By MMOHut's Erhan Altay
CrimeCraft was originally released on August 25, 2009 by Vogster Entertainment as a retail game requiring a monthly subscription. Built on the Unreal 3 engine and promising gritty gang warfare in a MMORPG setting, CrimeCraft went so far as to declare itself as belonging to a new genre, a ‘persistent world next-gen shooter’ or PWNS for short. Needless to say, expectations were elevated and the final product failed to deliver on all the promises. Fortunately, the developers have released a new patch that, among other things, which made the game largely free to play. Some aspects of the game still require players to spend real money, but the game is mostly free to play.
I Survived the Apocalypse
The game is set in a near-future alternative reality in which the United States and other major governments across the world have collapsed, leaving behind small municipal localities and gangs to handle the crucial role of governance. An animated introductory cinematic does a decent job of explaining this setting though the cause of the collapse is not revealed. Backstory or lore is not the focus in CrimeCraft and it is obvious that this intro is just meant as a backdrop to get the ball rolling. Before getting any further, it’s important to discuss the relatively large client size of the game. With the installer clocking in at around 3 GB and the final installation, with patches applied, at a 5.5 GB it’s best to leave this one running over night. It’s also important to remember that free players will only get limited access to CrimeCraft with many of the features locked. The first of these restrictions that players will run across is the single character slot on the only live server, titled Exeter. The second restriction is the inability of free players to customize their character’s appearance. Instead, players must simply chose their gender then spam ‘random’ until they get the physical attributes they desire.
Welcome to Oceanside
Oceanside is the first of three cities that make up the main areas of CrimeCraft. These are the only non-instanced locals and they serve as the game’s lobby/social hangout. A series of simple quests (or missions) serve as CrimeCraft’s tutorial and mostly involve talking to one NPC after another. The game uses the W,A,S,D keys to control movement and holding down the shift key enables players to run which is a vital time saver. Oceanside is quite large and walking from one side to the other can take quite some time. Fortunately, the graphics are stunning. CrimeCraft has brought me closer to feeling like I’m walking through an actual city than any other video game. The character models and most of the animations look decent at best; other shooters like Huxley and A.V.A are definitely on par but for some reason CrimeCraft really pulled out all the stops with the city landscapes. The first taste of combat players get is a PvE mode called Stockpile in which players face off against AI controlled bots and collect various materials. For the purposes of the tutorial, players only need to kill a single bot to complete the mission objective. I played out the entire 5 minute round but those who prefer can get the 1 kill then hit escape and return to town. Missions will throw players into these PvE modes from time to time and they never get any better. The Bot AI seems to be really primitive; they won’t shoot targets in plain sight provided they’re an adequate distance away.
The Daily Grind
After the initial missions, players are introduced to several of the game’s other features including the gun shop, gun customization, and the payphone. Each of these missions involves talking to another NPC and rewards copious amounts of experience. Just by doing these talk quests, players can easily hit level 7. Considering the fact that free players only receive 1/10 the experience that premium users get, this is pretty rapid progression. Like other shooters, CrimeCraft has all the standard gun types including pistols, SMGs, shotguns, rocket launchers, assault rifles, and snipers. The latter three are available almost immediately but the others have slightly higher level requirements. Players can upgrade their guns using add-ons which can be purchased or crafted using the material gathered from the ‘Stockpile’ PvE game mode. Grinding for these materials is the opposite of fun, especially because of the uneven drop rates. The payphone acts as a sort of task assigner, similar to the radio in Drift City. The tasks accepted from the payphone are like achievements; they involve dealing X amount of damage with a certain weapon type or getting X number of kills. These tasks provide additional quest and cash rewards.
Gang Related Violence
Even though CrimeCraft bills itself as a persistent world, the truth is that it is much closer to a game like Guild Wars where the action takes place in instanced zones. There are currently 14 maps and 7 game modes available but the best way to find a match is to simply click ‘p’ from anywhere in the city to automatically join the quick play queue. CrimeCraft hasn’t had much success so far and the server population is generally very low. It took me about 5 minutes to get into a 3v2 Turf War match but it quickly filled out as the game progressed. Perhaps as a consequence of the limited population, player will find themselves facing off against much higher level opponents. Personal play skill is by far the most important element in combat but that doesn’t mean higher level players don’t have huge advantages. Besides access to bigger and better guns, veteran players possess special abilities. As I was shooting an opponent, he jumped up and stabbed me with a knife, instantly killing me. After experiencing that humiliation, I took a moment to learn more about CrimeCraft’s skill system but ran into more stumbling blocks.
Nickel & Dimed to Death
It was on October 26, 2009 that CrimeCraft revealed its new tiered subscription model. The unlimited free trial offers basic access but doesn’t allow players access to several key features. Besides the ones I listed earlier, free players are denied use of: PvP rankings, the mail system, the bank, voice chat (and even text chat is limited), gang creation and even crafting is off-limits. Those who want to upgrade their account privileges have two options. Standard membership starts at $4.99/month while Premium membership is $9.99/month which is what CrimeCraft was charging upon release for all users. Oddly, even premium subscribers are expected to make use of the game’s microtransaction system to purchase additional clothes and appearance customization options. As a further gimmick, the cities of CrimeCraft are filled with billboards advertising AMD, Razor, and other real life brands. A clever poster here and there wouldn’t hurt, heck it may even enhance the experience (like in MGS2), but when the same six or so ads appear 100 times across the same area, it’s obvious the developer have sold out. CrimeCraft still has a small but passionate community, the forums are alive with chatter, but as it stands this is a difficult game to recommend. When gangs are crime are mentioned, gamers think GTA but the truth is CrimeCraft plays a lot more like a traditional shooter. I don’t want to dismiss it just yet but the dev team has a lot of work to do. Players looking for a more ‘cops vs robbers’ themed game should probably check out APB.
Final Verdict: Good
CrimeCraft could have been so much more than a lobby based third-person shooter with forgettable RPG elements. As it stands, early game PvE is dull and late game gang related features are nonexistent. Since the game originally released though, Vogster has added a ton of content to the game. Even though the game lacks polish, it’s still worth checking out for its uniqueness.
Since the time of this review CrimeCraft has steadily released new content including its bleedout expansion. Listed below are some of these updates.
Character Customization – New character customizable options have been added along with refinements to player professions and skills.
New Weapons and Abilities – 6 new abilities including an LMG turret, flashbang grenade and rockets!
Leaderboard Stat Tracking - Reputation leaderboards complete with personalized player signatures, titles and rewards.
New Maps - New PvP maps have been added allowing you to take the fight into multiple new areas including a heavily guarded financial fortress!
Pros: +Amazing graphics based on the Unreal 3 engine. +14 maps, 7 game modes. +PvE missions provide single player content.
Cons: -Free players face too many restrictions. -Shallow single player content. -RPG elements have no depth, plays almost identically to a lobby based shooter. -Some F2P