Crime Boss: Rockay City, a game announced last year with a trailer that seemed like the world’s most ill-timed April Fool’s Joke (it was December), is out! You may not know this, though, because nobody is talking about it.
If a game is good, people will talk about it. If a game is bad, people will also talk about it. If a game is bad in ways that also make it interesting, it gets talked about, and if a game is bad in ways that are incredibly funny then, once again, it gets talked about. Maybe it’s a 1000-word impressions piece on Kotaku.com, maybe it’s a bunch of tweets, maybe it’s a video series about bloopers and mishaps, these are all ways you—or someone, anyone—can talk about a video game.
This is important, because talking about a video game is the only way we, as a culture, keep a game alive. I don’t want to get too into it on this post—which does not have the bandwidth for it—but discs on a shelf are just hunks of plastic, and code on a HDD just 1s and 0s, lying around. It’s us experiencing them, building memories/opinions on them then sharing those with other people, that make video games what they are. What is all this, what I’m writing, what you’re reading, the communities you form and are a part of, if not just one big way for us to share our thoughts on video games?
Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that there’s space and scope to talk about almost every video game on the planet, love them or hate them. Except Crime Boss: Rockay City. Which nobody (except me, here, under great distress) is talking about, even though it’s been out for almost a month now. And now I know why.
I have “played” this, in so much as you can subject yourself to sitting down and experiencing this game. And have found myself unable to review it, or even give my impressions on it, in the standard “hey check this out” kinda way. I was so repulsed by its packaging, so in awe at the way it gets absolutely everything it sets out to do wrong that I feel like I have to write this and publish it on the site just so someone else can reassure me that any of this actually happened.
Rockay City is a fever dream. It’s the outline of a video game, coloured in by tortured ghosts from the 80s and 90s. It’s like a scammy powerpoint presentation for a blockchain game, only with sections containing actual gameplay. Here is the game’s launch trailer—it’s out, you can buy it, and even play it—to show I’m not making any of this up:
Michael Madsen carried the burdens of 1000 lifetimes into the recording studio for this, and none of them turned in a good performance. Serial asshole Chuck Norris is so lifeless that an 80's text-to-speech system could have done a better job delivering his lines. Kim Basinger and Danny Glover’s agents should be fired into the sun for this. And Vanilla Ice...well, Vanilla Ice is actually great here, I have nothing bad to say about Vanilla Ice.
There’s writing in Rockay City in the most qualifying sense, in that there are words in the English language that come after other words, but whether these form complete and coherent sentences is up for debate. There is also a plot, in the same way the key art and promo tweet for a Grand Theft Auto Online mission has a plot.
There’s no vision here beyond “here’s some stuff that might seem cool to guys who got too into the Johnny Depp trial and whose two favourite movies are Resorvoir Dogs and Scarface”. There’s no context or cohesion either, even though visually everything has the same generic crime game sheen you’d have expected from a clone of a clone of a GTA clone on the Xbox 360. To look at Rockay City is to be shaken around the inside of a shipping container full of Ed Hardy jeans and Steven Seagal movies.
What’s it actually like to play? See above. You sneak around for a bit, you shoot some guys—who are often just innocent people, and who take a lot of bullets—then you shoot a lot more, because Rockay City never knows when to turn the volume down. It’s a “Level 99 Crime Boss” mobile game with the violent aspirations (or absence of a moral compass) of a late 90's PC shooter.
Rockay City had real money spent on it, paid for genuine Hollywood involvement. It was a crime game, it had guns, it spent enough marketing money that it somehow turned up in a Kotaku.com announcement post, it should have meant something to someone. Yet we have, to our collective credit, rejected this game wholesale. The game doesn’t just suck, even the idea of it sucks. It’s a disaster at a conceptual level. Nobody talks about it, nobody plays it; the game is only available on PC, yet isn’t on Steam, and its official subreddit has...242 members.
I can’t say Rockay City is good. I can’t say it’s bad beyond the ways I’ve already described it (though here’s its Metacritic page if you’d like to broaden your horizons). I can’t say it’s so bad it’s good. I honestly don’t think traditional video game quantifiers work here. This isn’t a 2023 game release, it’s a black hole in the middle of it, sucking light and energy and washed up old actors into its void.