In the middle of this fantastic slate of games releasing in the first half of 2018, the one upcoming title I cannot stop thinking about is Crackdown 3. By no means is it my most anticipated game of the year, but it’s one of the titles I’m most intrigued by after its notoriously lengthy development cycle has continued to drag on. What’s made the inevitable release of Crackdown 3 so interesting to me though is that we haven’t heard a word about the game in months.
Crackdown 3 was finally slated to release last year day-and-date with the Xbox One X on November 7 but, as we know, it didn’t. It was delayed last August to Spring 2018. As we draw closer to that window, the game’s publisher, Microsoft, and the development team at Sumo Digital have hardly said a word about it other than letting us know that it’ll be available via Xbox Game Pass whenever it does launch. Essentially, Crackdown 3 has gone back to being completely dark, just like it was before its re-emergence at E3 2017.
Normally delays or silence surrounding a project like this wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Heck, South Park: The Fractured But Whole did virtually the same thing after being delayed indefinitely from its original release window in 2016. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Crackdown 3 is one of a handful of exclusives that the company has right now alongside upcoming releases Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2, so the lack of news surrounding it is a bit more apparent. It sticks out even more now that State of Decay 2 has a newly-revealed release date, and Sea of Thieves is due out in a few short weeks.
So what has happened to Crackdown 3? Why on Earth have we not heard anything about it in forever? And is it really still slated to release this Spring? I have some educated guesses on what’s happened to the game in recent months.
Remember Terry Crews? Yeah, the former Old Spice dude who was revealed to be a Crackdown Agent at E3 last year. Crews was at the center of the trailer that was released for Crackdown 3 during Microsoft’s E3 presentation, and he even appeared at a panel for the game later that summer at San Diego Comic-Con. While his appearance in the game was definitely a cool addition, at the end of the day it was nothing more than a simple marketing strategy to include a well-known celebrity.
I have no doubt in my mind that Crews was going to be central to the marketing campaign–he still probably will be–for Crackdown 3 leading up to what was supposed to be its November launch last year. When Sumo Digital needed to delay the game to 2018, I’m sure Microsoft executives were mad. In my view, the marketing campaign featuring Crews is similar to what you see from games when they near release. Look at past Call of Duty commercials that feature celebrities aplenty and usually appear near launch. Sumo Digital delaying Crackdown 3 likely wasn’t just a typical delay, it probably ruined the timing of the marketing campaign that Microsoft already seemed like it was beginning to gear up for.
If this is indeed true, and again, I am just hypothesizing, I think it explains the overwhelming silence from Crackdown 3 since last August. I’m going to assume that Microsoft is refusing to highlight Crackdown 3 or give it any more exposure until they know for certain internally that it has a firm release window. In hindsight, not only does Microsoft look foolish for potentially revealing Crackdown 3 too early–something they’ve even admitted themselves–they have now burned through more funds to prematurely gear up to market the game while simultaneously losing out on what was supposed to be the Xbox One X’s big launch day game. Crackdown 3 seems to be the one game that continues to screw Microsoft over, so of course, they’re going to quit talking about it publicly until they know it’s done cooking.
This leads us to back to the current release window that we’re working with: Spring 2018. Is Crackdown 3 really still on pace to release by no later than June 20? At this point, I think it’s pretty unlikely. For starters, March is completely out of the question at this point, barring gaming’s most impressive stealth launch of all-time. The closer we get to April without any news from the game, the less likely this month is starting to seem as well.
This shrinks our window down to May and a majority of June, but I’d honestly be shocked at this point if it still released in either of those timeframes. Before the announcement of State of Decay 2 releasing on May 22, I actually thought that May was still in play. It still very well could be, but I just don’t see Microsoft wanting to release two of their biggest exclusives on top of one another.
This leaves us with June. I honestly don’t have a good reason for Crackdown 3 to not release in June other than a basic gut-feeling. I know that might not be the hard-hitting journalistic insight that you’re looking for, but June releases are typically slim and outside of a few exceptions, you rarely see first-party titles release in this month.
That means I do indeed believe that Crackdown 3 is destined to slip into the later Summer months or even Fall. It’s not unprecedented and using the same example as before, South Park: The Fractured But Whole suffered the same fate last year. What’s disappointing about this, if I am right, is that I truly believe the longer Crackdown 3 cooks, the less impressive it’s going to be upon release.
Look, I played Crackdown 3 last year at E3 and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. It felt exactly how I remembered the original game. Before I knew it, I was jumping between skyscrapers and blasting chumps away with a rocket launcher. From a gameplay standpoint alone, Crackdown 3 felt exactly how I hoped it’d feel and it still stood out to me by week’s end at E3 after having played countless other games.
Where I begin to worry about Crackdown 3 though is more in terms of the graphical output of the game. From what I saw in terms of both graphics, textures, and animations, the game seemed dated. Maybe it was just the build I played, but this still shouldn’t shock anyone considering how long Crackdown 3 has been in development. As time goes on, those graphics and dated systems that lie at the root of Crackdown 3 will continue to age worse and worse.
I’d like to think that Sumo Digital is aware of these potential issues with the game and is trying to rectify them during this extra span of time. After so much time in development though, games can become harder and harder to keep up to date with current tech. The Last Guardian is the best example that I can think of recently to represent this. While it didn’t look ugly by any means when it finally launched on PS4 in 2016, it was apparent by playing it for a few hours that it had been stitched together in an odd way and wasn’t a native PS4 title.
Not only do I have concerns on this front, but Crackdown 3 will start to have some much stiffer competition in the open world genre as we drift further into 2018. Standout titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 have worlds that are likely going to blow gamer’s pants off when they release later this year. While it might be unfair to preemptively judge Crackdown 3 considering we haven’t even seen the full size and scope of its open world, I struggle to imagine that it’ll be more impressive or even comparable when releasing alongside titles like this.
At the end of the day, this Spring 2018 window really was and still is the perfect opportunity to release Crackdown 3. Even though I think we’re past the point of this still being a feasible launch window, Microsoft could come out tomorrow and announce a release date in the upcoming weeks. No one has any sort of clue at this point and that’s the strangest part.
I reached out to Microsoft while writing this piece and asked if they would shed any light on why news surrounding the game has been so quiet. I also inquired about the possibility of there being behind-the-scenes issues with development. As you might expect, they didn’t give me anything worthwhile and simply stated, “We’re putting everything into making Crackdown 3 a faithful, fun and unforgettable Crackdown experience. We look forward to sharing more on Crackdown 3 soon.”
The gaming industry is an odd one and it’s hard to sometimes judge what’s happening when situations like this occur. While I don’t ascribe for even a moment that Crackdown 3 will be canceled, the silence surrounding it at the very least has been weird and has stood out greatly to me and many others. After what seemed like such a commitment to release the game last year, to fall back into the same stillness surrounding the project is both concerning and upsetting.
Despite the odd nature of everything–or the lack thereof–that has transpired since August of last year, I still hold out hope that Crackdown 3 will be a ton of fun. While this might not be one of the most beloved franchises of all-time, it’s a series I’ve always personally had a soft spot for and I really want this third entry to be everything that it should be. It’s the least we deserve after being kept in the dark for so long.