There are plenty of games that include heists. Payday, Watch Dogs, and your pick of GTA’s are immediate and obvious examples. But all of these titles envision a very particular kind of heist, the kind that typically go very well- until they very violently and spectacularly do not. I’m talking about the kind of heist made famous in Deniro and Pacino’s crime drama classic, Heat, where the brilliance of a perfect plan vanishes in the shadow of how intensely our culprits refuse to be caught. “You’ll neva take me alive!” becomes the visual battle anthem as our characters enact their own criminal versions of the Alamo, refusing to bend a knee to oppressive constraints of the law.
But rarely does a title focus on the Ocean’s Eleven aspect of a great heist story, where our heroes aren’t just sticky-fingered special forces, but criminal phantoms wielding the magic of misdirection. This wits-over-weapons approach is what Crookz is all about, with the flash of a disco backdrop to pull it all together.
Crookz is a heist-strategy game of clever design, operating on a real-time foundation that keeps your tactics sharp and the action tense. By utilizing each of your crew’s unique skills, an assortment of unlockable tools, and your inner mastermind, Crookz aims to let you live out your more criminally profound fantasies without actually risking the jail time typically involved.
Each stage of Crookz is littered with various items, obstacles and opponents, all crafted with specific pros and cons regarding their usefulness and risk. Questions like how loud will it be to crack this lockbox with a crowbar will need to be balanced against how fast can Cleopatra make a break for the door, and while evading enemy fields of vision is nothing new to video games, rarely has the act of avoiding them felt so… musical.
It only took me a couple of hours with this title before I found myself sitting in my game room with a glass of wine and humming to the sounds of a ballad, analyzing and spinning the three-dimensional maps that preceded each level like a villain in the bowels of his lair. (I’m method like that, so sue me.)
However, despite its complexity, Crookz seems to make a very large point about not taking itself too seriously. The characters all appear to be light-hearted clichés, aiming more to tear a smile than paint a sinister scowl. Nothing about the game points to it being particularly violent (if at all) and although the game can be very challenging, it seemed to really focus on allowing you to challenge yourself. Can you get all the loot available? How far can you make it without being detected? Do you need to start each map loading yourself out with bags of gear, or can you make do with what’s available? These are the kinds of questions and taunts Crookz seems to have in store for its players, and few RTSers can refuse such obvious bait.
All of this is wrapped in a surprisingly well polished package. Even at this early stage, Crookz seems to be firing on all cylinders, with very few glitches or stumbles, and the detailed controls become second nature frightfully quick. It even has controller support, which is rare for strategy games like this which tend to leverage the flexibility of point-n-click mechanics.
We will definitely be coming back to have a deeper look into what Crookz has in store for us when we review it at its upcoming launch at the end of this August!