I don’t know what it is about strategic, top-down heist games set in the ‘70’s recently, but this is my second one in a very short amount of time, the first being The Masterplan. Because of this, it was nearly impossibly for me to play Crookz – The Big Heist without drawing comparisons. There are some very big differences between the two games. The Masterplan is much grittier in most respects. The graphics, the interface, the way the heists play out, the game is much rougher, in both senses of the word.
Crookz is a much cleaner game. The graphics are 3D top down, as opposed to 2D from The Masterplan and they are a lot crisper. The interface is much cleaner, as well, making it a lot easier to get into in the beginning. I always felt, with The Masterplan that I wasn’t exactly sure if I was doing anything right. In Crookz, it is fairly clear when you do something right, and if you screw up badly enough, you just have to start the level over again. In The Masterplan, it was possible to completely fail a heist, but escape, and continue on.
But, enough about the other game, let’s focus on Crookz, shall we? The game starts you off with a tutorial that walks you through all the basic commands and mechanics of the game. At first, it all seems rather overwhelming and confusing, until you actually start doing it and then you realize that it’s quite simple and approachable. You basically have an overview of the heist location and are able to point and click your various team-mates along routes using waypoints and action commands to get them to whatever the level’s objective is and then escape undetected.
While progressing you are in complete control of time, being able to pause whenever you want in order to adjust your plan or think something through in depth. It almost feels like playing a game of chess, where you’re encouraged to try and see a few moves ahead, but you can also get in there and micro-manage and go step by step. It would be entirely possible, also, to plan out every step each member would take ahead of time and then sit back and watch it all unfold with very little additional interface, which is pretty cool.
As I stated above, the basic storyline is pretty predictable, but I was able to get into enough that I didn’t care that I had a pretty good idea of where it was all going. And the voice acting is pretty amateurish, but again, it didn’t ruin the experience for me.
You start each mission by setting up who you take with you for the score. Sometimes you have a choice and sometimes you don’t. Each person on your crew has a different ability. The team leader, a strong black female, is twice as fast as everyone else. One guy is a lockpick. Another guy is a technician and can operate computers and the like a lot better than everyone else. Another female crook is a contortionist and is able to fit into places that no one else can. And there are more. So, each heist has these different routes that are only accessible to one crew member or another and you have to work your way through, opening and closing doors, deactivating cameras and other security measures, avoiding patrolling guards or knocking them out, etc.
Upon completion of the level’s task, you are rated based on how long it took you to complete the mission, your level of detection, and any secondary loot drops you may have picked up along the way.
I have always liked strategy games that find a good mix between turn-based and real-time and giving you the ability to pause the game very easily at any time and adjust your plans while time is stopped is a very nice feature. I like being able to look at everything from all angles. Is it realistic? Probably not. But then again, if you were going to conduct a heist in real life, you’d probably spend a lot more time planning ahead of time, so maybe this makes up for that loss by not making you just figure it out on the fly while everything is moving around you. Either way, I felt like it was a nice solution. And when you hit play and watch everything you’ve plotted work exactly like you had imagined, it’s all the more satisfying.
So, even though this is an early access preview of the game, I will say that I was very pleased with what I saw. It is a solid, enjoyable, strategy-based heist game with a fun atmosphere. I think that people who enjoy this genre of game will be pleasantly surprised, as well.
Pro’s – Simple to learn interface for a surprisingly challenging strategy game set in the very groovy ‘70’s time period. Each level is like a puzzle that can be solved in a few different ways. Coming up with the best solution is rewarding.
Con’s – The voice acting is pretty bad. The storyline is predictable. But it doesn’t take away from the gameplay. In fact, there is part of me that thinks they did the voice acting badly on purpose to fit with heist movies from that era, but who knows?