Rising to the top of the Underworld
The 2000s era of video games was defined by studios attempting to capitalize on the success of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Some timeless classics emerged that would eventually become respected franchises in their own right. There were also numerous middle-of-the-road titles that failed to gain the same level of recognition but developed a cult following.
I bring up that little history lesson because you needed to have grown up during that time to appreciate a game like Crime Boss: Rockay City. At first glance, it looks like a generic crime themed shooter game. For those of us who were raised on the PlayStation 2, it’s a wave of early 2000’s nostalgia. With its star-studded cast, gameplay, and numerous homages to classic crime films, the game possesses all the hallmarks of a title attempting to ride the coattails of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Crime Boss: Rockay City falls more in line with the second category of crime games I previously mentioned. It boasts a unique charm that comes with a side of cheese and a few imperfections. If you approach it with a nostalgic mindset, you can expect an enjoyable experience.
Streets of Rockay City
Crime Boss: Rockay City has players take on the role of Travis Baker (played by Michael Madsen) as he fights to establish a criminal empire. Helping you rise to the top are Casey (Kim Basinger), Nasara (Damion Poitier), and Touchdown (Michael Rooker). Of course; you have competition from the other well-established gangs. Making matters more complicated is the arrival of Sheriff Norris (played by Chuck Norris).
When it comes to the story, it’s a by the books gangster experience. You play a crime boss who starts with little and must work their way to the top of the criminal underworld. Along the way, players will encounter typical characters like the violent-obsessed thug, the wise consigliere, the ruthless rivals, and the lone honest cop in the city. While the story may not be groundbreaking, it checks all the boxes for what one would expect from a crime game. It delivers a familiar yet enjoyable crime story experience.
I also need to point out how Michael Madsen role in Crime Boss: Rockay City is no coincidence. It’s a clear nod to his iconic performances in several crime games from the 2000s, including Grand Theft Auto III, Yakuza, and True Crime: Streets of LA, as well as lower-budget titles like NARC. Let’s not forget his involvement in sticker titles such as Driv3r and the first Reservoir Dogs game. The point is, something like this could not have worked without him. His performance is essential to the overall experience.
Hitting the Streets
Crime Boss: Rockay City gives gamers plenty to be nostalgic about but it also makes the effort to stand out as its own experience.
First thing to know is that Crime Boss: Rockay City implements a roguelike experience. Should you lose all your territory, go bankrupt, or if Travis Baker gets killed then you will have to start from the beginning. However, it’s not a hard reset as you do get some perks based on how far you got the last time. Which is great since having to start from total scratch can get annoying.
The game is divided into two parts: the office and the streets. In the office, players can recruit new muscle and sell their contraband on the black market, as well as plan their next move. On the streets, players can engage in various criminal activities to enhance their reputation and increase their organization’s dominance in the city. Additionally, players can participate in story missions that have an impact on the overall narrative.
Gameplay is inspired by other crime games but keeps things simple. The combat mechanics are primarily standard first-person shooter with squad-based commands. Missions typically involve taking over rival gang territory, defending your own territory, and robbing businesses or armored cars. The game draws clear inspiration from popular titles like Grand Theft Auto and Payday, but players should not expect anything less.
Why Did I Beat You?
Crime Boss: Rockay City offers everything one could desire from a crime-themed game released in the 2000s. However, nostalgia alone cannot disguise some of its gameplay issues. Among them are the lack of stealth mechanics, repetitive stages, and a grindy progression system.
Let me start with the obvious, the abundance of stealth missions but the stealth gameplay mechanics are almost non-existent. Although players can sneak and perform stealth kills, the gameplay mechanics are basic and often ineffective. The game lacks fundamental stealth elements that have become a staple of the genre. This makes avoiding detection a futile effort. Players will inevitably have to resort to going in guns blazing.
Levels seem limited to a few layouts and designs, making the gameplay experience repetitive and less engaging. Additionally, the leveling-up process in the game can be quite grindy compared to other games. While the game has RPG elements and requires players to work hard to level up, the grind here is on par with a mobile game.
Crime Does Pay
Like I said, if you grew up in the 2000s and played a lot of GTA clones then you will appreciate Crime Boss: Rockay City. The game has the right balance of nostalgia while also being a good game. It has the obvious flaws but they can easily be overlooked by how fun it can be.
Crime Boss: Rockay City is a reminder of a bygone era when every game studio attempted to ride the coattails of Vice City. It takes everything one loves about crime films and games to present a fun experience. Go in, guns blazing, and enjoy the gangster’s paradise.
Disclaimer: Stride PR provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Crime Boss: Rockay City (PC)
- It has all the hallmarks of a crime game from the 2000s.
- The presence of Michael Madsen is a homage to his video game resume from the 2000s.
- A mix of gameplay borrowed from other titles but made simpler.
- Stealth gameplay mechanics are almost non-existent.
- Repetitive level design and layout.
- Leveling-up process has a grind that is on par with mobile games.