On paper, Crime Boss: Rocky City is bombastic, star-studded, and promises a city-spanning adventure about rising to the top of a criminal organization. However, the actual game is anything but. The gameplay is unbalanced, buggy, repetitive and boring. The celebrity-filled cast is exciting at first glance, but the crude and humorless writing weighs down the already phoned-in performances of characters voiced by Michael Madsen, Michael Rooker, Vanilla Ice, and others. The single-player Roguelite campaign lacks any genre’s typical hook, and bugs can halt progress at critical points in a run. Multiplayer works, but the two cooperative modes offer the same mindlessly dull rotation of missions you’ll play through dozens of times throughout the campaign. It all combines to create an aimless package that isn’t worth playing with far better-executed experiences in other games.
The stars of the show, for better or worse, are the cast of crime bosses. Kim Basinger, Danny Glover, Chuck Norris, and others lend their likenesses and voices to these characters, but instead of feeling like action B-movies from the 1980s or ’90s, the game clearly aims to evoke While the corniness and cheese are played up intentionally, the performance feels hollow. Simply put, the writing is bad. Rucker’s Captain Touchdown and Madsen’s Travis Baker are the worst offenders, constantly barking lines such as, “Who’s the loser? They! Who’s the winner? We are,” and calling rival gang members “fruitcakes”. Other barking characters, like Khan referring to the criminal organization as just “the Asian gang” or calling the same gang “barbarians” and “commies” feel lazy, offensive at times, and very poorly ’90s. Like a 1990s action movie.
These celebrity appearances attempt to elevate an otherwise predictable and dull story about Baker’s gang rising to the top of an organized crime empire, but they don’t. Instead, they make buggy and repetitive gameplay, where you’ll often hear them in cutscenes before and after missions, all the more excruciating to play. In the single-player Roguelite campaign, your goal is to capture as much territory as possible throughout Rocky City, raid rival turf, defend your own, and commit heists to obtain money, drugs, jewelry, and more. Mission has to be completed. But rote gameplay, bugs, and a lack of balance make it impossible.
After selecting a squad of gang members, some of whom are uniform models of color-changing clothing, you begin a mission. Your objective could be to rob a bank, a warehouse, an armed vehicle, or a shopping center – you’re always taking goods or money from someone. The missions would have you believe Crime Boss needs a healthy bit of immersive sim stealth and action, but none of its systems support it. Sometimes, I can go straight to a place, grab what I need, and run to my van in just a minute. Other times, I’m tempted to engage with the game’s rudimentary stealth systems, but then I’m promptly scolded for doing so by the man-in-my-ear, Nasra. At any rate, most missions end with either a praiseworthy quick and easy getaway or a long and unfair firefight. Crime Boss’s Grand Theft Auto-style heat system brings a swarm of cops, SWAT members, and more to take me down, and sometimes, it feels like they were made of cardboard—other times, steel. When I failed, it rarely felt like there was something I could do better to improve my chances of survival next time; It felt like the game had failed me.
When I wasn’t robbing banks and armored vehicles, I attacked or defended turf from rival gangs. Here, the worst offensive bug appeared almost every time, but not before the game’s “soldier” system made an already buggy game impossible. To defend and attack turf, you need money to cover the cost and troops to bring the risk down from high to medium or low. Each new day in the campaign, which brought in more money for my organization, I would be attacked by more gangs in different turf areas, I didn’t have the troops and money to defend, and as a result I always defaulted. Used to lose turf. But even when I had the troops and money to defend my turf, a recurring bug made it impossible to complete these missions. In order to defend your turf, you must defeat a certain number of enemy soldiers, and sometimes their captains. But every time I load into one of these missions the enemies disappear. I could see that their arms were floating in the air. That’s why I almost always lose these turf wars.
If you lose enough turf, you won’t be able to earn the money you need to complete missions, and as a result of that one persistent bug, the entire run is doomed, like a row of dominoes destined to fall over. . And angrily, at the end of one run, a jubilant Sheriff Norris cutscene plays where he breaks the fourth wall and asks me what I did wrong on this run. I could see this as a cute meta-addition to the game, but when failing rarely feels my fault, Norris asks me these questions, it’s especially cruel.
Several other bugs further diminished the experience. For some assignments, you will be required to pay a set amount, usually $40,000 or more, which is high when you may only have $150,000 on hand. After paying, the cutscene would repeat, and the game would ask me to pay again. If I declined, I was kicked out of cutscene dialogue and back to square one. Sometimes, pausing a scene stops the cinematics but not the audio, ruining the sync for the rest of the duration. Menus would freeze, I’d be forced to exit the main menu, and captions were often wrong. After doing a multiplayer mission, almost every time I boot up the game, the game asks me if I want to join my previous session, except I can’t because that session was hours ago, or Even a day before.
Even when bugs didn’t plague my experience, I was left to play through repetitive, excruciatingly boring missions that featured abysmal gunplay, uninspired stealth and lackluster action . The odd interstitial missions attempt to break up this monotony, like I lived through one of my gang member’s Vietnam War nightmares, but they fizzle out in the same way as the main missions. The game does attempt to shake things up in a few other ways, but every time it tries to get out of the way it’s a reminder that the core of Crime Boss – its systems, gameplay and characters – don’t work. And as a result, everything else gets bogged down.
Crime Boss: Rocky City is proof that star power isn’t everything. In fact, it’s a reminder that a celebrity cast does nothing to game when there’s nothing interesting or fun to back it up. The crime boss is pathetic when run-ending bugs show up, but even when I’m running a mission bug-free, I still witness a painful slur on organized crime. At its best, Crime Boss functions – I can shoot weapons at enemies, empty bank vaults and warehouses for loot, watch cutscenes with recognizable faces and voices, and grow my empire – But it never really captures my attention in a meaningful or memorable way. Instead, it drives me further and further, leaving me with no desire to ever return to Rocky City.