by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
THE BIG HEIST
Iíve played parts of Crookz a couple of times now, in varying states of readiness, and each time left me feeling quietly intrigued. Kalypso Media, known for its strategy games, has teamed up with developer Skilltree Studios to bring you this heist game set in the 1970s. Because thereís no reason to set a heist game in any other decade. On the surface, it may look fairly simple, but the deep strategy is still there. If youíre looking to just breeze through the story, you wonít be too challenged. But if youíre looking to pick up every bit of cash and see whatís in every single lockbox, you might find more difficulty than you bargained for.
The story, in the same vein as many heist stories , begins with a double cross. Following this thereís some revenge, of course, and an escalation in craziness ends with some pretty ridiculous stuff. Itís set in San Francisco, and you control a team of highly trained professional criminals, each with their own unique set of skills. Thereís the locksmith, who will be able to open doors and safes for you. Thereís the contortionist who can squeeze through air vents and the like. The burly brawler who can knock out guards, and so on.
CASING THE JOINT
Depending on how many thieves youíre allowed to take on a mission, youíll want to mix and match these characters accordingly to create your ideal crew. What will work for some missions might not work for another. So, before each mission youíll need to take a good look at the layout of the building youíre trying to infiltrate, guard patrol paths, where the security cameras are and how you can turn them off, and most importantly, where you ultimate goal is.
Along the way, youíll also find little extra goodies lying around, like the aforementioned lockboxes. These arenít essential to the mission, but will gain you some extra cash. With this cash you can buy items before missions for your characters to take on the job. Everyone has three slots which you can fill with items like chloroform to knock out guards, or camera jammers, or crowbars to quickly prise open a door without the use of the locksmith.
You have the choice of keyboard and mouse or gamepad, and both work well. The gamepad can be a little fiddly when in later missions you have quite a lot of options to work with, but itís never frustrating. Most of your planning will be done in the pause mode, where you can move the camera around to your heartís content and plan your next action. The cool thing about this is you can plan out moves for each member of your crew separately, and have them all go together in unison. By setting waypoints and telling one person to pause there while another turns off the laser grid, you can get things done way quicker than if you were trying to do it all in real time.
DON'T GET CAUGHT
The guards are your main threat, but thankfully, theyíre not actually that much of a threat, at least in the early missions. Theyíll patrol around and theyíll have a vision cone, but even if they spot you it wonít be long until they blame their imagination and go back to their route. Itís also usually pretty easy to sneak up behind them and knock them out, but they wonít stay down forever. You do have a meter in the top corner which shows just how inconspicuous youíre being, and youíll want to keep that as low as possible for the best scores.
The difficult part is not getting spotted at all, and this is often easier said than done. I would often accidentally stray into the sight of a camera Iíd forgotten about, or set off an alarm because Iíd forgotten to turn off a security system before entering a room, and would want to start over the whole level because Iíd ruined my score. And this is totally a valid option. Like I said, actually completing a level isnít the hard part, itís completing it well thatís rewarding. Crookz is set to drop in late August, so youíd better hide your wallets in case a gang of misfits comes to take all your money.