Crime Boss: Rockay City is a strange yet appropriately titled first-person shooter that is filled to the brim with de-aged versions of movie stars from days long past, and features a few different types of gameplay mechanics. If you were confused about the exact nature of the game and who it even might be for based on early trailers, you definitely aren’t alone.
My experience playing Crime Boss: Rockay City has been something of a roller coaster. At first glance, I thought the game was going to be a level-based shooter with GTA vibes and a similar style of writing. That’s not what the game ultimately is though, and the truth is much stranger. Is Crime Boss: Rockay City worth your precious time and legally earned, not stolen money?
To begin, Crime Boss: Rockay City is not exactly a run-of-the-mill level-based shooter. It does have a number of maps that missions play out on, but a more appropriate descriptor would be “action roguelike”. In fact, the game’s campaign actually bills itself as a “unique roguelike experience”, something most people will probably skim over.
"The enemy AI is not very bright, and as long as you’re crouched you have so much time to get out of their line of sight before you’re “spotted” that you could essentially crouch-walk through entire missions without being discovered for the most part."
But before you dive headfirst into the campaign, the game strongly suggests you complete the tutorial. In it, my initial expectations were turned upside down when I was presented with a tutorial that surprisingly outlined a heist game, where you go into an area with a squad of four characters that you can switch between and disable security, infiltrate a facility, steal the goods, and get out before the cops show up.
Instead of immediately shooting up the place, you’re shown that you can threaten civilians and security to make them surrender and avoid conflict, and then zip-tie them so they don’t become an issue during the heist. In fact, I don’t think you fire your gun once in the entire tutorial, or at least I didn’t. From this first taste, Crime Boss seemed like it would be a thoughtful game where patience and strategy are rewarded, one where you don’t need to leave piles of bodies in your wake.
And then you jump into the real game, and those new expectations also get turned on their head and thrown out a window.
The game’s intro is loud and bombastic, with plenty of bullets, blood, and bodies. This is what we were shown before the game’s release, though it’s not really what the whole game is, and later missions only get rowdy if you want them to. Seriously, the enemy AI is not very bright, and as long as you’re crouched you have so much time to get out of their line of sight before you’re “spotted” that you could essentially crouch-walk through entire missions without being discovered for the most part.
I was able to do that for many of my missions, which also revealed one of many bugs and glitches in this game: enemies just pop into existence when the getaway car arrives, but not in places where it would be discreet. I had enemies materialize just a few feet away from me once I had enough loot to exfiltrate, breaking immersion immediately. While sneaking is an option and it’s incredibly easy to do, it seems that the developer’s intent is probably to have the majority of missions devolve into shootouts pretty often so that you miss these magical henchmen.
"The more attention you draw and the more trouble you cause, the more highly-equipped police will show up until you inevitably get overwhelmed by enemies who sometimes feel invincible. It disincentivizes getting into action and feels unbalanced."
When the bullets do start flying, it’s a mixed bag. There’s a confident smoothness to zeroing in on enemies, and the guns I used felt appropriately powerful with decent feedback so my comparisons to level-based shooters held up in that regard, but then you have the GTA-like heat system. The more attention you draw and the more trouble you cause, the more highly-equipped police will show up until you inevitably get overwhelmed by enemies who sometimes feel invincible. It disincentivizes getting into action and feels unbalanced.
And that’s not even the worst of it.
The game is structured in such a way that you only spend short bursts of time actually on missions that quickly become repetitive and boring, with the rest of your time being spent in cutscenes or managing different facets of becoming a “Crime Boss”. You hire crew, sell goods you steal in missions, and expand your area of influence with Turf Wars. The issue is that there are only a handful of models for the crew members, resulting in you having multiple of the same people with different clothes which is jarring to see, selling your wares is just a menu, and Turf Wars are tedious.
What’s even worse, is that since the game is a roguelike, crewmembers who die in missions are gone for good, and if you happen to take the protagonist out on a mission and he dies, the entire run is over. This is standard for the genre, but when a game feels as buggy and broken as Crime Boss, it’s very off-putting. The game is only occasionally fun to play, which is worsened by what was supposed to be its headlining feature: its cast.
As you probably know from the trailers, Travis Baker is played by Michael Madsen, an actor known for his roles in movies like Kill Bill, Species, Reservoir Dogs, and The Hateful Eight. Mr. Madsen is sixty-five years old now, though his in-game model represents a de-aged version of him as he was in his mid-thirties. And he’s not alone! This game also stars a few other de-aged stars you might recognize from the 80s and 90s, including Kim Basinger, Michael Rooker, Danny Glover, Danny Trejo, and Chuck Norris. The entire cast was clearly hired for the purpose of nostalgia rather than their voice-acting abilities.
"The entire cast was clearly hired for the purpose of nostalgia rather than their voice-acting abilities. To the aging actors’ credits, they aren’t given much to work with in terms of writing."
To the aging actors’ credits, they aren’t given much to work with in terms of writing. The story is structured and presented as an early 90s action film, perhaps as a means of making the younger versions of its now aged cast make more sense, but it unfortunately also has all of the poor representation, objectification, and ham-fisted dialogue those movies are known for, And not even in a fun way. There is also a forced attempt to be “wacky” that doesn’t do the game any favors. A scattered number of scenes and lines elicited a singular chuckle from me, but the vast majority of those were thanks to the comical disinterest you can hear in Chuck Norris’ voice as he patronizes you about how you messed up your run.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Gunplay is decent; The strange combination of actors that make up the cast is novel.
Many immersion-breaking bugs; Unbalanced difficulty; Writing and voice acting is seriously bad.
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