MMO's have always posed a challenge for the modern day game critic. With constantly evolving content, the game is actively changing from day to day, and it's difficult to accurately assess a game that's in this constant state of flux. One needs to not only critique a game in its current state, but also make an educated guess as to how much potential it has moving forward. This is the dilemma with CrimeCraft.
It's been our site's policy to review a game once, and with an extremely rare few exceptions we've stuck to those guns. Typically an average MMO review should take weeks, often you're only scratching the surface of the game by the time you're asked to write your thoughts. For these reasons, and others which will come clear as you read through this preview, you'll see why we've decided to hold off formally reviewing CrimeCraft. With a major update due in a few weeks that will drastically alter the game; a review at this point won't represent the state of the online world in the very near future.
A little background: CrimeCraft is a persistent world shooter developed by the folks at Vogster Entertertainment. The game is set is a post-apocalyptic world, little is known about how you've gotten there, but as it stands you're living in one of the few remaining cities. Protected by walls and an organized squad of militants, the city is under constant attack from outsiders. It's very much a dog eat dog environment, where you'll square off against waves of attackers to protect the city, and fight those inside in a battle for supremacy.
CrimeCraft "soft launched" in August, and went almost unnoticed. Shipping at a standard retail price of around fifty bucks, plus a required monthly subscription fee, is a significant investment to make in a game. Even though the retail price was quickly dropped to around thirty bucks, MMO's thrive on having huge populations, the more people playing the better the experience, and this is something that needs to change if this one has any chance of success. Given the major content and pricing model changes scheduled in early November, I'm going to avoid overly criticizing the game, but I'll do my best to describe the game in its current state. As well, I'll highlight some of the more notable elements that are both good and areas that need to be addressed.
CrimeCraft features both PVE and PVP content, but you'll quickly find the PVE content to be very shallow, the bulk of effort was put into the PVP modes. The storytelling in PVE is weak, and the game doesn't do a great job of driving you to play unless you really enjoy shooting it out with bots. Mind you, the AI is pretty sharp, and certain PVE modes can be a lot of fun, taking down wave upon wave of hapless gangsters. But, there just isn't a lot there. This is an area that the developers need to focus on if the game is to succeed in the crowded MMO space, and an area that is currently lacking.
The PVP on the other hand is very solid, backed by decent shooting mechanics. A variety of maps and modes of play are available that'll keep you interested for a while, and it's clear the development team focused on the PVP content. Even so, you'll eventually find that the game gets repetitive even with the best teammates. With regards to the shooting mechanics, CrimeCraft makes a few interesting decisions, notably the use of a third-person view and the lack of jumping. While these design decisions do prevent the annoying bunny hopping we've grown to accept in most shooters, an equally annoying roll can be found in CrimeCraft that seems to serve a similar purpose. The lack of jumping can also cause a few problems when interacting with the environments, small ledges and railings can get in the way during a firefight and occasionally result in an untimely death. The existing level design will require some tweaking but should these issues be smoothed out the game will make for an excellent shooter in its own right.
Unfortunately, there are a few other areas that need improvement to make this a full fledged MMO. RPG elements aren't flushed out enough, and the game doesn't feel very deep in its current state. CrimeCraft emphases its "gang" model, the ability to recruit new members and create a complex gang hierarchy. Gangs can have a customizable hideout, and there are definitely reasons to be part of one, notably the crafting benefits of being able to get the best weapons in the game. Unfortunately, there just aren't currently enough players to really satisfy this element of the game successfully, something that will very likely change with the new free-to-play model starting in November.
I think the biggest "flaw" with CrimeCraft is the expectations. The name itself is deceiving, as the game really doesn't have many of the traditional "crime" elements you'd instantly associate when you hear it. This is definitely not an online version of Grand Theft Auto, and while you can form gangs, you can't go and rob banks, or really do anything of a criminal nature besides killing people. Even understanding that, the game doesn't feel like one coherent package in its current state, there are missing elements and the game tries to pull you in a number of directions, none of which really pan out. That isn't to entirely dismiss CrimeCraft, but it's almost like you need to treat the game as a work in progress.
The development team recognizes these problems, and I sat down with a few of them recently to discuss these specific issues. It's the result of these discussions that we've opted to hold our full review of the game until mid-November, after a large gameplay update and new pricing structure is introduced that will greatly change the value proposition of the game, and hopefully address some of these launch issues. In the update, the development team has focused heavily on expanding the PVE content, and trying to better streamline some of the ideas that felt half-complete when the game shipped.
The biggest change however is to the subscription and purchasing model, and this alone was our biggest reason not to review the game. Originally launched as a retail product with a monthly subscription fee, CrimeCraft is going to be offered as a free-to-play game moving forward, with an optional retail option and subscription account. While the free version will gain XP much slower, and players with a subscription will get better in-game recognition, you won't be hindered by the lack of a monthly account. This will ideally address one of CrimeCraft's biggest problems right now, the lack of people playing. Frankly, our overall outlook on the game changes under these conditions, what may have been described as a mediocre MMO quickly becomes one of the better free-to-play games available, with production values that surpass nearly any other free-to-play game to date.
Given the drastic pricing and content updates, it's extremely difficult to predict how CrimeCraft will fare as a long-term MMO candidate. Yes, it's important to launch with a solid amount of content and keep your initial player base happy for the long term. And while CrimeCraft did falter in this respect the game has a lot of long-term potential.
If we were to fully critique CrimeCraft based on what's available right now, frankly, it wouldn't do well. The game just doesn't offer enough to justify the price point. However, as a potentially free-to-play game, with no subscription fee, CrimeCraft is looking more appealing. We'll wait and see what comes of the November update and new pricing structure, and have a full review a few weeks after the update rolls out.