Review – Crime Boss: Rockay City

The Game Awards might not exactly be the most enticing awards ceremony, but we’re always graced with some weird yet amusing titles that pop up from out of nowhere. How amused was I once I saw an ultraviolent game set in the 90s, starring people like Michael Madsen, Kim Basinger, Michael Rooker, Danny Glover, and Chuck Norris? Sure, the last one was odd, because the meme has died out decades ago, but damn, what a bizarre premise. Crime Boss: Rockay City looked like a hidden gem in the making. Then it came out. And I played it. And now I deeply despise it.

Crime Boss: Rockay City Michael Madsen

Thanks to this game, I now hate Michael Madsen.

Loud, dumb, boisterous, ultraviolent, with pop culture references and some humor sprinkled in. These elements made me think I’d actually enjoy Crime Boss: Rockay City, even though I didn’t particularly know what the hell the game was even about. Despite the massive Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and old-school Saints Row vibes, there were hints of it being a first-person game via its reveal. Then what the hell was it going to be? A linear first-person shooter? Was it going to be something akin to Far Cry or (barf) Homefront? The answer is: neither. It was also a very puzzling answer: a co-op shooter like Payday 2. Yep.

Freaking Payday 2. The multiplayer game. That title that has little to no meaningful plot to care about. That one extremely flawed, but surprisingly enjoyable co-op romp that’s alive and kicking to this very day, with a loyal fanbase giving it a shot until the release of the long-awaited sequel later this year. This is what Crime Boss: Rockay City wanted to be… but with a massively bloated budget spent on a ton of really famous, albeit slightly washed up movie stars from thirty years ago. In theory, it’s a hard sell. You’d need to make the story engrossing enough to make you invested in what’s supposed to be a pick-up-and-play experience. Suffice to say, you can imagine that the developers did not succeed at that. I did write “I deeply despise it” in the first paragraph, after all.

Payday 2 Clone

Just a reminder that Payday 3 is out this year. You can wait a bit longer.

In essence, there are two games inside Crime Boss: Rockay City. One of them, separated into two modes, is your standard Payday fare. It’s just like that game, but a bit shinier, a bit jankier. Nothing truly spectacular about it. You can very easily take advantage of the game’s braindead AI to perform robberies with little to no consequences. The freaking SWAT could be on my tail, but if I just decided to hide myself behind a wall and then sprint like a madman towards my runaway van, my mission would be complete regardless. You can team up with friends and all that, but there isn’t a single scenario that felt like I couldn’t complete by myself. Very basic, very bland, and I wouldn’t trade it over Payday 2. Now, let’s talk about the real stinker… the single player campaign.

THIS is where the expensive voice cast shows up. This campaign puts you in the shoes of Travis Baker (not Barker, Baker), portrayed with a supreme lack of effort by Michael Madsen. Travis is a gangster, someone who has just arrived in Rockay City, which is just a Miami knockoff, willing to create a criminal empire with the remaining budget he had from selling ecstasy. With the help of some nobodies voiced by Kim Basinger, Michael Rooker (doing his best/worst “Badger from Breaking Bad” impression), and the guy who portrayed Thanos in the post-credits scene of the first Avengers movie, he sets out on this epic quest, all while having to deal with other gangs led by equally colorful (as in, dumb) characters.

Crime Boss Gameplay

The gameplay isn’t bad per se. Bland, but not bad.

Some of the villains include a rapper portrayed by… Vanilla f***ing Ice (no, really, not even joking), a Mongolian warlord named Khan (really original, just slightly racist), and Danny Trejo portraying a Danny Trejo archetype. There’s also a sheriff chasing after you. It’s Chuck Norris. He’s so good, he’s so epic, he’s a badass, yadda yadda yadda… the joke just doesn’t land. The Chuck Norris jokes were fun in a proto-Youtube era of the internet, and we appreciate the man for his martial arts skills, not his acting. Given how this is just a polygonal model with his face and voice, all we have left is Chuck showcasing his voice acting chops… and if this game is any indication, they are terrible.

Here comes my main issue with Crime Boss: everyone does a pathetic job at portraying their characters. It’s a cornucopia of bad decisions. First of all, well, nobody puts in any damn effort. Michael Madsen sounds like an elderly man who smokes three packs of Marlboros a day. Kim Basinger sounds like she had just woken up. Michael Rooker, as mentioned, sounds like Badger. Vanilla Ice is way too over the top, and that’s a very big mistake. Finally, Chuck Norris just doesn’t know how to act, period. But again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the issue with the quality of the recordings (Vanilla Ice sounds like he recorded every line from home, using the same dusty mic he recorded “Ice Ice Baby” in 1990), and most importantly, the script.

Crime Boss Vanilla Ice as Hielo


My lord, the script. This is neither funny, not self-aware. This is just beyond juvenile. I’m all for stupid lines and dark humor (I do LOVE the Deadpool game, after all), but Crime Boss: Rockay City is not funny. Michael Madsen just blasts swear words every three seconds as if he were still stuck in middle school, playing Call of Duty with his mates. Michael Rooker’s only damn role in the plot is to utter American Football-related puns, which get old and tiresome approximately thirteen seconds after he is introduced. It’s an asinine plot that makes every single character loathsome, unbearable. In no moment did I ever laugh.

As for the gameplay, well, there are some good ideas in here, but they are overshadowed by a lot of jank and lack of focus. Yes, your main objective is to gain turf, earn money, and perform robberies/attacks, with the latter gameplay element playing exactly like the other modes (as in, Payday 2, but lamer). In between missions, you get a ton of cutscenes, the occasional good licensed song, and the chance to level up your characters, as well as decide on their loadouts.

Crime Boss Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker sounds like Badger from Breaking Bad in this game.

The catch is that, weirdly enough, this long and extensive campaign is a roguelike. If Michael Madsen dies in a mission, the campaign is over. You keep the perks you’ve unlocked before, but you have restart the damn thing all over again. Given how the game is plot and cutscene-heavy, having to restart everything is demotivating as hell. Endure every single bland mini mission all over again, fight the occasional boss, cringe at Vanilla Ice thinking he can act.

The annoying part is that, in general, Crime Boss: Rockay City isn’t terrible. Technically speaking, its gameplay, while bland and occasionally buggy, is functional. It runs well enough, with little to no framerate issues, and the graphics, while not amazing, get the job done. If you point the gun at a dim-witted enemy, the gun does what it was supposed to do. That means that Crime Boss: Rockay City isn’t even a “so bad it’s laughable” experience. Being forgettable is, at times, worse than being spectacularly bad.

Crime Boss: Rockay City Lockpicking

Crime Boss teaches you to pick locks right from the get-go… but then you’ll realize you can just Leroy Jenkins each mission with no finesse and still succeed.

More than just an utterly mediocre game, Crime Boss: Rockay City is a massive disappointment. Granted, it’s not like I was expecting a lot from a game that thought that including Chuck Norris in it in 2023 was a great idea, but considering its premise and the sheer amount of cash thrown into its cast, I thought it would end up being better than a subpar Payday/roguelike hybrid, with simplistic controls and a truly heinous script. Luckily for it, nothing about its graphics, performance, or controls is bad enough to relegate it to echelon of historically bad failures, but maybe that’s also one of its biggest issues. It’s a bland game that just so happens to have a nonsensically star-studded cast, and one not crappy enough to warrant an ironic playthrough.


Graphics: 7.0

Not bad, but not exciting either. A bit disappointing though, since its cutscenes look outstanding.

Gameplay: 6.0

Some interesting ideas in the main campaign, but as far as the gameplay goes, it’s pretty basic. Shooting doesn’t feel precise or satisfying, and any other commands are beyond simplistic. The AI is braindead.

Sound: 4.5

While the soundtrack is somewhat good, with some licensed bangers, the voice acting is incredibly bad, which is shocking, considering the cast brought into this game in the first place.

Fun Factor: 5.0

It’s not a fun roguelike; it’s not a fun Payday clone. It wastes its cast with awful performances and a cringeworthy script. As a game, it’s not broken and its visuals aren’t bad, but there’s no denying this could have been so much better…

Final Verdict: 5.5

Crime Boss: Rockay City is available now on PC.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Crime Boss: Rockay City was provided by the publisher.