameplay compliments. It’s here to drive the gameplay. Give you reasons to blow shit up, kill bad folks, and open up more areas to hunt agility orbs. Not much else. And even then, it’s average.

The evil corporation Terra Nova is full of lieutenants to takedown before you take on the leader. The presentation reminds me of a poor version of the Nemesis system from the recent Lord of the Rings games. And it lacks any of the mechanics that made that compelling. I free enough prisoners, destroy enough cars, and take down enough facilities until the boss location opens up on the map. Then I kill them. No crazy game mechanics. Just jumping and shooting. It’s not bad; it’s just there.

As for the visuals, Crackdown 3’s lighting stands out. Vivid splashes of green, red, and blue combined with a day/night cycle make Crackdown 3 a looker. Here are a few screenshots I captured directly from my Xbox One X.

Those with a TV that can handle HDR are in for a treat.

Multiplayer is also a thing in Crackdown 3, and it’s called Wrecking Zone. It can be a fun distraction from Crackdown 3’s campaign but lacks the modes, maps, and weapons to make it compelling. Plus, long matchmaking times do it no favors. It does feature the destruction I wished the single player had though.  

Crackdown 3 should be more, but the hum of agility orbs begging to be jumped through is still enough me. It has an outstanding gameplay hook with platforming and agility orbs, but the franchise still falls short of becoming something truly special. I know Crackdown 3 won’t be for everyone, but if you find any enjoyment in the first two – the third entry will be right up your alley.