Crime Boss: Rockay City PS5 Review – It’s Criminal

Crime Boss: Rockay City Review

Glancing at the art for Crime Boss: Rockay City, the cast looks impressive. A and B-listers like Kim Basinger, Danny Glover, Chuck Norris, and Michael Madsen take time off from Cameo to lend their likenesses — if not exactly their A games — to the project. On PC, the game landed with a solid thud. Does it fare better on current-gen consoles?

Payday? More like PayCheck

Crime Boss: Rockay City is a first-person shooter obviously inspired by games like Payday, Grand Theft Auto, and Saint’s Row. It takes place in a fictional Florida city, and your goal is to expand your criminal empire, power, and wealth. You battle rival gangs and take over their turf. You steal drugs and bling from one gang and sell to another, while defending whatever zones you’ve managed to claim. Your enemies are the double-dealing crime bosses and drug lords of Rockay City and the ever-present Sheriff Norris, played by, you guessed it, Chuck Norris.

For each mission, you’re given the chance to assemble a thoroughly generic crew before heading out to commit whatever crime is next on the mission board. Some tasks involve stealth but most end in firefights. One of the game’s intriguing yet annoying wrinkles is that it’s a roguelite. Death means replaying both a lot of cutscenes and missions, with a grade in between and a wall-breaking comment from Chuck Norris. Mission success means leveling up mostly passive abilities like better health or damage.

Something’s Not Quite Right

The first thing I noticed about Crime Boss: Rockay City is its weird and choppy pacing. The dozens of short-cut scenes break up the action but don’t build any narrative momentum. Sometimes they’re vaguely expository. But they’re always terribly written, using the most hackneyed tough-guy, street-thug dialogue possible. The writing isn’t bad enough or self-aware enough to be fun and kitschy. I don’t know if any of the celebrity voices were ever in the same recording studio together, but it doesn’t sound like it. You can hear the bland “I need a paycheck and some pop culture cred” tone in the line readings.

Aside from the depressingly mediocre narrative and writing, the game’s combat is unremarkable. The firefights all seem to be either ridiculously easy or protracted and challenging, not to the player’s skill but patience. There are no difficulty settings. There’s just very little creativity in any of it, from weapons to environments to mission design. Aside from Kim Basinger, Danny Glover, and the rest, we’ve seen all this stuff in better games.

I didn’t play the PC version, but it was reportedly plagued by bugs and technical problems, some so egregious as to stop progress. On the PS5, at least, there are still swarms of bugs. More than once my character was stuck in the scenery bleeding out while the game kept imploring me to finish the mission before the mission timer — and my run — ended. There are problems with enemy AI, erratic frame rates, and more. It’s clear that the port to consoles hasn’t solved many of the PC version’s issues.

Bright Lights, Bland City

If there’s a bit of good news, it’s that there are rare moments where the celebrity characters look decent and the game’s lighting engine is allowed to stretch a little. But all that can turn sour, too, with some jarringly bad facial animations and lip-syncing. On the PS5 the implementation of adaptive triggers feels sluggish in combat. Graphics options consist of toggling between performance and visual fidelity modes but there wasn’t much detectable difference. Lastly, the game’s UI and explanations of its mechanics are both exceptionally lacking.

For every infrequent good idea, Crime Boss: Rockay City seems determined to undermine it. First-person roguelike mechanics in a narrative-focused game is an intriguing concept, but between bugs, bland performances, and rote action, the killer concept is dead on arrival.

***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Celebrity cameos
  • Some interesting elements
  • Decent licensed soundtrack

The Bad

  • Bad writing and dull performances
  • Many bugs
  • Uninspired combat and missions