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Crime Boss: Rockay City review: wasted star power

Crime Boss: Rockay City spends too much time on its celebrity voices and not enough on gameplay

To call the cast of Crime Boss: Rockay City star-studded would be putting it mildly. Chuck Norris, Danny Trejo, Kim Basinger, Danny Glover, and Vanilla Ice all voice in this game, just to name a few. A lot of money was spent bringing all of these big names into the game, and the marketing would have you believe that’s all that matters. However, clearly none of them were paid enough to put on a decent performance.

Norris gives the bare minimum amount of energy into his performance, with all his lines sounding fairly forced, and Kim Basinger sounds like she’s just woken up from a coma every time she speaks, and everyone else is passable at best.

This game’s writing is all about the over-the-top tropes of heist movies and gangster movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. That style of writing requires equally over-the-top performances to make it work, and none of this cast even tried, making it yet another example of how video game acting is wildly different from on-screen acting, and proper gaming voice actors should get these roles.

Crime Boss Rockay City

The gameplay style and overall presentation of this game might make you believe that it’s designed primarily as a co-op experience, á-la Payday, and there is indeed a dedicated co-op mode with mini-campaigns. However, if you’re buying the game primarily for that, then you’ll be disappointed.

Each co-op game is a series of 5-10 minute quick heists where you’ll attempt to stealthily reach your target, screw it up, and then all hell breaks loose. That is a fun gameplay loop, but the short mission times mean you can never settle into it, and things are usually over before they reach peak intensity.

This is because the co-op mode is not the primary focus of the game, with that instead being the single-player campaign. It was a bold move for this sort of game, and a lot of people are going to feel let down by the co-op stuff being treated as an afterthought.

Crime Boss Rockay City map

That said, the single-player mode is absolutely worth playing. It brands itself as a roguelike, but it’s more appropriate to simply say it has some roguelike mechanics.

Rockay City is split into 30 sections of territory, and it’s your job to slowly go from one little corner to owning the entire map. To do that you must pull heists to earn money, and then spend that money on growing your crew, expanding your army, and attacking other territories. It’s a little bit like the board game Risk in a way, except every time you want to attack, you have to actually play out the battle.

In this context, the quicker jobs work really well. It gives a constant feeling of forward momentum to run into a place, smash and grab the valuables, and then shoot your way to the escape van. Plus there are lots of risk-reward elements, as you can always try and go back for more to progress quicker, but the cops will clamp down on you harder. What’s more, you can choose whether or not to bring the protagonist on a mission. Do so and he can progress towards really useful gameplay bonuses, but if you get him killed, it’s game over.

Crime Boss Rockay City, gang member

It makes each individual mission pretty fun, and the solid arcadey shooting keeps the action fast-paced and fun. Of course, there is the downside that you have to play every mission with AI companions, as there is no co-op option for this campaign. To the game’s credit, the AI are pretty competent. They’re smart enough not to mindlessly get themselves killed, and they do things like loot and secure money on their own – even if you do have to hurry them along sometimes. You can switch the character you’re controlling at any time, though, which helps avoid a lot of frustration.

That said, after a few goes around, I found my interest waning pretty fast because, as enjoyable as the core loop is, it can get pretty repetitive. The solo missions are a great example of this. There are a handful of characters you can recruit to your crew along the way that have their own dedicated series of missions. They’re mostly story-based with small chunks of gameplay, which is fine the first time, but extremely boring when you have to do it every single playthrough, and you can’t skip.

It makes Crime Boss: Rockay City a game that falls short of its potential. I like what it’s offering, but the execution is just a little off in almost every aspect. If you play through the single-player campaign, you will have a good time, but it won’t last more than two or three playthroughs, which is not good for a mode that brands itself as a roguelike.

Score: 6/10

Version tested: PC (Epic Games Store)