Wednesday February 20, 2019

Digital Foundry Analyzes Crackdown 3's Cloud Based Destruction

Fully destructible environments have long been a holy grail of game physics engines. I remember Red Faction: Guerrilla generating quite a bit of buzz when it came out, and according to Digital Foundry, the Crackdown devs have been working on an even more ambitious system that leverages the power of Microsoft's cloud servers. Crackdown 3 is the culmination of those efforts, and while it does have destructible environments that seem to be synced across multiplayer instances, the game itself feels rushed and somewhat underwhelming. The competitive "wrecking zone" mode, for example, has conspicuously small arenas and doesn't even have a party system, while the co-op mode still falls short of the 2015 tech demo. Check out the analysis in the video below:

What Wrecking Zone delivers is still impressive in many respects, but is definitely a simplification of the original demo - a situation which looks like a combination of both technological limitations and gameplay considerations. To begin with, the cityscape of the original demo becomes a series of enclosed holodeck-esque arenas - high on verticality, but small in terms of their overall footprint. What's clear from the 2015 demo is that it's exactly that - a demonstration, with no real gameplay as such. Limiting the scale of the play space means that players can actually find one another, which definitely helps, but there's still the sense that there's not much to actually do. The destruction can look wonderful, but little of the gameplay is actually built around the concept. Technologically, the cutbacks are legion. Micro-scale chip damage is completely absent, while destruction generally is far less granular, with buildings and statues breaking apart into more simplistic polygonal chunks. It's interesting to stack up Wrecking Zone with Red Faction Guerrilla Remastered - a game we sorely regret not covering at the time of its launch. Originally a last-gen Xbox 360 title, it does many of the same things as Wrecking Zone - on a smaller scale definitely, but with more granularity and detail. And this raises the question of whether the cloud would actually be necessary at all for Wrecking Zone.