F2P Of The Day: CrimeCraft: Bleedout
It might be a sign of the times or maybe it’s just time, but CrimeCraft: Bleedout continues a building trend of games that seem to deal with the precarious state of things head-on. Taking a bleak look at our economic reality and the fact that everyone is terrified they’re about to lose everything at any moment, it offers a novel resolution to our shared anxieties:
Kill them with extreme player on player violence.
Oh, you thought I was talking about a philosophical, talky procedural? I suppose the name might have fooled you. When I first encountered the name “CrimeCraft”, I also expected it to be a thriller along the lines of L.A. Noire. What I found instead is a brutal 3rd person shooter that conceptually is 50% Grand Theft Auto, 50% The Grapes Of Wrath and another 50% HEY STOP KILLING ME SO QUICKLY. Yes, it’s fun and yes, it’s free. But while I liked it, I didn’t love it. Mainly because it tries to split the difference between a MMORPG and a shooter and doesn’t quite succeed.
Originally just called CrimeCraft, CrimeCraft Bleedout takes place in the persistent world setting of Sunrise City, a giant metropolis that has recently been devastated by the total collapse of the worldwide economy in the wake of depleted oil. Gangs have now replaced governments and players are essentially fighting over the scraps of a ruined world, starting out as a low level hood for hire but advancing by taking jobs like hits, stealing or capturing stolen goods (really just dressed up fetch quests) or escort missions. If that setting sounds familiar, it’s probably because THQ’s Saints Row series could serve as a prequel.
CrimeCraft: Bleedout doesn’t offer the same kind of addictive experience as Saints Row, but the free version is packed with enough to do. Multiplayer, single player and co-op modes ensure that people can play at their own preference, and with more than 20 maps, 200 weapons and a variety of play modes, it has more than enough to keep gamers still angry about their 401K occupied without hitting them in the wallet.
The problem is that it all kinds of runs together. The battles are basically either against NPCs or other players, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly which is which as the NPC opponents aren’t really that much of a challenge. They tend to treat the combat maps like the plot of land they’re standing on is an inheritance and you can have it when you kill them. That makes them easier to take out than if they were actually wandering all over, taking cover and generally acting like something that didn’t want to die. On the other hand, thanks to a ridiculously long tutorial, you won’t really get into any of that for a few hours. I’m not kidding, by the way. They make you wade through a couple of hours of just learning how to play before you can get out there and actually make a name for yourself.
The shooter aspects are self evident. The game is third person perspective, and you run around and dodge, and so on. For some reason, probably just to make me angry, there is no jump feature, which means you might find yourself facing more than a few insurmountable waist-high objects. But the duck and roll works well in a pinch. Mostly it’s just run and gun and achieve whatever objective you have and that’s really it.
The RPG elements are a little wonkier. The game has all the usual
cliches fundamentals of the genre – Shops, crafting, light player character customization. It all feels somewhat superfluous, kind of like having to buy gang colors in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, except the clothes do actually provide additional defense. The battles are all instanced, which means you’re either in one of the social areas shopping or crafting or whatever, or you’re in a particular battle map fighting. People who come at CrimeCraft from a WoW background won’t find this problematic, but people coming to it from a straight shooter or sandbox background might get a bit annoyed that you can only use your awesome weapons under strict circumstances.
The main RPG aspect you’ll need to worry about is leveling up. Leveling up is critical if you want to actually enjoy the game. You’ll be up against players with a wide variety of experience, and when push comes to shove, the person with the highest skill level is likely to come out on top. That gets annoying when you’re clearly unloading a superior weapon on an un-armored assailant, but as it’s not vastly different from, say, the recent Uncharted 3 Multiplayer experience, it’s at least not unfamiliar enough to give up.
The normal game isn’t mind blowing, but I really like the setting – I’m a sucker for exploring the MY GOD WHAT HAVE WE WROUGHT consequences of human greed. That setting is explored more fully with the Bleedout campaign, a 10 part expansion that delves into the world of CrimeCraft with an actual plot, boasts improved graphics and InFAMOUS-style comic interstitial, and hints at larger socio-political intrigues to come. It is, alas, only available in full to premium members (players can also purchases upgrades otherwise available only by leveling up normally), but free players wishing to get their feet wet can play the first episode for free.
When it comes to MMO shooters, CrimeCraft is certainly a better game than APB, and shooter fans looking for a change of pace will find lots to enjoy, provided they make it through the tutorial. More experienced MMO gamers, especially RPGers, will probably find it kind of a drag. But CrimeCraft wears the worldwide recession on it’s sleeve like a bandana it just used to choke someone to death and the Bleedout expansion hints at better things to come.
CrimeCraft doesn’t quite create a perfect marriage of shooter and MMORPG, but the setting is compelling, and it’s enjoyable enough that you want to give it an A for effort. Or whatever is used for currency in our hellish future.
Get it now on Steam.