Glossing over your first-party console exclusive doesn't exude confidence.
The game I was most looking forward to seeing and playing at E3 last month? Crackdown 3.
The game I was most disappointed by after seeing and playing at E3 last month? Crackdown 3.
We expected Crackdown 3 to be a big release for the Xbox One X. It should have been front and center at the Xbox One press conference - a first-party exclusive demonstrating the power of the new console. It should be a flagship title showing gameplay that the PS4 just can't or isn't doing.
Instead, and this is no disrespect to the other games, Warner's Shadow of War and Bioware's Anthem got the big on-stage playthrough treatment. Crackdown 3 got some love - but it was in the form of a promo featuring Terry Crews.
"Terry Crews is irreverent, loud and could snap your neck like a twig. Everything Crackdown should be. He should have been on stage hurling consoles at the crowd."
Terry Crews is absolutely the right person to rope in for this game. He's funny, irreverent, loud and could snap your neck like a twig. Everything Crackdown should be. He should have been on stage hurling consoles at the crowd.
He did a great job of hamming it up for the trailer. "Forget dropping bombs, you're dropping buildings!" screams Crews, before showing gameplay in which no buildings are dropped anywhere. See, Crews was better than the gameplay. That feels like the broken promise of a superhero comic translated to the TV screen; on page there's planet-scale destruction, but on screen two actors are having a rubbish punch-up in an alleyway.
Are we wrong to be disappointed? Microsoft has said the city-leveling destruction of Crackdown 3 is only happening in a specific multiplayer part of the game. It's been saying that since 2015 when we first sat through a mind-blowing demo with Dave Jones, the dude behind the very first game (and notorious unofficial follow-up APB, the game that sank Realtime Worlds before getting resurrected). This multiplayer mode demands so much of the Xbox One that the near-mythical cloud picks up the stress - with up to 16 cloud servers handling the destruction for a four-player co-op session. Why the hell wouldn't you want to show that off?
Despite what sounds like game-changing tech it's not been shown publicly. All we have is this shaky-cam footage. That's worrying when you consider Crackdown 3 is only four months from release. Will we finally see more at Gamescom next month, or be hit with a delay into 2018? Because despite having the luxury of showing an edited and completely controlled trailer of Crackdown 3 at E3, Microsoft only chose to show single-player footage. That's as telling as not having the game on stage in front of the E3 millions. That's a complete lack of confidence in your game.
I played the Crackdown 3 demo at E3. It was alright. I kept expecting something more, though. I still dig the massive leaping movement as you bound from one building to another. Combined with mantling and a new dash move it feels absolutely right and very liberating. My agent was purposefully under-powered but that wasn't a problem, either - there were plenty of bad guys to beat down and weapons all over the place, ripe for appropriating. The gun that shoots a vortex is particularly fun, so long as you don't get caught up in it yourself.
But gun combat didn't really give me any feedback. You just lock on and pull the trigger, keeping on your toes so you're not taking as much damage as you're dealing. It lacked ballistic impact and was just a "thing" that was happening as I jumped around. There's plenty of explosions, citizens fleeing, and enemies descending on you. There are a few barrels and some furniture to throw around or blow up, but it generally feels empty of interaction on these streets.
Games like Infamous: Second Son, GTA 5 and Just Cause 3 have taken open world cities and let players go crazy with a lot of toys. Aside from a handful of different weapons I didn't feel that same freedom with Crackdown 3. Unfortunately there were no morphing agency vehicles to play around with either and the cars that were drivable all felt very floaty. It was more fun to throw them than get behind the wheel.
"Microsoft's lack of confidence in its own game shouts louder than Terry Crews does."
I've been wrong about Crackdown before. When it was originally announced a demo for the Halo 3 beta would be included with the disc of original Crackdown I scoffed with cynicism. The only way to play the beta of a game you really wanted was to buy a game you're not that interested in?
Oh, how wrong I was. Original Crackdown is one of the best games on the Xbox 360. A surprise that really came for nowhere, crammed full of ridiculous action and destruction. I still have fond memories of my first climb up the agency tower - and leap off it.
So yeah, please, I want to be proven wrong again. "Step up your boom" is a tagline that tells me Crackdown 3 should be gloriously stupid. I'm ready for that. But Microsoft's lack of confidence in its own game shouts louder right now than Terry Crews does. I'm not sure it's going to deliver on its promise at all.