Review Date: Jan 5 2010
Publisher: Vogster Entertainment
Developer: Vogster Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+
Genre: Online Shooter
The apocalypse has left humanity in bad shape, and you're struggling to survive in an anarchic, gang-infested world where life is cheap. The only remaining semblance of civilization is Sunrise City, a refuge of sorts from the crime and constant warfare that rages on outside the perimeter. CrimeCraft is another attempt to blend shooter combat with RPG character development, including levels and extensive itemization. Read on to see how it works out.
Not So Massive
CrimeCraft makes an effort to provide a persistent world, but that really amounts to 3 hubs within Sunrise City which serve little purpose other than to meet, trade, and upgrade skills. From these hubs you depart into instances with a maximum of 16 players where all the shooting takes place. You enter these instances by talking to an NPC, or simply selecting them from a menu not entirely unlike a server browser for a typical online shooter.
There is really nothing massively multiplayer about CrimeCraft, unless your only requirements for that label are an in-game auction, a guild system, and a subscription fee. The truth is you'll find much larger matches in countless multiplayer PC shooters including Battlefield 2 (64 players) and Team Fortress 2 (32 players), and if you were hoping for something on the scale of Planetside you'll be sorely disappointed.
Graphics and Interface
The game is built on the Unreal 3 graphics engine, which provides for fluid action, but the visuals aren't anthing special. The model animation looks awkward at times, and while instances successfully portray a few different environments, they're not all that memorable. The city is represented quite faithfully with skyscapers and neon signs, but curiously, no vehicles. It's also rather large, which is annoying considering that there's nothing to do in it but run from one NPC to another micromanaging your character.
CrimeCraft uses a third-person perspective, and I often wish I could zoom right into first person rather than always looking over the shoulder. It's particularly bothersome when you're taking cover behind something and trying to shoot over or around it, but because your sight is higher than your weapon, you hit the object instead. The right mouse button puts you in a "scope" mode, which gives you magnification and finer aim but slows you down. Most of the controls follow shooter conventions, except that, oddly enough, they've removed jump and replaced it with a roll/dodge move. Although dodging is not entirely useless, I'd prefer to be able to jump over small ankle-high obstacles rather than getting caught on them as though my feet were glued to the ground.
You have the option to play against other players or jump into cooperative matches against bots. The enemy AI is better than average; they take cover, lob grenades with impressive accuracy, and rarely rush around a corner into a storm of bullets. All of your kills, headshots, double kills, last bullet kills, and so on, are tallied and contribute to the experience points you are granted. There are about 8 types of matches, which include things like Turf War, Riot, Shootout, and SafeGuard. Most of these correspond to familiar shooter play modes such as Control Points, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, with some small variations. The most common PvE instances are Stockpile, which are essentially just shootouts where crafting materials can be gathered.
Part of the problem with CrimeCraft's PvE is that the instance design is weak. The bots respawn at regular intervals, and always in the same places, so you don't get any real sense of clearing an area. In match types with a boss it's just a slightly tougher mob that spawns after you've killed enough regular mobs. Assuming there is room, anyone can join or leave a match in progress, and they don't scale that well to different numbers or levels players, nor do they require teamwork. Despite respectable AI, PvE gets repetitive very quickly, especially since the playerbase is so small it's hard to get anything other than a Stockpile match started.
The alternative to playing against bots is to join PvP matches against other players. Perhaps the most peculiar and vexing thing about CrimeCraft is that PvP matches aren't divided by player level. Nor are you given any information upfront about who is queued for a match or what level they are. Subsequently, a new player can find themselves hopelessly fighting against much higher level players with better weapons, skills, and armor, which is no contest at all.
It's almost inconceivable that this oversight made it past the design stage, however, in the last patch they took the first step toward addressing the issue. They've introduced a handicap system and added icons to the match browser to indicate whether the average level of players in a match is higher or lower than your own. This is a small improvement, although it does nothing to guarantee that newcomers aren't hopelessly outgunned. At least now you know that if you join a match with a couple red bars beside it you're going to be cannon fodder.
Of course, this approach creates other problems. It spreads the already sparse player population over more instances, making it harder to get a PvP match going, and handicapping higher level players tends to undermine the rewards they've spent so much time working toward.