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Picking up where the franchise let off ten years ago with Crackdown 2, the next installment looks to reinvent the concept while clinging to the ideals that made the first two so beloved. And that concept can only be described as chaos. Harnessing the power of Microsoft Azure, total and absolute destruction of anything is the name of the game as the entire environment is at the mercy of the player, left only to how creatively they can manage to wreck it.
The history of destructive environments might go back farther than you think, all the way to the 1970s, which seems truly hard to believe. But, in 1975, a game from Taito called Gun Fight featured blocks that crumbled and of course there is the far better known Space Invaders (also by Taito) that put players behind several destructible sprites that aliens slowly picked apart as they descended. The trend continued for decades until 1993’s Doom, from id Software, where players had a stake in the fun. Introducing the explosive barrel, players were able to affect gameplay by destroying a part of the environment on their own.
Much has changed since those days, the barrel now a signature of the gaming industry, but the real golden ring has been total and complete destruction in a real-world physics-based environment performed by the player in an unscripted action. Many titles have gotten very good at implementing this mechanic, with notable games being 2005’s Mercenaries 2: World in Flames from Pandemic Studios, 2006’s Black from Criterion Games, and one of the originators, 2001’s Red Faction, using the Geo-Mod engine, giving players the ability to have a huge impact on the environment by allowing-predefined areas to be destroyed. Battlefield: Bad Company 1 & 2, utilizing the Frostbite engine, amped up that freedom, giving players almost total control over what could be destroyed, becoming an integral part of the Battlefield games franchise.
Now comes Crackdown 3 and the latest environmental damage mechanic, Microsoft Azure, which is not so much an engine as it is a cloud-computing platform that allows globally-connected networks to simultaneously combine power from Microsoft managed data-centers. What that means is that mean your Xbox One uses up its processing power, the cloud service kicks it to keep it running. The applications for such a tool are nearly limitless, but for gaming, it generates some staggering possibilities. For example, with Crackdown 3, developer Reagent Games claims that utilizing Microsoft Azure, they can provide online multiplayer sessions with 20x more power to the player’s experience compared to playing offline on one Xbox One. That’s a huge increase and will make for something gamers have never, ever seen before in terms of gameplay.
If you read all that carefully, then you understand that the awesome destruction revealed in the above trailer is entirely limited to online multiplayer matches. Players running the campaign mode, no matter the number of people in the session, will have significantly fewer instances and abilities for the same mayhem. That’s not all bad though, as the Crackdown series is not particularly loved only for its destruction.
Crackdown (the original) debuted in 2007 from Realtime Worlds, released to critical acclaim for its highly inventive open-world experience that put a player in control of an agent in the employ of The Agency, a peacekeeping organization that uses any means necessary to keep the streets of Pacific City safe. Assigned to takedown crime lords, players are given complete control over their progression, able to complete a number of missions and in any order, using strategy to take out ‘generals’ and other specific bad guys that could effect the progress. Freedom was the thing, and the incredible world in which to explore, which features many side quests and challenges plus so much more, gave players motivation to keep exploring. The cybernetically-enhanced characters made them basically superheroes, able to jump, punch, fight, run and scale buildings with ease. The challenge came in the leveling, which required players to gain orbs from defeated enemies and reach rooftops to find more. Crackdown 2 followed in its footsteps, adding a few more enhancements and abilities, striping away some local co-op play and concentrating on the online game allowing up to four players to work together. The release was met with mostly favorable reviews though criticized for its lack of innovation over the original.
Crackdown 3 doesn’t look to change the familiar too much, keeping everything from the previous entries, just going bigger. The story will be a continuation of the first title, set in the future, and an alternate timeline from the second. More importantly though is the release schedule, something that isn’t quite so well known but is significant for many reasons. The multiplayer of Crackdown 3 will debut sometime in the second or third quarter of this year while the campaign and single player elements have no date set. That’s how committed project director David Jones (also behind the original Crackdown) and his team are to this revolutionary concept for online play. That’s not an indication that the campaign mode will be sub-par, and in fact means that it should be wholly otherwise. They want to emphasis that the multiplayer world you are part of is a persistent, 100 percent destructible environment. Once you (and your fellow rocket-launching partners) bring down a building (or anything for that matter) it stays down. Says Jones:
“In the multiplayer, it’s 100 percent destructible, and it’s forever — forever, as long as the game lasts. We haven’t said what structure of the multiplayer game is yet, but it is … 100 percent destructible environments and 100 percent persistent over whatever sort of game session we’re talking about.”
This isn’t the first time Microsoft’s powerful cloud service has been used in gaming. Electronic Arts 2014 mech-shooter Titanfall used it to support its AI to great success, and revealed just how effective the tool was in maintaining and powering a game in real-time. Crackdown 3 is taking that power and pushing it as far as it can go. Everything in the world is interactive, from trashcans to car doors (all of which can be torn off and used as shields), this is a fully physical environment. When things topple over, they effect the thing it lands upon and so on, creating organic destruction that is different with every explosion, crash, or boom. The implications are astounding and will surely have gamers clamoring to find the biggest string of buildings they can bring down and more. Along with an amazing arsenal of weapons and abilities that already make the game one to look forward too, this addition is surely going to be the selling point. Hopefully, the game will have more depth than only destruction and, like the previous entries, have some other challenges in the multiplayer.
Crackdown 3 has a lot under the hood, and even though just about every single player in the game will never know or care about how or why their game features such impressive environmental destruction, the thing they will remember, if it is anything like the one’s preceding, is the fun.
Developer: Reagent Games
Director: David Jones
Platform: Xbox One
Release Dates: Q2/Q3 2016 (Multiplayer Only)