Ever since the Crackdown logo was spotted during the launch event for Xbox One I have been really excited about becoming an agent again, jumping around the city, and laying waste to waves of enemies. The first proper footage of the game was at Gamescom in 2015. It showed that the game was once again in the hands of series creator David Jones and featured a truly ambitious multiplayer section. Since that showing two years ago, things have been quiet on the Crackdown front. The game was silent throughout 2016, apart from a tweet from the developers saying that they wouldn’t be showing Crackdown 3 at E3 that year. At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo we got a new trailer, featuring the one and only Terry Crews, as well as a release date that tied in with the launch of the Xbox One X. Since then the game has moved from a release date, of 7th November, to a release window of Spring 2018. So, how much trouble is Crackdown 3 in?
When the game was first shown in 2014, it blew us away. The visuals looked great, the multiplayer looked groundbreaking, and bringing back David Jones (who created the first game as well as Grand Theft Auto) showed a good step in the right direction after the disappointing Crackdown 2. When the game was next shown at Gamescom 2015, the video featured as much of a developer diary as it was a trailer for the game. What it did show gave us that brilliant mix of nostalgia for the old game along with excitement for what this new game could be. The multiplayer portion of the game shown behind closed doors featured some amazing cloud-processing technology that farmed a lot of the physics off to online servers allowing for truly spectacular destruction of buildings. The game looked in great shape, but since then things have not been so promising.
Bits of the Gamescom 2015 trailer showed a behind-the-scenes view of the game being developed by Reagent games with David Jones. However, any mention of Reagent Games was noticeably lacking from the trailer shown at E3 this year. The only companies mentioned during this latest video were Microsoft Studios and Sumo Digital, no mention of Reagent Games at all. In fact, the company’s Twitter account has been silent since January. There was no Reagent Games personnel on stage at E3 to present the new trailer, something David Jones had done when the game was first introduced. Neither did they have anyone at a Comic-Con panel for the game, which did include Terry Crews alongside various members of Microsoft Studios.
Are Reagent Games still steering the Crackdown ship or even aboard at all? I have it on good authority that Sumo Digital has been subcontracting some of the work on the game to smaller developers. Obviously, this is fairly common practice in the development of AAA games, but with Sumo Digital already working with Microsoft Games Studios, Cloudgine, and Reagent Games (?) would they really need any extra help developing the game. All of this also points to Sumo Digital being the main driving force behind the Crackdown 3 rather than Reagent Games. While this isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it does suggest trouble behind the scenes.
Something else that suggests there are some serious issues with the game is the lack of gameplay footage that has been revealed. The game was introduced to the public at E3 in 2014 but since then we have only seen a couple of minutes of gameplay footage, and some of that was on a screen in the behind-the-scenes sections of the Gamescom 2015 trailer. This lack of in-game coverage is normally a massive red flag that not all is what it appears. This was supposed to be the game that pushed sales of the Xbox One X, yet its showing at E3 was a case of blink, and you’ll miss it. Compare that to Halo 5 a couple of years ago or Gears of War 4 where those games were the centerpieces of the E3 press conference that year. It seems like Microsoft lacked confidence in the game.
One of the reasons that Microsoft may be reluctant to show in-game footage is that the graphics are a little underwhelming. The original Crackdown really stood out with its cel-shaded visual style. That graphical style doesn’t quite pack the ‘wow’ factor that it used to. The game could still be impressive though by having lots going on at once, gorgeous explosions, and brilliant particle effects. We know that the multiplayer has an impressive amount of stuff happening on-screen, but that is all done through cloud processing. We haven’t really seen what the singleplayer section looks like, but the glimpses we have seen look a little bland. For a game that has been tied to the Xbox One X and the massive increase in power that it provides, you would have thought that this game would blow people away.
We really want Crackdown 3 to be a great game and a massive success, but at the moment we’re worried about the game. Pushing the release date back is nearly always a smart move and here’s hoping that Microsoft has the confidence to push it even further back if it needs to. After all, we are already getting Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and (potentially) Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the first half of 2018. Releasing Crackdown 3 in the second half of 2018 wouldn’t be a bad move. At the end of the day, Microsoft needs to get the game into the best possible shape and then launch it into the world.