Much was made of the Xbox One’s “cloud capabilities” around the time of its announcement, but until now, the only prominent use of that technology was Forza’s “Driveatar” functionality, which essentially created a simulacrum of a player’s driving personality that lived on a server somewhere. Crackdown 3, however, has a much more interesting use for it: the creation of a city that is entirely, 100% destructible, where you can do anything from shooting a hole in a wall to collapsing an entire building, watching it crush another as it falls down. This right here is the next level of blowing things up.
In Crackdown 3’s single-player, destructibility is limited in the same way that it would be in any other game. It’s in multiplayer that the Xbox’s cloud capabilities come into play. Whenever the physics calculations get too much for the Xbox One to handle, it offloads the calculation to a server - or two servers, or three, or six if things start getting really heavy. Everything then plays out in real-time on your screen, and on the screens of the other people who might be in your multiplayer session.
The result of this is one of the most impressive demonstrations of game technology that I’ve seen in years. Using this network, Crackdown 3 transcends what is ordinarily possible on a console, or indeed even on a super-powered PC. It can have a fully-destructible city where you can shoot a hole in any wall, collapse any building, and then throw the resultant chunks of debris at a car to make it explode.
I tested this out myself with three other players in the session. The weapons had been powered-up for expediency, but it was easy to see that nothing was being faked. First, the bullets strip away the exterior of a building to reveal the superstructure below; if you want to collapse the superstructure, you need something like a rocket launcher and a bit of time, but eventually it will buckle and fall over, and probably take a few surrounding buildings with it. In about fifteen minutes my comrades and I managed to flatten a small section of the city.
In this build, there was a little graphic in the top right of the screen that showed when the physics calculations were being sent to servers. At one point it took seven servers to calculate the amount of carnage going on. It is awesome, in the literal sense of the word. I had immense fun standing on top of a tower and firing RPGs off at distant structures, watching them blow up in the distance. I’d assumed that you’d need a hefty Internet connection to make this work, but I was told that 2-4mbps is all that people will require.
Crackdown 3 is otherwise in quite an early state. It plays like a tech demo - there’s no agility in there yet, no jumping or climbing, vehicles aren’t working, and the textures are early - so creator Reagent Games has a lot of work ahead of it. So far a lot of time has been spent on creating the city’s buildings, which have had to be designed much like real buildings in order for the destructibility to work; they all have rooms inside, and are held up by great spires of metal. But this is still the most exciting Xbox One demo I’ve played yet, because it shows what this particular console can do that nothing else can.