Crime Boss: Rockay City review for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, Xbox Series X
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Ingame Studios
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Even though Crime Boss: Rockay City got middling reviews (to put it kindly) back when it first came out on PC, I was nonetheless keen to check it out once it arrived on consoles. To some extent – okay, to a very large extent – this was because I was keen to see just how bad it would be. There’s something fun about playing a disaster, after all.

The good news, I guess, is that Crime Boss: Rockay City isn’t a disaster. It’s competently made, and I’ve played far, far worse games.

The bad news? That still doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Crime Boss: Rockay City’s problem is that it’s thoroughly mediocre. Even though it resembles a mockbuster with a cast that includes a collection of faded stars (Kim Basinger, Danny Glover), has-beens (Chuck Norris, Vanilla Ice) and Danny Trejo, it’s still not fun enough to be the gaming equivalent of a B-movie. While I certainly wouldn’t discount the idea that this game could be a Uwe Boll-style tax dodge (and that latter linked tweet will always be inextricably linked in my mind with Crime Boss), the end result is still a dull, repetitive shooter that doesn’t come anywhere close to matching its influences.

Of course, part of the problem is that its influences are so obvious, it’s hard not to compare it to those significantly better games. From a stylistic point of view, Crime Boss feels like it wants to exist somewhere between GTA: Vice City or Saints Row, with the combination of its colour palette and its focus on random celebrities as voice actors. The thing is, where those games at least felt like they were making fun of stereotypes and tropes even as they indulged in them (with the caveat that older GTA games haven’t exactly aged well, humour-wise), Crime Boss: Rockay City just feels like a joyless slog that doesn’t get that those games were trying to be satirical.

On that front, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the voice acting here is pretty lousy. While there’s no doubting the talent of the assembled cast (or, at least, no doubting the talent of some of them), here most of them feel like they’re phoning it in. In their defense, of course, it’s not like the script gives anyone all that much to work with: from a dialogue point of view, the whole game feels like a throwback to the mid-’90s, when a whole generation of hacky filmmakers tried to imitate Quentin Tarantino – and the end result is just as lousy.

Despite the GTA feel of the material, in terms of gameplay, Crime Boss: Rockay City is actually much more indebted to a game like Payday. You have a map to conquer, but rather than getting to drive around seeing what you can discover, the whole game revolves around slowly conquering territory one heist or one shootout at a time. The problem with this is that there’s not a whole lot of difference between most of the missions: you go in, shoot everyone, take something, and leave. What’s more, the missions are kind of infuriating, since melee attacks are completely useless, and aiming your shots is finicky at the best of times. On top of that, the AI is kind of braindead – and as nice as that makes being able to gun down really stupid enemies, it also means your crew are equally useless.

To Crime Boss’ credit, it does try to do something interesting by adding in roguelike elements to its single-player campaign. Unfortunately, you quickly see why more games like this don’t do that: it’s incredibly annoying to grind your way through all these missions that play exactly the same, then lose, and you get sent back to the very beginning to start over. It doesn’t matter that you get to keep your upgrades, the bottom line is that you still have to play through the same repetitive missions that you slogged your way through once. Unsurprisingly, they don’t get any more interesting the second time around.

But while Crime Boss: Rockay City isn’t particularly fun, as I said up top, I’ve also played far, far worse games. For all its faults (and it certainly has many), nothing here is egregiously terrible – which means, ultimately, that Crime Boss’ biggest sin isn’t that it’s a bad game, but rather a very boring one.

505 Games provided us with a Crime Boss: Rockay City PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-