Hands-on: Crackdown 3 is shaping up to be exactly what fans expect

In a world of sequels we don't need, Crackdown 3 is a sequel we should be excited for. When the original Crackdown launched on Xbox 360 in 2007, it caught people off guard. No one really knew what to make of the game, but when players checked it out for themselves, they were treated to an insane action-adventure experience that played out like a cross between a superhero movie and an over-the-top cartoon.

I got a chance to play Crackdown 3 at the Microsoft booth at this year's E3, and even though my time with it was limited to 10 minutes, I can tentatively say that it's everything I hoped it would be. Obviously that's hardly enough time to really get into what makes the Crackdown series great, but it was a brief taste that made me excited to play more.

See That Building? You Can Jump Over It!

Just like the original, Crackdown 3 is fun because of just how absurd it is. You play as a super-powered cop who can literally jump over buildings. It's ridiculous, but it makes traversing the city a ton of fun. Though your jumping prowess is decent at the start, you need to earn the ability to jump even higher. Thankfully, doing so is a lot of fun, too. Placed above many of the city's tallest buildings are collectible orbs that increase your jumping ability. If Crackdown 3 plays out anything like the original, you'll be practically flying all over the city by the end of the game.

Part of what makes jumping to outrageous heights so entertaining in Crackdown 3 is actually looking for the orbs. Though you have a mini-map to point you in the direction of your objectives, it's not unlikely that you'll get sidetracked every time you spot an orb up on a building. Sometimes you can't even see the orbs, but you just know there's one placed ever so cleverly atop a really tall skyscraper. And when you finally get to the top of that building and find the orb, you can't help but see just how high you can then jump.

Crushing Bad Guys

Just like you can level up your jumps in Crackdown 3, you can also level up different aspects of your combat ability. Use a lot of guns and you'll be able to more effectively engage in shootouts. Utilize your punches more often and you'll thrive in melee situations. Crackdown 3, like its predecessors, is all about rewarding the player. The more you do something, the better your character gets at it. That, in turn, makes playing all the more exciting—there's nothing quite like delivering a simple punch and then watching as an enemy is sent flying.

Speaking of which, Crackdown 3 is heavily physics-based (though the physics are striving for fun, rather than realism). While using a powerful gun, I was able to launch enemies all over the place with a single shot. At one point I was climbing a building and shooting bad guys off of it. While the shot itself wasn't completely obliterating these enemies' life bars, I imagine that falling several hundred feet onto the street below did the trick.

Crackdown 3 doesn't shy away from putting you in situations where you're heavily outnumbered. But like any superhero-styled action game, that only makes it more fun. Aside from human enemies, I also found myself taking on hordes of robotic baddies, all armed with their own guns and shields.

Driving Is Still Pretty Bad

Driving has never been a strong aspect of the Crackdown games. Unfortunately, that remains true in Crackdown 3. I hijacked a few vehicles while playing, and none of them controlled especially well. I was crashing into buildings, bumping into other cars, and accidentally running over pedestrians. Okay, okay, so that wasn't exactly an accident, but still: the driving in this game is not great.

I've never spent any extended amount of time improving my vehicular skills in the Crackdown games, and I probably won't in Crackdown 3, either. It's so much fun to just climb buildings and leap across the city that driving isn't exactly missed in these games. I don't know if leveling up your driving attribute will result in much better vehicle handling, but if it doesn't it won't really be a big deal.

Old-School Style

While watching footage of Crackdown 3, I thought about how it had a very deliberate old-school look to it. I was curious to see if that would translate over to actually playing, and it most certainly does. That's not a bad thing, especially if you dug the first two Crackdown titles. It's just worth pointing out that there's a purposeful roughness to the whole thing, from the graphics to the animations to the controls. The game certainly controls well, but it reminded me a lot of something I would've played several years ago.

In a way, that roughness is all a part of the charm of Crackdown 3. We are used to developers like Grasshopper Manufacture and Omega Force releasing titles like No More Heroes, Let It Die, and Dynasty Warriors, all of which feel quite old-school. That doesn't make those titles any less enjoyable to their respective audiences, and I don't think Crackdown fans will have a problem with the way Crackdown 3 looks and plays, because it's all a part of its design aesthetic. I had a blast with the game, though I only got to spend 10 minutes with it. 

The reason the first Crackdown resonated so well with players was because it was just so much fun. Lifting cars off the ground and chucking them at bad guys, sending dudes flying with a single punch, and leaping as high as skyscrapers were all things that made the game a wild, unrealistic ride. Crackdown 3 looks to be more of the same, so if you're a fan of these games and are looking to return to the series' brand of scrappy action, you've got a lot to be excited about when the game drops on November 7 for Xbox One.