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CrimeCraft – hands-on

The Horde hates the Alliance. When there’s a downpour downtown in City of Heroes, the villains don’t give the good guys a ride to work. A high elf archmage in Warhammer Online wouldn’t take a goblin shaman to prom.

Conflict sustains MMOs. If you’re putting in 30 or 40 hours a week, lore can only do so much - at some point, player-created history, alliances, and rivalries start driving the experience. With that in mind, we can’t think of a better stand-in for “meet you in the parking lot after school” than an MMO set on a lawless penal island colony - Sunrise City, CrimeCraft’s urban dystopia ruled by player-formed gangs competing for prestige, with nary a hero in sight to ruin the fun.

We’re wandering through an alpha build of Sunrise to gather missions, recruit members, and swap the scope on our sniper rifle before queuing for a match. Think of Sunrise as a massive, graffiti-lined lobby for gathering items and socializing; not a combat zone, but a contextual space to justify why we’re dressing up in a camo vest and exchange-student jeans to lob Molotov cocktails in an 8-on-8 team match.

Behind Unreal 3 tech, the loose combat prioritizes action over tactics, like The Club or Mercenaries 2; we sprint-roll between stacked shipping crates at a dockyard, recklessly sprinkling C4 and mines on surfaces, two of our three maximum abilities. Our other feat, optical camo, makes us invisible long enough to hole up in a corner and pick off a few targets through our custom scope. Active loot adds another chaotic element: At one point we rush to a corpse we didn’t kill to nab some dropped goods; later on, we use another loot-littered corpse as bait to lure an opponent.

EXP is earned when the round wraps up, but better, our gang rank also jumps, letting us unlock a new hideout item. We like the idea of gang hideouts, customizable private areas (animal-print upholstery!) where your crew can socialize and strategize, and operate crafting stations to create weapons or “substances,” less-than-legal consumables that enhance combat ability.

There are more than a few social shooters en route to the PC in ’09 (Quake Live, Parabellum, Global Agenda, Battlefield Heroes), a trend we hope spurs a multiplayer scene that actively preserves the time we invest. We want more persistency in our shooters - something that puts our rivalries and leaderboard rank front-and-center, flaunts our 10:1 kill/death ratio, and gives us enough offensive emotes to rub our foes’ faces in it. We’ll see if CrimeCraft takes this approach when the beta rolls out this summer.

+ Has promise as a platform for social shooting, over-the-top character customization, and third-person warfare in an innately conflict-encouraging setting. Integrated voice chat, instanced PvE, and leaderboard tracking are welcome adds.
– Will shoehorning MMO elements water-down the shooting mechanics? We’re hoping for a land-grab campaign or something similar to give gangs a way of competing month-to-month.

Feb 11, 2009