CrimeCraft
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Mugshots of top players appear all over the city

There’s really very little variety in MMOs.  Typically you’re either a magical warrior in a Middle Earth-inspired fantasy land or some sort of intergalactic soldier.  Refreshingly in CrimeCraft you’re neither.  You’re not an elf, you’re not a space marine, you’re just a normal, kinda scrawny looking guy who’s wound up in a shady part of town and occasionally has to shoot people to make ends meet.  We can all relate to that, right?

It’s the very near future, just before tea time, and some sort of unspeakable global tragedy has befallen the human race; a global tragedy so unspeakable that the game itself refuses to talk about it.  All we’re told is that a very bad thing happened and then the governments exhausted all of their resources trying to fix it so now nobody has any money, the cities have fallen into disrepair, and violent gangs are fighting over the detritus.  Your goal is to join or create a gang and ensure that your share is bigger than anyone else’s.

CrimeCraft has an open world, just like your typical MMO, where you exchange goods with traders and pick up your missions from quest givers.  What took me by surprise was that no combat happens in this world.  You don’t even appear to carry a gun!  All of the fighting occurs in separate instances which beam you out of the MMO and into a third person shooter.  Apparently prior to installing the game I’d missed the part of the blurb that refers to CrimeCraft not as a Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game but as a “Persistent World Next-gen Shooter.”  Take a second to work out the acronym for that.  Yeah…

I quickly found that there was much more fun to be had in the Next-gen Shooter than in the Persistent World so I made every effort to spend the majority of my time busting caps in asses.  The shoot-‘em-up elements don’t push any boundaries for the genre but bullets go where you tell them to and guys fall over so that’s really all I need to be satisfied.

PVE and PVP are offered but there are a couple of problems with both formats.  The bots are fairly smart, taking up good defensive positions and flushing you out of yours with grenades, but they do commit the heinous sin of spawning in behind you.  The reason that doesn’t happen in most single player games is because you leave nothing but gradual bodily decomposition in your wake but this is a multiplayer game; massively so!  You might not be the only person in your instance so even though you may have consummately dispatched the band of thugs holed up behind the crates and moved forward towards the boss, there’s a guy just entering the map who needs to have the same game experience that you did so the thugs have respawned.  If you happen to be nearer to them than he is then you’ll be pulling buckshot out of your backside for weeks.

Onto the problem with PVP, and it’s a big one.  Nobody is playing CrimeCraft.  I’ve been working on this review for a couple of weeks now, popping in and out at all hours of the day, and I’ve never seen population listed as anything above “low” on its single server.  It’s noticeable in the open world where NPCs frequently outnumber players but the real problem is that it’s very hard to find a game with more than a handful of people in it.  What’s worse is that in PVP CrimeCraft makes no attempt to match you with similarly-levelled players and when you’re starting out you’ll encounter opponents who you have absolutely no hope against.  Even if you manage to catch them by the surprise and land a headshot their expensive, high level armour will nullify all but a fraction of the damage and your shot will serve only to inform them of your position.  Being predominantly a shooter, CrimeCraft is also the sort of game that attracts players who will delight in calling you a “noob fag” as they jump up and down on your cheaply clothed corpse, waving their Rocket Launcher Of Explosions +5.

When you’re not exchanging lead at high velocities you can explore the world and spend some time dabbling in the MMO staples of skill selection, trading, and crafting.  I’m pretty uncomfortable with the skill system in CrimeCraft.  The typical player will have two skill slots, meaning he can choose two upgrades from a list of 34 health buffs, special ammo types, and tactical tricks that will aid you in battle.  A player who pays for the privilege gets three skill slots, giving them a very significant advantage over other players.  It certainly adds value to the subscription package but I really don’t like to see the issue of payment creating such a significant difference in ability between players.

Other than handing over cold, hard IRL-bucks for an advantage you can trade in-game currency for buffed clothing and weapons to make your noob pwning that little bit more efficient.  Each weapon has a huge list of stats attached to it and fortunately the game clearly points out how new items compare with what you have equipped.  I personally would have been happy with a simple DPS stat but if you’re into guns at all I’m sure you’ll enjoy the care that’s been taken to differentiate the weapons.

If you haven’t got the cash for that fancy-looking hand cannon or anti-headshot baseball cap then you can try crafting them or haggling with someone who can.  As a Tailor, Gunsmith, Engineer, or Chemist you can make items to help you or your customers, but only if the right materials drop for you after a fight.  This was a problem I ran into and the alternative of buying materials through the auction system wasn’t feasible as a new player trying to stretch every penny as far as it would go.

As disparaging as I’ve been so far, I really want to like CrimeCraft.  I’ve got a soft spot for MMO underdogs due to years of enjoying The Matrix Online in spite of all of its faults.  Once upon a time I was even the Community Manager on another “little MMO that could.”  I know how much work goes into an MMO and I’ve seen all of the complications that make it so different from offline game development.

The trouble is that there are no sleeper hits.  In a game so dependent on player interaction on an enormous scale you need to have thousands of the buggers hammering on your door when you’re waiting to push the big, red “launch” button.  If Generic Adventure 4 doesn’t see a lot of activity in its first couple of weeks it’s not the end of the world; a few months later it’ll be a Steam deal and a bunch of new players will discover it with every one of them individually having a satisfactory experience.  When you get into CrimeCraft a few months after its release and find that there’s no-one there, your experience suffers.

With a greater population CrimeCraft would be a much more appealing prospect and I kinda wish I’d been there right at the start to see it.  As it is, CrimeCraft is a decent third person shooter with persistent progression and an open world that might have just as easily been replaced by the menus you find in a game like Call Of Duty.

CrimeCraft will run on a single core 1.6GHz processor with one gig of RAM and a GeForce 7600 or equivalent and is available now in standard and Deluxe Edition flavours.

Do you know how hard it is to take screenshots and be 1337 at the same time?!