Crime Boss: Rockay City is a brand new Payday-esque roguelike made by Ingame Studios, a new studio with 70+ developers that have worked on games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance and the Mafia series. Crime Boss: Rockay City takes well-known and highly skilled screen actors, the gameplay of Payday, and the day/night structure of roguelikes like Papers, Please (believe it or not) and sets them against a backdrop of gang-riddled Florida in the 90s. While Crime Boss: Rockay City is undeniably messy, there are elements that are innovative and impressive.
Disorganized Crime – The Campaign
One of the major highlights of Crime Boss: Rockay City is the roguelike campaign. Right when you start it, you’ll embark on some high-adrenaline missions that throw you straight into the deep end. After getting your feet thoroughly wet, you’ll meet the main characters and finally settle down into your base of operations which is where you’ll organize your day.
The objective of the campaign is to take down the numerous gang leaders by taking territory and making money all while avoiding the authorities. Each day, you’ll get a few activities to complete like robbing a warehouse or fighting a rival gang which will give you cash. You can then spend that cash to hire better teammates and soldiers for the turf wars you’ll wage to gain more territory. You’ll have daily goals to complete that will help you level up and unlock permanent upgrades. Once you run out of soldiers or your teammates are all used up, you’ll end the day and repeat it tomorrow. You lose the campaign and will need to start from day one when you die in an activity.
The gameplay loop and flow of the campaign is surprisingly intriguing and innovative. For example, there are days when surprise missions are presented which definitely add more flavor and fun to your run. You also won’t be able to do every activity on the map, so you’ll need to choose how you spend your day wisely. Overall, the fun replayability of Crime Boss: Rockay City lies in the ever-changing roguelike campaign.
Casing the Joint – The Gameplay and Game Modes
While the campaign of Crime Boss: Rockay City sounds excellent on paper, it falls flat in practice because of the gameplay. All of the activities last around three to five minutes, generally feel similar, and can sometimes handle quite clumsily. At times, you’ll load into an activity and not know exactly what you are supposed to do. At other times, you’ll load into a mission with no warning only for five enemies to surround you and shoot you down immediately with nowhere to run or hide. And whether you’re robbing a van, robbing a building, or killing gang members and robbing whatever they have in their hideout, the activities all very quickly begin to feel very samey.
That said, the activities in Crime Boss: Rockay City are action-packed and exciting. While not necessarily groundbreaking, the bite-sized missions that incorporate stealth, decision-making, and shooting in a small space are all welcomed iterations to the stale FPS formula and work really well for the pick-up/put-down play of a roguelike .
While the activities have their ups and downs, the gunplay in Crime Boss: Rockay City feels outdated. We live in a time where the sway of aiming down the sights, the weight of a gunshot, and the impact of the bullet on your target have all been perfected in FPS games like Warzone 2 and Destiny 2. Because we have such high-class examples of what a great FPS experience should feel like, Crime Boss: Rockay City’s gunplay inevitably plays like it’s stuck in its 90s setting — which would be cool if they were going for an arcade throwback type of experience, but they definitely aren’t. It’s not terrible by any means, but it doesn’t compete.
Beyond how the weapons feel, the AI intelligence is low. Whether it’s your bot teammates that stand out in the open and don’t know where the enemies are coming from or the enemy soldiers that swarm way too quickly and have pin-point accuracy, the difficulty of Crime Boss: Rockay City doesn’t just lie in the guns feeling underdeveloped but also in the AI being unintelligent. Luckily, tweaks to gunplay and AI can be implemented after a game launches, so the enjoyment of Crime Boss: Rockay City can only go up from here.
The Game Modes
There are three game modes in Crime Boss: Rockay City. You can either play the campaign, the quick play which is called Crime Time, or a co-op stories section called Urban Legends. Basically, all these game modes are the exact same. While the campaign is a strictly single-player affair, Urban Legends gives you a string of campaign-adjacent missions that you can play online with up to three friends. The Crime Time quick play features the same types of activities in which you can gain cash which can be used to unlock characters and guns. If you thought the activities in the campaign were samey, know that the Crime Time and Urban Legend game modes don’t offer much else.
Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief – The Writing and Acting
Crime Boss: Rockay City has a star-studded cast of famous screen actors. The acting is good in a void, but is fairly disjointed in reality when two screen actors are fighting for a scene that they probably recorded on separate days. While the acting is usually pretty good, the performances are only as good as the writing. And with the writing being bad, our impressions are that less money should’ve been spent getting the cast and more money should’ve been spent writing the script.
Something that constantly feels off in Crime Boss: Rockay City is the writing. There is a lot of dialogue between the well-known characters and all of it is as cheesy, crass, and misogynistic as a 90s crime show set in Florida would be.
Thankfully, you can skip the dialogue, but that doesn’t stop the issue of it being morally gray. The real problem with the writing is that there is no clear indication that it is satirical — which would be clever in showing that the crude way mob bosses and gangsters talk to each other, women, and their enemies is problematic and clearly wrong. Instead, the gangsters and mob bosses are portrayed as cool conmen which leads the player to believe that the writing is either unintentionally awful, purposefully problematic, or justifiably okay since the heroes of the story are doing it. If the graphics were a bit more cartoony or the actors really leaned into the stereotypical nature of their lines, the writing might have come off as more crisp and less cringe, more nuanced instead of offensive because that’s what’s cool.
It’s not every day we get a new studio taking a big swing by taking a genre that has been executed perfectly for years and giving it a unique twist. Crime Boss: Rockay City might not have the most versatile activities, best gunplay, or first-class writing, but it does provide an interesting experience that, like a cheap B-movie, has that certain kind of charm you can’t help but enjoy.
Crime Boss: Rockay City’s execution isn’t revolutionary or exceptional, but its shot at an innovative roguelike campaign is a praiseworthy proof of concept. While my stay in Rockay City wasn’t a long one, hopefully, another Crime Boss city comes along soon, one that takes what was good about Rockay City and takes it to the next level.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher, public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.