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Hands-on: Crookz's complex heists will transform you into a bank-robbing mastermind

Hayden Dingman | July 14, 2015
A perfectly-planned heist is a thing of beauty. It's the appeal of the genre, really. Ocean's Eleven, Heat, The Usual Suspects--sure, none of us support crime, but there's a certain elegance to watching the world's greatest crew/mastermind go up against the world's most sophisticated security systems and somehow come out on top.

Crookz

A perfectly-planned heist is a thing of beauty. It's the appeal of the genre, really. Ocean's Eleven, Heat, The Usual Suspects--sure, none of us support crime, but there's a certain elegance to watching the world's greatest crew/mastermind go up against the world's most sophisticated security systems and somehow come out on top.

I am not the world's greatest criminal mastermind, nor would anyone describe me as elegant. At best, I am a clock ticking half a second out of sync. At worst, I possess the subtlety of a crowbar to the back of the skull. This is a problem when playing Crookz.

I took a brief look at Crookz a few months back and--aside from the silly name--liked what I saw. Set in 1970s San Francisco, Crookz is an active-pause heist game where planning is just as important as execution. And that's important, because it's what sets it apart from other recent heist games like Monaco and The Masterplan, both of which are in real-time and are aggressively fast-paced.

Crookz is not fast-paced, but it is stressful as hell. You (as the disembodied, isometric camera) play mastermind to a crew of four other thieves. Since it's active-pause, a good analog is the combat in the Infinity Engine games (Baldur's Gate). You could play in real-time but it's more likely you'll pause, give a bunch of orders, and then watch them play out. Each order is a "Waypoint" and characters simply execute all waypoints in order until they run out.

Honestly, the waypoint system is so intuitive you could probably lay out orders for your entire heist ahead of time. There's even a handy "Wait" command where characters will stand in place until you give them the go-ahead.

It's a lot like programming, in a way. You give orders. They follow to the letter. The only major difference is you can amend those orders on the fly if you see everything going sideways. And that's good, because your ultimate goal is to pull off the perfect heist i.e. one where you're never even spotted. That's a difficult proposition when there's a playground of cameras, lasers, guards, faster guards, switches, locked doors, et al in between you and your loot.

Very difficult, it turns out. If there's one thing I took away from dabbling with a Crookz preview build the past few days, it's that this is not a game where you dabble. After an overlong tutorial, Crookz basically pushes you out of the proverbial nest and into your role as mastermind without any handholding.

It's daunting. It's refreshing. It's paralyzing.

Daunting because the game expects you to fail, and expects you to learn from said failure. Refreshing because I wish more games were content with giving the player challenges so difficult it's expected you'll screw things up once (or a dozen times). Paralyzing because there are so many options from the get-go that you're already convinced you've messed up.

 

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