Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, a game released n 2020, got a soft relaunch of sorts with an updated console version, a downgraded version for the Nintendo Switch, and a PC release. This PC release was debuted online exclusively through the Battle.net app. The version instantly drew attention when Activision required users to be connected to the internet to play it.
This isn’t the first single-player game to launch with online-only DRM on Battle.net, but it is arguably the highest-profile game to have this happen. However, the most embarrassing thing about this situation is that the game was cracked in a day.
The cracking group Empress claimed to have hacked the game by midday the following Saturday, just one day later. Their crack replaces a single file in the installation. The release notes don’t detail what the crack does to bypass the online check.
Crash 4 currently has no online content. There is a couch co-op mode for two people to take turns in the single-player game and a four-player versus mode, but those are offline. The online connection is entirely for DRM and has nothing to do with checking online content or even collecting leaderboard scores.
You’ll need a console version of the game to play it offline. It has some performance issues on “base” consoles such as the standard PS4 or Xbox One. Attempting to load the game on PC without a connection causes the error message; “Failed to sign on to Battle.net, error code: BLZ51900002.” The Empress crack bypasses that message without altering the core installation files.
Playing games offline on Battle.net has always been tricky. You have to log out, go into the options menu, choose to play offline, and then sign back in. Even then, some games have trouble playing because the system doesn’t seem to save an encrypted token that verifies you purchased the games legitimately. These tokens allow for offline play on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and other general online gaming platforms.
Activision has yet to respond to questions about Crash 4 being online-only or the apparent crack.