Crackdown 3 has pretty much gone dark since it made some explosive showings back in 2015, and for good reason: the open-world game that was once scheduled for summer 2016 (in beta form at the least) was very quietly delayed until sometime in 2017. And while we eagerly await more concrete details on the progress that's been made over the past year, there's still plenty to sift through regarding Crackdown 3's unique take on metropolis-demolishing mayhem.
The Crackdown series has always been about one thing: unleashing chaos in the name of the law. It's your mission to bring larger-than-life Crime Lords to justice by any means necessary - even if that means wreaking absolute havoc and causing more property damage than those crooks could even imagine. Thanks to its inclusion in the Xbox Play Anywhere program, you'll be able to level Crackdown 3's skyscrapers on Xbox One or Windows 10 PCs. Here's what you can expect from this city-wide crusade against gang activity, whenever it's available; my guess is late 2017, given the current radio silence.
The quick pitch is that Crackdown's a third-person sandbox like Grand Theft Auto, but instead of playing as a modern-day carjacker, you're an Agent of law enforcement in a near-future metropolis. It's got more in common with a superhero game than a crime drama, given how your cel-shaded Agent can bound up and over buildings or kick cars like they were soccer balls. And unlike Superman, ethics aren't a huge priority: when you're determined to take down a perp, you've got the freedom to unleash a barrage of bullets, grenades, and rockets into crowded areas without a care in the world.
When you're not taking out gang leaders through whatever anarchic methods you deem appropriate, you can cruise around in a transforming car or enhance your supernatural strength by collecting brightly colored orbs sprinkled around the city rooftops. Crackdown 3's being developed by many of the same team members who made the original, including series creator Dave Jones, which should make this sequel feel closer to the first game than Crackdown 2, which was given to a different studio with a shorter deadline.
For whatever reason, your employers at the Agency are perfectly content to send you into a crime-filled city all by your lonesome, turning you into a police force of one against an underworld of thousands. There's no word yet on whether or not Crackdown 3 takes place in the series mainstay of Pacific City, but wherever you end up fighting an army of felons, you'll have to factor in a new, frankly named mechanic: the Hate System.
Your primary targets are the many Crime Lords who are orchestrating all the misdemeanors going down at street-level, but you can't simply kick down a door and shoot them dead. They'll only show themselves once you've gotten their attention after building up a Hate Meter by systematically eliminating their network of hired goons and reclaiming their territory for the side of the law. All the while, those Crime Lords will be taunting and/or threatening you via giant holograms throughout the city, a la Batman: Arkham Knight. Accrue enough of their Hate, and they'll personally try to take you down in all-or-nothing boss fights.
Here's the literal game-changer. While massive explosions are commonplace in the first two Crackdowns, your surroundings never really reflect all the chaos that threatens to tear the city apart. But in Crackdown 3, you can actually tear the city apart piece by piece, because every structure is completely destructible. And not in a 'scripted crumbling animation once you've done enough damage' kind of way - you can disassemble a skyscraper in whatever method pleases you, and the resulting wreckage will be totally determined by in-game physics.
The catch is that thus far, this potentially revolutionary mechanic has been restricted to Crackdown 3's multiplayer campaign. And judging by a statement from Microsoft Studios' Shannon Loftis, it sounds as though the Crackdown 3 development laid the multiplayer groundwork first, then built the single-player campaign atop that framework. As with the first two games, you'll have the option between tackling a single-player or online co-op campaign, but Crackdown 3's multiplayer takes place in different city entirely. You'll probably want to jump online anyway, because...
The cinematic trailer that served as Crackdown 3's announcement shows three Agents working in tandem to bring down a gang leader's bulletproof fortress. You've got one gruff-looking Agent driving a truck covered in demolition charges, another guy triggering a controlled explosion to turn an adjacent building into a makeshift ramp, and the default Agent acting as the sniper that shoots the combustible payload, turning a toppling tower into a devastating battering ram. Clearly, teaming up with other players will let you really do some damage to the criminal underworld.
Crackdown 2 allowed up to four players in co-op, but it looks like Crackdown 3 will up the ante even further: the most recent gameplay footage clearly shows eight little 'A' nodes tearing up the city (the A being short for Agent or the Agency, though no one could blame you for assuming it stood for Anarchy). No word yet on whether or not Crackdown 2's player-vs-player shootouts will make a return.
In order to make previously unseen levels of in-game destruction possible, Crackdown 3 has to use some brand new tech. Enter Microsoft Azure, the cloud computing platform that can supercharge your Xbox One's performance with the mighty powers of the internet. Normally, the level of destructibility seen in Crackdown 3 would make a game unplayable within minutes, since the Xbox One's memory would be overloaded by all the bits and pieces of metal and concrete. But connecting to the cloud can effectively offload all those taxing computations to a faraway server and send the info back to your console.
All that is to say: you get to behold every glorious moment of skyscraper-toppling destruction without having to suffer through performance issues or sluggish framerates. The city itself is divided up into districts, with separate servers for each cluster of buildings; our Crackdown 3 demo actually showed how many servers were being tapped at any given time, depending on how many apartment complexes and swanky offices were being pulverized at the moment. Crackdown 3's Gamescom trailer boasts that the cloud integration provides "20 times the computational power of your Xbox One", which effectively turns your Xbox One into the most powerful console ever made (thus far).
It'd be a shame if all the work done by your artillery-powered wrecking crew was just for show, and the twisted heap of what was once a building simply faded away or had no impact on its surroundings. That's why Crackdown 3 makes an astonishing commitment to tangible changes in your environment. Felling a 50-foot skyscraper isn't just a fireworks show; you could use the resulting wreckage to act as a bridge to another building, or cause a domino effect of destruction throughout an entire city block. Every chunk of concrete becomes a new piece of level geometry, some of which you can pick up (depending on your degree of super-strength).
Leveling a skyscraper won't exactly be easy - even with a super-powered rocket launcher, it can take a while to whittle away the foundation of a building to the point that it collapses. If you're feeling impatient, you can try to ignite the gas main, which will trigger an explosion throughout the whole structure. And really, it's probably for the best that those high-rises don't crumple like cardboard; inevitably, the city would be reduced to a flat wasteland in minutes, and what fun is that?