I really wanted to like CrimeCraft. It looked like it had all the ingredients to be a great MMO. Instead, it is a consolidation of everything bad from a collection of MMOs.
This isn't to suggest that it's a wasted effort, or that the game doesn't have its high points, because it does. It's just that those high points feel dated and possibly done better elsewhere. In a way it's a shame, because the combat system for a MMO is revolutionary. It's everything else that's wrapped around the combat that is lacking.
For a pure shooter, this wouldn't be an issue, but for a game that bills itself as part role-playing, it's a huge issue. Access to skills, weapons, armor, and boosts is limited and is not intuitive. These things can make a difference between rocking the PvP (player-vs-player) instances and being last on the leaderboard with a mess of deaths. With other MMOs, this is less of an issue because there is a wealth of PvE (player-vs-environment) content outside of the PvP areas, but in CrimeCraft—fully instanced similar to Guild Wars—the vast majority of the content consists of instanced PvP areas. This means you spend a ton of time in bot-controlled PvE instances earning pittances of cash until you can buy a minor upgrade to compete a minor amount more in the PvP instances. In a pure shooter, this isn't an issue, because all players have access to the same weapons. Sure, there may be competition over the ubiquitous rocket launcher, but everyone has a shot. In CrimeCraft, some lucky few get the resources to obtain extra-deadly weaponry and extra-impervious armor while the rest of the population gets to do Hamburger Hill runs with a T-Shirt and shotgun—literally.
I hesitate to call the game a mess because there are some things it handles well. It suffers from dysfunction, though, and that's apparent. It's like the design team decided what was successful from other MMOs and shooters and incorporated those elements in the most annoying ways. The profession system and auction house from World of Warcraft has been replicated, but feels a bit distant. The player has to grope around in the dark to figure out how to craft items, and it's unclear how or where to obtain items to make anything. Even the auction house is counter-intuitive. It has a “cancel” button but no button to create an auction. To do one, you set your item, bid price, buyout price, then, counter-intuitively, close the window. In every application designed for a Windows environment since Windows 3.1, if you close a window without pressing a button like “OK,” the changes are discarded. CrimeCraft feels like twenty years of default usability should be thrown out the window.
The outdoor areas feel like the PvE areas of City of Heroes, but without any enemies whatsoever. Instead, the strangely large, empty outdoor zones act as an extended lobby for the instances. There is nothing to do outside the instances other than run to the long distances between quest givers, vendors, and instance gatekeepers. However, there really isn't any reason to go anywhere than to camp the auctioneer, because you can queue into any instance at any time through the quick-join system. Imagine if a whole game were crafted around hanging out next to the Battlemasters in Warcraft, except that the entire world was that little hut, and instead of a little hut, it took five minutes of game-running to get from the battlemaster to a vendor to unload trash. If that sounds like fun to you, then CrimeCraft is a perfect environment.
This all wouldn't be too bad except for six things that destroy any goodwill or addictive quality the gameplay offers. First, in the PvE instances, the bots are ridiculously easy to kill, even though they exhibit decent AI: seek cover, work in teams, etc. Second, rather than ease the player into the details of the game, CrimeCraft throws everything at the player from the get-go, and the thirty-words-or-less “tutorials” are laughably short on useful information. Thirdly, for all the copying of Warcraft and City of Heroes apparent, there are very few quests and very little to do other than running the same brainless instances over and over again. Fourthly, the instances are set up for PvP, so there is a circular feel to them, with a couple of blind corners to make campers happy, but there's no reference to the spawn points and no real progression. Fifthly, even with a top-of-the-line machine with the graphics amped up to their max, this game is ugly and suffers from the same strangely disconnected graphics that consoles suffer from. Lastly, the interface is poorly designed and takes a learning curve of its own to get used to. There is much more to pick at with CrimeCraft, but a list of six huge issues is enough to review without piling on.
ISSUE 1: PvE CONTENT IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL. First, a disclaimer. The AI is, on its face, actually pretty good. The bots don't advance without help and they routinely take cover. However, any player will quickly figure out that a gain-aggro-retreat-behind-cover-stand-up-shoot-in-the-face tactic works time after time. Since CrimeCraft is more a shooter than MMO, having a shampoo-rinse-repeat aspect to the gameplay is unforgivable and feels like something from the early 90's.
ISSUE 2: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I'm reminded here of a scene from the movie Slap Shot. When the Hanson Brothers are out beating the tar out of the opponent before the opening face-off, a fellow Chief says to himself, “too much, too soon.” CrimeCraft likewise is too much, too soon. Its very non-standard, non-intuitive interface is thrown at the player without any introduction. The world is thrown at the player without an explanation as to what the mailbox, leaderboards, telephones, and the myriad other map symbols mean. There is no jump action in the game. Your avatar will routinely get stuck on four-inch ledges where a jump would help, but for some reason, it's not in the game. That's only the beginning, however. Skills, professions, and guilds—strike that, “gangs”—are implemented without any explanation. It will take the casual player five to ten levels of instance grinding just to figure out how to sell vendor trash and find a profession. The interface is so counter-intuitive that even the context-sensitive help is confusing.
ISSUE 3: WHERE IS EVERYBODY? There are a handful of quest givers inside the enormous area of the game. These quest givers give one, two, or maybe if you're lucky three quests. When you complete a quest, it's not apparent you've gotten your reward. Again, you're supposed to click the window closed and hope for the best. Instead of other MMOs, where you complete maybe a half- or full-dozen quests per level, you'll complete a half-dozen levels per quest here. This leaves the player with a horrible “what am I supposed to do next?” feeling.
ISSUE 4: THIS REALLY IS A GAME OF ROTATING PVP MAPS. There are no real objectives to the instances. Indeed, the maps are drawn out to enhance PvP. Everything is circular without many safe zones. Respawns happen quickly and with minimal delay. The players find themselves surrounded in wild-west shootouts at all times. The environment isn't instanced as much as it is a repeating series of “Soldier of Fortune” style botmatches. There is nothing to do in this game other than kill bots or kill players. Other games do this much better and without a subscription fee.
ISSUE 5: BLAND, UGLY, EMPTY. The gameworld here is ugly. The environments feel dated, possibly a decade old. Nothing moves in the game world other than the occasional player and somewhat more occasional NPC. The objects are without vast detail and are bland up close. This game suffers from the usual console problem of having character models hyper-detailed to the point you can see stitching on the pants, while environment graphics are lacking, where hug buildings look rough and unfinished. Everything has a gray cast to it, and the game feels like it has no contrast. The instances are uninspired, basically the same maps full of junk. The warehouse of junk, the shipyard of junk, the interior of junk, the factory of junk, etc. are all here. If this game were ten years old, there'd be much hear to rave about, but it's not and feels like a throwback.
ISSUE 6: THE INTERFACE. While many of the interface problems have been discussed already, it's important to note that in this case the interface detracts so much from the gameplay that it alone is enough to recommend staying away from the game. Default key mapping is odd. Interacting with the game world is non-existent. Instead of being second-nature, the interface has to be thought-about, and with a shooter, any second thinking about what key needs to be pressed is a second the player is probably getting wiped.
On top of all of that, there are some other gripes, like misspellings in the game, random hard lockups, an install routine that seems to think putting a launch icon in the Programs menu is optional, and server populations so low players can go for a long time without seeing a fellow player.
All of this all boils down to one huge bet where CrimeCraft loses. That bet is that the PvP is so addictive and well-formed that the other shortcomings are easily overlooked. Unfortunately, the PvP is unbalanced and in some cases unfair. It is unbalanced insofar that the matches are hugely gear-dependent and the game makes no attempt to ensure teams are geared on a balanced scale. Frequently matches are fought with one side running around in t-shirts, jeans, and pea-shooters and the other running around in full body armor with rocket launchers, sniper rifles, grenades, and mines. The game is unfair in some ways as well. In a capture-the-flag match, what the game calls “snatch and grab,” if the flag is dropped, it takes a cooldown to resolve before a defending player can pick it up. Players on offense can pick it up without a delay. Watching a timer count down while an enemy runs by and grabs immediately what you're trying to pick up through a timer is frustrating and makes me wonder how much of this was playtested. Because the PvP has such shortcomings, it highlights what is wrong in other areas of the game.
I want to recommend CrimeCraft, I really do. However, with the frustrating gameplay, graphics that seem overly dated, and the game trying to do too much without doing anything well, I seriously wonder if I wouldn't have had more fun lighting cigars with the same two twenty-dollar bills I used to pay for this game.