Crime Boss: Rockay City was considered one of the worst games ever — but it's my favorite game this generation

Screenshot from Rockay City on PS5
(Image credit: Future)

What if I told you that a video game headlining Chuck Norris, Danny Trejo and Vanilla Ice in 2024 is surprisingly deep with endless replayability? It may sound like a fever dream but Crime Boss: Rockay City is one of the most fun games I've played this generation. It mixes strategy, first-person shooter and stealth game elements into a rogue-lite that keeps it feeling fresh even on your 15th run.

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Critics panned it at launch for janky stealth detection, offbeat one-liners, and underwhelming acting. But to me, it feels like a playable cheesy 90s action movie chock-full of cool set pieces. That's one of the highest compliments I can give this game, which leans into its ridiculousness and definitely shouldn't fly under your radar now that it's been heavily updated and finally coming to Steam this month.

Call it adulting, but I can't remember the last time I played a video game in the past year. I recently busted my PS5 out of retirement and gave the PS Plus Catalog a looksie. It was here that I stumbled upon Crime Boss: Rockay City. The cover art drew me in, overlaying Michael Madsen, Chuck Norris and Danny Glover atop a throne overlooking a Miami cityscape. I'm an absolute fool for the 80s and 90s with a serious penchant for anything with a Miami Vice vibe so I instantly downloaded the game without looking much into it. I came in expecting a fun but mindless licensed shooter to kill time like 50 Cent's Blood on the Sand.

Crime Boss: Rockay City: $39 @ Amazon

Crime Boss: Rockay City: $39 @ Amazon
This rogue-lite FPS crime sandbox lets you take on various jobs on your way to funding a criminal empire. Run heists, kick off turf wars, and manage your resources while keeping off the police's radar in order to take over the city.

Digitally available for $39 on the PlayStation Store
Digitally available for
$39 on the Xbox Store

That is not what I found at all. Crime Boss: Rockay City is surprisingly robust. You'll strategically manage resources like soldiers and illegal substances, carry out elaborate heists with stealth gameplay, and go to war with rival gangs in first-person shooter skirmishes. While the overarching story has a great cast and a vibrant Miami-inspired setting it's a missed opportunity. 

I was hoping that this game would use it's talent to tell a story to give the film Heat (1995) a run for its money. Instead, the whole thing is F-bombs and phoned-in performances of Vanilla Ice talking like a gangster. Still, the mechanics are so good the ridiculous plot doesn't even matter. I cannot believe how hooked I've been on this refreshing gameplay loop of trying to take over an entire city with the freedom to choose which jobs and wars to take on.

Strategically conquer a divided city

Baker's battle map view in Crime Boss: Rockay City

(Image credit: Future)

From the start you're thrown into chaos with a power vacuum opening up in the neon-soaked Rockay City. Gangs are at war after the death of The King who used to run the place. These include Danny Trejo's Sicarios, Vanilla Ice's Chicos, the Riders, and the Scudo mafia family. The story centers around Travis Baker (Michael Madsen) a rootin' tootin' cowboy gangster who is a new player in town looking to build up an empire.

I cannot believe how hooked I've been on this refreshing gameplay loop of trying to take over an entire city with the freedom to choose which jobs and wars to take on.

The primary single-player mode is Baker's Battle, which takes place in your office headquarters. You begin each day looking at the map where you can take on jobs to earn money, see which districts each gang controls and wage war. At the start, jobs are as basic as robbing a gas station but as you become more powerful you can acquire specialized workers to perform jewelry store knockoffs, bank heists and eventually armored train robberies. These have some serious stakes since the game uses permadeath — if your characters die on a job you lose them forever.

Stealth run subduing civilians and guards in Crime Boss Rockay City

(Image credit: Future)

This FPS heist gameplay is essentially the same as the Payday franchise. You can go in hot from the start or you can walk away with a bigger cut by going in stealthy. With a little canvassing of the area you can crouch around and zip tie workers, subdue armed guards, and hack into a computer to disable cameras and security systems. That way you can drill into giant safes and take things like cash and gold bars peacefully. Go in hot and you'll have to take on endless waves of police and SWAT teams, which makes lugging giant duffle bags almost impossible because you have to switch to a sidearm instead of a powerful two-handed rifle or machine gun.

Office menu to manage resources in Crime Boss: Rockay City

(Image credit: Future)

Heists and selling resources are crucial to funding upgrades and gang wars. This provides more equipment so you can send in more soldiers and upgrade their weapons to forcefully seize enemy districts. Taking over a territory thrusts you into a Star Wars Battlefront-like FPS skirmish where your number of soldiers goes to war with the enemy gangs to the last man standing. It's actually a lot of fun as you move cover to cover taking on progressively harder waves and eventually a boss fight.

Your territories can be randomly attacked, so you need to ensure you have money in the bank and the latest gear to stay alive. Both the jobs and the turf wars are randomly generated, whether that be the challenge level or area of a map, so each mission feels fresh.

Beat the heat

Turf war skirmish mode in Crime Boss

(Image credit: Future)

All the while a new Sherriff (Chuck Norris) is monitoring your activities. Blow your cover and draw attention during jobs and you'll raise the investigation meter. You can lower this pressure by killing detectives but for the most part you have to be strategic which means picking the right jobs and ideally staying in stealth through all of them.

Crime Boss Rockay City is like junk food — it's not a 5-star meal but it's fun when you're bored and tastes so damn good.

For example, you can neutralize enemy territories by performing a stealth assassination of captains in public or run down enemy resources by attacking their warehouses. It provides an extra level of immersion to see your missions pay off and in early runs can be quite efficient when you don't have as much money to wage wars.

The game will end if the investigation meter reaches 100%, which allows Norris to kick off a raid on your headquarters. You get a chance to escape as Baker in a tense standoff but should you make it out alive you get to keep your money and level. However, the game gets easier as you unlock new permanent perkx every time you level up. So if you get popped by the fuzz, killed by an enemy or go bankrupt you can start your next run more powerful with more money, stronger soldiers, etc. It gives plenty of incentive to play through repeatedly.

New level equipment unlock system between weapons, equipment, and skins

(Image credit: Future)

You earn rewards in the single-player mode that can be applied to multiplayer. Multiplayer has its own storylines under the Urban Legends tab, randomized jobs you can complete for fun, and even more intense heists. There are plenty of unlockables and variations on each job to keep you busy. While the gunplay and stealth mechanics aren't revolutionary they're serviceable and fun at their core, which pairs with the randomized missions to give the game the staying power.

Crime Boss Rockay City is like junk food — it's not a 5-star meal but it's fun when you're bored and tastes so damn good. Its endless replayability and fun grind has me hooked on seeing and unlocking everything it has to offer. I downloaded Crime Boss: Rockay City for the bit, but have been playing it all weekend. If you missed it the first time around the new updates and patches have only made the game better. You can hop in right now on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X with the Steam launch in mid-June looking to be a serious shot in the arm.

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Hunter Fenollol
Senior Editor, Smart Home

Hunter Fenollol is a Senior Editor for Tom’s Guide. He specializes in smart home gadgets and appliances. Prior to joining the team, Hunter reviewed computers, wearables, and mixed reality gear for publications that include CNN Underscored, Popular Mechanics, and Laptop Magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest cooking gadgets, you can likely find him playing a round of golf or out with friends feeding his paycheck to a QuickHit slot machine. Hunter started his career as an intern at Tom’s Guide back in 2019 while in college. He graduated from Long Island University Post with a degree in Communications and minor in Advertising. He has been vlogging ever since the iPhone 4 took front-facing cameras mainstream.