Crime Boss: Rockay City hands-on – a '90s fever dream FPS heist 'em up that's as wild as it is weird

Crime Boss: Rockay City
(Image credit: 505)

The plan in this Crime Boss: Rockay City four-player co-op mission was to stealth our way into a warehouse, stuff as many vacuum-packed bags of pills into our carryalls, peg it to the getaway van, and drive off into the sunset. I say was because that plan went to shit almost immediately. One of our crew members was spotted while ducking behind a dumpster (it wasn't me, I swear), which led to a brutal firefight that we scraped through by the skin of our teeth. Our dreams of Ocean's Eleven quickly made way for something more reflective of Guy Ritchie's back catalog, as we shouted expletives aloud in real life and shot blindly at trigger-happy villains in-game. 

The plan now is to survive the waves of absolutely livid cops closing in around us – armed with shields and machine guns; jumping out of patrol wagons and rappelling from choppers – and make off with whatever loot we can still salvage. If we fail, we'll be taunted by police force leader Chuck Norris, and cursed by our boss Michael Madsen. Later, Vanilla Ice will goad us on the other end of a Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, aka those larger-than-your-head early cell phones, and Michael Rooker will rally the troops in typically unhinged fashion. Crime Boss: Rockay City is wild and weird, unashamed of its inspirations, and unafraid to lean into the spectacle that underpins just about everything it does. 

I had fun going hands-on with the 90s-set, B-movie-aping FPS-meets-action strategy game. But my one lingering question is: who is Crime Boss: Rockay City actually for?

Back to the future

Crime Boss: Rockay City

(Image credit: 505)

I was born in the mid-80s and grew up with films like Heat, Ronin, the Usual Suspects, and the straight-to-VHS Back to Back. I used my pocket money to buy Vanilla Ice's 'Ice Ice Baby' on cassette from Woolworths, and, at eight years old, snuck downstairs after my parents had fallen asleep to watch their Blockbuster Video rental of Reservoir Dogs. This era appeals to me, as does Rockay City's interpretation of it – its youthful takes on Kim Bassinger, Danny Glover, Damien Poitier and all. But I can't confidently say this appeal is universal. 

In the throes of its bullet-torn heists, granted, this isn't important. But Crime Boss: Rockay City commits so much of its identity to its throwback celebrity roster, that it's a point worth raising up front. Younger players might have an affinity with its bygone star-studded cast – whose likeness depicts how each actor looked 30 years ago – but part of me worries their presence has more scope to distract than sell what the game is offering. 

Because beyond the façade of its recognizable Hollywood repertoire, Crime Boss: Rockay City delivers a solid, entertaining, fast and frantic first-person shooter, whereby you're tasked with infiltrating predetermined locations, robbing them blind, and getting the hell out of there before you're arrested or carted out in a body bag. The latter is likely – "You. Will. Fail," reads the game's promotional material – which means success is often hinged on trial and error, experimentation, assembling the best crew with the most varied skillset, and leaning into every slice of luck that presents itself.

Rockay City: Crime Boss

(Image credit: 505)

"It's in these circumstantial moments that Crime Boss: Rockay City thrives – and while it's possible to play entirely solo, I reckon it's at its most appealing in four-player PVE co-op online."

During the aforementioned blitz, luck presented itself in the form of me making a bit of an arse of myself. We'd gutted the warehouse of pills, and one of my peers was drilling a diamond safe in the back of an abandoned van in the car park out front. I'm not sure why, but I mistook the van for our getaway van and tossed all of my loot inside. By the time I realized our actual getaway van was 500 yards away, I was forced to sprint back to recover my goods against the clock – and in doing so, managed to dodge an onslaught from the aggressive SWAT team who'd parasailed down the side of an adjacent building. My poor teammates were ambushed, but my screw up meant I could then attack from behind amid the foray undetected, because the AI police officers hadn't cottoned on to my location. If I hadn't messed up, I'd have been stuck with low ammo, and would've almost certainly died. 

It's in these circumstantial moments that Crime Boss: Rockay City thrives – and while it's possible to play entirely solo, I reckon it's at its most appealing in four-player PVE co-op online. With a suite of different characters boasting different weapons (pistols, uzis, sniper rifles and baseball bats among many others) and secondary skills (such as grenades or health that can be shared among the team), finding the best match for each mission will be key in your bid to take over the city, sector-by-sector, in a gang turf war model that echoes everything from GTA 5 to PayDay 2, Rainbow Six: Siege, and even Splatoon. In doing so, you'll smash up high-end jewelry stores, ransack museums, and shoot the crap out of rival gang headquarters – sentencing your enemies to brutal death, and doing everything you can to avoid civilian casualties. 

With Crime Boss: Rockay City now closing in quickly on its March 28, 2023 release date – on PC via the Epic Games Store, with PS5 and Xbox Series X "coming soon" – we'll find out soon enough whether its old school celebrity roster is considered an asset or an aversion. No matter how it handles its narrative trappings, though, this game will be judged on its ability to deliver the same chaos, carnage, and buzz levied by the thrill of the chase portrayed so well by its inspirations. I've barely scratched the surface to this end, but I'm quietly confident Crime Boss: Rockay City is on the money.

If you like shooting and stealing you might like our best games like GTA roundup 

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.