The making of Crime Boss: Rockay City first hit the airwaves at The Game Awards 2022. It was a mega surprise, not because of the gameplay but because of the Hollywood cast attached. There is talk of Michael Madsen as protagonist Travis Baker, Chuck Norris as Sherriff Norris, Danny Glover as Gloves, and Kim Basinger as Casey, among others. Yes, very creative names, and mostly big-shot actors from the 1990s.
The reveal featured so many star-studded actors that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Does Crime Boss: Rockay City live up to its expectations? Is it a worthwhile game to play or worth spending your bucks on? Here's Crime Boss: Rockay City Review.
Crime Boss: Rockay City is a first-person shooter that can only be described as a game that throws all its might at a wall, trying to see what sticks. It’s a mush of ideas, some highly welcome, others not so much. While playing, you’ll find the strokes of heist games like Payday and GTA on its canvas.
That’s despite the game strictly not being advertised as a heist game. There are also roguelike elements attached to it, with moments where certain deaths seem inevitable. And, of course, the signature turf war that’s definitely a must-play element in the description box.
Take a Trip to Rockay City
But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is Crime Boss: Rockay City about? Well, it sets off in a thriving metropolis called Rockay City that looks a lot like 1980s Miami. Crime and vice thrive here, and a vicious turf war is ongoing. The present crime boss gets blown to oblivion, and, you guessed it, rival gangs go up against one another to take over his territory.
Travis Baker, who’s the main criminal protagonist, is one of those rival gangs looking to rule Rockay City’s underworld crime. He needs to amass the resources to do so, though, so he (you) embarks on a series of heists. Each heist is a standalone nugget of either robbing a bank, an armored truck, a cartel warehouse, a jewelry store, or just some everyday burglary in the thick of the night.
You do get help taking over Rockay City, one crime at a time, through a squad. Each team member has a different set of skills that can either be an advantage or a disadvantage to you.
So, you have to keep an eye out for the characters who’ll help you get away with as much loot as possible. Get the bare minimum of loot, and you win the level.
Let’s Talk Strategy
I think one thing I quite enjoyed is the game's tactical gameplay. Besides knowing which characters you can rely on, you also need to strategize how to orchestrate the heist.
Will you sneak stealthily through the back doors or go in guns blazing, zip-tying civilians, and preparing for the shootouts that follow once the SWAT teams get to the vicinity? On some levels, the game urges you to use stealth. So, you listen and do as you’re told.
That said, even if you do listen and use stealth, literally crouching behind an entire car and slowly sneaking around a heist building, somehow, some camera from out of nowhere spots you and your guns blazing. At no point did stealth ever work for me, at least not for the entirety of a specific level.
It’s almost like the game wants you to pull out your guns, whether you like it or not. Maybe if the whole heist and firing hellfire on cops and gangs didn’t feel pretty satisfying, I’d have called it a day way earlier.
Look and Feel
As much as gunplay feels satisfying, with the loud gun noises and clattering of bullets elevating the experience further, it’s a bit weird when things like cops flooding out of magic doors or appearing right in front of you start happening. Also, why does Crime Boss: Rockay City feel out of place and time?
The fashion, clothing, and all of it feel like the 80s. However, the guns feel like Modern Warfare replicas. There’s also the floaty feel of firing a gun. It feels like shots sway to the side of the target, or maybe that’s a difficulty issue that becomes more accurate in the latter stages of the game.
Permadeath at Your Door
Speaking of difficulty, there’re points where SWAT teams grow more resilient. The increase in numbers and result in extended shootouts; you likely won’t come out alive. Not to mention GTA’s wanted slice of pie. Essentially, the more chaos you unleash, the higher your wanted status rises, and we don’t want that, do we?
All the usual spikes in difficulty aside, Crime Boss: Rockay City does issue another feature that I frankly didn’t see coming in a game like this. That’s the roguelike feature where you definitely won’t make it out alive on the first try. If you did, I’d be happy to give you my thumbs up.
It’s quite an innovative path to take, given that similar games to Crime Boss: Rockay City steer clear of the roguelike road. You’ll find the roguelike feature in Baker’s Battle Mode. The other modes include Crime Time, where you can jump in at any time to do some compulsive heisting.
Also, Urban Legends is pretty cool, where you get six mini-campaigns of three levels in a row. It’s cool because there’s a kind of loose story knitting the campaigns together. If you fail any of the levels, you’re whisked off to start again from the beginning.
Baker’s Battle is a single-player, tasking players with daily heist doses on the road to the top. The more territories you take over, the closer you get to being Rockay City’s crime boss. As much as it’s the main story, it feels unfinished to a great extent.
The characters lack backstories or some form of arc to make you care for their journey. You can sell some of your stash to hire more bad guys or get health stats. But, every now and then, you get killed and have to start the campaign again from the beginning.
It’d have counted toward a replayable venture, were the prospect of putting yourself through all of Crime Boss: Rockay City’s issues not a thing. Guns barely pack a punch. Succeeding through certain levels feels impossible, especially when there aren’t enough ways to neutralize guards and civilians without risking being spotted by the cameras.
As was mentioned, “Crime Boss: Rockay City” features an impressive cast, mostly big shots from the 90s. Today, they’re old folks who are still very much respected in their field, ergo, the high expectations for their performance in the spotlight.
Well, firstly, the characters look de-aged, looking pretty much like they did back in the day. That’s okay. The issue is that their voice acting doesn’t match at all. It’s honestly the most disinterested array of acting I’ve seen in a really long time. You hear Michael Madsen’s 65-year-old voice coming out of a 35-year-old face.
Sometimes, it’s almost like a person falling asleep. He just couldn’t care less, I presume, and, oh, yeah, that’s the voice of the main protagonist you have to deal with throughout your playthrough.
Add to that the tons of cringeworthy one-liners the writers seemingly couldn’t get enough of, and some tone-deaf writing to season the script, and you’ve got yourself an overall lackluster performance that feels like a wasted opportunity.
Crime Boss: Rockay City is a game at war with itself. Right off the bat, it becomes clear much of the budget was allocated toward an impressive cast, leaving the gameplay and visuals out to dry. What’s worse, the characters fail to leverage the pretty solid cast, resulting in cringe-worthy dialogue, tone-deaf writing, and overall lackluster performances.
The gameplay can be summarized as a short stint of stealthily approaching a heist location before getting spotted by the cameras or guards. Then, having to go out guns blazing, taking as many bad guys and cops as you can with you.
It’s almost as if there aren’t enough ways to get killed, which starts to get sloggy at some point. Add to that the fact that the gunplay isn’t the best, often swaying from the target and feeling like a shooter out of the Xbox and PS3 generations, and you have yourself a game that even the best features like the roguelike add-on end up feeling depressing.
Crime Boss: Rockay City Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
A Sorry Attempt at Reincarnating Payday
If you have played Payday, then you’ll spot more than a few similarities in the new Crime Boss: Rockay City FPS shooter game. Both games feature a series of heists, with Crime Boss: Rockay City building up momentum to finally run Rockay City’s crime world. Unfortunately, Crime Boss: Rockay City doesn’t quite check all essential gameplay elements, with its tone-deaf writing, floaty mechanics, and overall unpolished performance. Still, you can have a good deal of fun blasting cops and gangs into oblivion. Plus, have an equally fun time teaming up with four friends to complete missions together.