Microsoft in ‘uncharted territory’ with Crackdown 3

Microsoft is in “uncharted territory” by using cloud computing to boost the visuals of Crackdown 3, a senior art director at the company has said.

The upcoming action-adventure game features an online, multiplayer mode called Wrecking Zone, which contains maps that can be completely destroyed. This realistic, real-time damage is only possible by using Azure to significantly add to the power of the gamer’s Xbox One.

Dave Johnson, a Senior Art Director at Microsoft who worked on Crackdown 3, said no studio had attempted this before.

“Using the cloud to power environmental destruction is brand-new,” he said. “This is a technology that no one has utilised before. We’re in uncharted territory and it’s exciting.

“It’s really fun to see someone run into a building below you and being able to ‘Ground Pound’ through the ceiling above them, land in the same room and start a gunfight. It adds a whole new layer to the gameplay that people are going to have to wrap their heads around. But once you do, it’s pretty exciting.”

Drawing on the power of Microsoft’s cloud platform means that shooting a wall will cause damage to that specific area, with the parts that fly off acting independently of each other. If a player brings down an entire building, everything that hits the ground will react to that impact.

It’s just one of a range of new features that UK developer Sumo Digital and Microsoft Studios have added to the latest game in the franchise, which sees super-powered agents called upon to take down evil gangs controlling the city of New Providence. Interestingly, one new aspect of the series is a defined plot that players can follow.

“One of our biggest changes for Crackdown 3 is the addition of a true narrative,” Johnson added. “This game has a plot and a reason for wanting to take down the bad people. We’ve crafted villains that feel evil, so there is a reason you want to progress and take them down, using the skills you’re gathering along the way.

“On top of that we have a lot of new gadgets and weapons. I want people to find out on their own, but we do have a ‘black hole gun’, which is pretty amazing and just what you expect a ‘black hole gun’ to be.”

Players will be able to use the arsenal on new “mech” enemies that are up to five times bigger than a human, breaking a Crackdown tradition of only having “normal-sized” foes.

Dave Johnson, Senior Art Director

Dave Johnson, Senior Art Director

Elsewhere, the agency vehicle has returned for Crackdown 3, featuring two modes – Speed, which lets you drive under cars and flip them off the road, and Spider, which lets you bounce your car onto the side of buildings and continue driving up the wall.

It fits in with Microsoft’s aim to make a game that rarely slows down.

“We said early on that subtlety is not our friend when it comes to Crackdown,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s the gameplay or the visuals, we try to be as over-the-top as we can. It’s a very bombastic, crazy and fun game. The cool aspect of that is every time you play the game you get a different experience, and each person will play it so differently.”

Also making its debut is the ability to choose to play as a female agent, with Johnson remarking that it was “time” players were given that option. There are 10 male and 10 female characters to pick from, as well real-life actor Terry Crews, who has been recreated in the game after a member of the marketing team pointed out he was the “walking epitome of a super-agent”.

Crackdown 3 will be released on Xbox One and Windows PC on February 15. It will also be available on Xbox Game Pass, the company’s subscription service, from the same day.