Expounding on the premise of the original CrimeCraft, Bleedout adds more tweaks, more missions, and sets a far darker tone than its advertisement-laden predecessor. But can it stand on its own? Read on, won’t you?
The post-apocalyptic world CCBO sets itself in is not the end result of a great war or natural disaster. It is the result of what is called the big Bleed Out. Simply put: one day we ran out of oil. As a result; industry, large-scale governance, and plain ol’ human decency went out the window. However, there are pockets of civilization (such as it is) left in the world, and Sunrise city is one such pocket.
As a refugee from the intractable wastes of what was once America, you are quickly introduced into a culture of violence and… more violence (which makes us wonder why leaving the wastes was all that important in the first place). Rather than offering a wide-open world a la World of Warcraft, CCBO efficiently splits its focus between two playing fields: wander-able Sunrise City and discrete instances. The city functions as a hub between missions. Here you can buy/sell/make equipment, join and create “gangs,” learn skills and professions, and basically do everything you can to be more effective out in the field. Instances are small, multiplayer arenas (that ostensibly occur in the lawless areas outside the city) and are the central mechanic behind completing quests and leveling up.
The twitch-based action in these arenas is as fast paced and brutal as any game of Quake. Using all manner of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and anything else that spits lethal projectiles, players will vie for their respective objectives against NPCs and each other. However, unlike Quake, higher levels and better equipment are usually a fine substitute for skill. There were many matches where we placed several well-aimed shots into an opponent’s skull, only to be killed by a glancing blow from that same opponent’s over-powered assault rifle. Also, there’s no jumping.
Such frustrating matters aside, missions in CCBO are a blast, and even offer a tad more to do than the standard MMO fare. Aside from “kill the bad guys” or “find the item” players may find themselves sneaking into enemy strongholds to listen to their conversations, intercepting radio broadcasts while dodging bullets, or even performing rescue missions (which are not as frustrating as they could be.) The AI behavior in CCBO can get surprisingly competent: enemies will wait in ambush, dodge incoming fire, and flush players out with grenades, smoke, and Molotovs. Since these same missions are really the only viable way of leveling, there is really no grind to CrimeCraft – though there are ways of gaining additional XP by accepting passive missions from the Brokers. Broker missions function more like achievements than anything else, as they don’t really ask the player to do anything he shouldn’t already be doing, but confer one-time cash and XP bonuses for completing simple tasks like “kill 5 opponents with an assault rifle.”
While the multiplayer action in CCBO is surprisingly well done for a free-to-play MMO, the hub between missions leaves much to be desired. Most of the things the player will need to do here can be accomplished from the Tab menu, very nearly making any sort of travel unnecessary – thus calling into question the point of an overworld at all.
Aside from being a badass by day, players will take on a profession between firefights. As such, the player can craft, equip, and sell items with loot obtained on-mission. One such profession we chose was tailoring… pretty much because it was the most non-“gangsta” profession we could find (the others: gunsmith, chemist and engineer). Even at mid levels, however, it was difficult to find the necessary materials to sew anything more complicated than a t-shirt. This included attempting to purchase the requisite materials from NPC merchants, and even the player-run auction house. If you really want the good stuff, (like better weapons and armor) you’ll probably have to buy it. And by “buy it” we mean literally, through a micro-transaction process.
Sadly, while CCBO is able to craft an interesting premise surrounding the Big Bleed Out, it fails to come through in the atmosphere of the game. The character design makes all the men look like junkies and all the females look like prostitutes. While the environments look post-apocalyptic, the production values fall flat when the game resorts to telling the story through walls of text. It’s also hard to care about what story there is when you know that all the major factions are just a different shade of scum.
If you want some decent online multiplayer action and don’t mind being nickeled and dimed for your trouble, CCBO may be worth a look. The mission variety, consistent skill curve, and twitch-based gameplay of the title distinguish it from the hotkey-laden affairs that others offer. However, it simply does not deliver on the long-term appeal or rewards that a great MMO should.
Feb 4, 2011