Welcome to the future of car design, except the apocalypse happened and everyone wants to kill you! Crossout is the most recent title by Targem Games. Styled as a car building and crafting MMO, Crossout is set in a post-apocalyptic world populated with most of the extras from Mad Max and some of the bandits from Borderlands. To survive out here you must design, and build, the best and “baddest” motor there is; strap some guns to it and try not to die. Seemingly kept under the radar, Crossout, has been many years in the making, with a few promotional materials seen here and there (at least that’s how I’ve seen it). It made it to closed beta in April of 2016, and was finally available to everyone in an open beta as of May 30th, 2017. Its concept is promising, but does it deliver?
Set in a future where an experiment by intergalactic aliens to create super soldiers out of humans went wrong and instead of increasing their intelligence and strength, mutated them horribly and drove many to hallucinations and insanity. This incident was dubbed ‘Crossout’. The humans who survived were severely mutated and chose to cover themselves up to hide their afflictions (hence the Mad Max wardrobe). They now roam around; some trying to reclaim the former world, others still insane and others still who aren’t quite as human.
Visuals and Sound
The setting of the game is very beautiful in a rugged wilderness with destroyed roads and buildings sort of way. The graphical aesthetic is very Mad Max with hints of the cell shaded Borderlands series within the art style, but this time without the entirely desert environment. There are multiple maps with different climates; the desert maps are littered with rusting buildings, little shanty huts, broken planes, and rocky outcrops to weave around; the greener maps contain rivers and trees and one is set in an overgrown swampy railyard/factory which provides a generally much more enclosed experience with longer sightlines at the sides. Each map is well made and attractive with a good level of detail to the placement of sightlines and choke points and contains interesting little touches such as a suspicious looking metal face in one of the desert levels. The details aren’t super high for the environments, you can’t see individual blades of grass, but then again most of the detail is on the vehicles as it should be, and they look excellent. Each component has little scuffs and scrapes on it, along with rust and other apparel associated with building a vehicle from the remains of a junk yard. These neat little features add to the overall mood of your vehicle and of the game itself. There are almost no graphical issues to report; occasionally the game loads before the textures are fully realised but that doesn’t last for more than a few seconds.
The soundscape also shines. When the weapons fire they are powerful and punchy, from the rapid-fire jabs of the machine guns to the heavy artillery, which when fired echoes like Thor dropped his hammer. The sounds of impact on your vehicle are also very forceful and in some cases deafening. A good example is when you are within range of a large explosion; usually when you are hit with a heavy cannon or when a fuel tank explodes. These sound effects literally faux deafen you; there is a loud whoomph and everything becomes muted and placed in the background whilst a ringing sounds in the foreground simulating the actual experience of a close explosion. It scared the life out of me the first time I heard it as I thought my speakers had been overloaded, it was that realistic and authentic. The background music is reminiscent of modern wild west music, especially in the menus. It sounds similar to the Rebel Galaxy game soundtrack, and therefore gives a good open frontier; no rule, or laws vibe, and is very well matched with the aesthetic.
Gameplay and Mechanics
With almost a MOBA like appearance Crossout starts you off with a very simple car with basic (pathetic) weaponry. You must play against others to level up and unlock upgrades and crafting materials to help build your car up from a simple four-wheeled drive truck to a hulking leviathan of death and firepower. Crossout has three basic game modes on offer: Missions, Raids, and Brawls. Missions is where the meat of the gameplay lies at least for me, I’m rubbish and haven’t levelled up very far, at only level 10. As you level up more missions unlock which, although the same team deathmatch affair, pair you with similarly levelled players, but with different rewards depending on the chosen mission. Raids are special events where you play against bots with a small group of up to four players to complete objectives, such as destroying oil wells and trying to capture supplies from bandits. The Brawls seem to be the true PVP area of the game with three game types; Free-for-all, Storm Warning (hide and seek with a storm as well as other players as the opponent) and Race. All these events, apart from some raids which are more measured affairs, are quick and frantic. There is very rarely a game where the time has run out before someone has grabbed all the points or destroyed the opposing team. This adds a fun hit and run attitude to the game where, if all your weapons are destroyed, the only way to be useful is to try and capture the enemies homebase. It is also essential to work with a team as if you are cornered alone you will be very quickly ripped apart with machine guns or blown up by a heavy cannon. The driving and aiming is good and arcade like. The environments affect your grip, sand will be slippery and any water slows you down, but it is quite easy to just fling your vehicle around and always stay aimed on target. Be careful of your surroundings as often I have been strafe firing at an enemy and wedged myself into an obstacle, only to be cornered and destroyed in quick succession. The games are always available, and full, and very rarely are you left waiting more than thirty seconds to join a lobby, and even if that lobby isn’t full (on the missions at least) then bots are created to even the teams out a bit. This is a real advantage and means you can just jump into it for an hour or so and play a whole swathe of games before leaving.
The other side of the game is where the real fun begins, the car building and customisation. The game lets you design and build a car from the ground up with what you have in storage. Initially that is very little with a few chassis segments and the parts to build a convincing pickup truck. Even with these you can build any combination you want; with the cab at the back and six wheels or maybe have all the weapons on one side of the vehicle and effectively use it to broadside opponents. The choice is up to you how you utilise your components but you always need to take into account your fields of fire. Some weapons can’t fully spin or do so slowly, so if you want to create a wall of lead, determine the best positions for your weapons and build your car around them. The garage interface is slick, smooth and well thought out with few confusing mechanics and once you understand how to utilise it, you can quickly create a vehicle in a few minutes. However, the Xbox One controls for the garage take some getting used to, and I suspect so will the PS4 versions, but with a PC the controls should be much more intuitive and easy to use. The smorgasbord of customisation options available still staggers the mind but there are limits to weight and the amount of parts, which increases slowly as you level up. You are also limited by your cab which generates a certain amount of energy for the car to use in powering weapons or peripherals such as engines,which boost speed and acceleration and weapon radiators which reduce the amount of time for weapons to cooldown after they overheat. Speaking of weapons there are 5 main categories of weapons; machine guns, shotguns, cannons, autocannons and rockets. The machine guns, shotguns and autocannons are rapid fire low damage weapons that are limited by an overheat mechanism which means they can be fired in bursts but never need ammo. They also tend to have low energy requirements depending on their rarity. The rockets and cannons, along with miscellaneous weapons which launch drones or turrets, have ammo and high energy requirements. They are significantly more powerful than the overheating weapons which means that if you have an opponent with a heavy cannon and you have 3 or 4 machine guns you should be quite evenly matched; this balancing allows the gameplay to often be more dependent on skill rather than weaponry. All the guns have simulated recoil and dynamics to them meaning if you have a heavy cannon and aren’t stationary the recoil could send you flying backwards. This was very comedic when I had a rather top-heavy car; every time I opened fire and wasn’t completely stable my car would bounce like a low-rider.
An interesting effect of the car building in the game is that all the parts of your vehicle have their own health points, meaning that when you are hit with a weapon only the parts that are hit lose health. You still lose overall health for the entire vehicle, but it means that individual components will be destroyed and fall off when they lose all health. For a few games, I lost all my weapons because they were shot off by the enemy and became utterly defenceless. This also effects every other aspect of your car; your wheels can be destroyed, you can have fuel tanks exploded and numerous body panels shot off. It is a great little mechanic that really changes how you play, because instead of just firing at the enemy, you start to aim to take their weapons or wheels out first so that you can pick them off without having to worry too much about being injured back.
Free 2 Play Quirks
As an F2P game Crossout offers rewards for returning players in the form of boosts that increase your reputation (experience) gain for the first few rounds a day. It has seasonal challenges and raids that are available for only a limited period every day which encourages you to return and play for different rewards. This is the usual F2P rewards scheme to keep you not solely focused on the game but rather to get you to play it for an hour or so daily and gradually build up your parts and weapons. Now comes the uncomfortable part about these types of games; the microtransactions. I am not a fan of microtransactions in general, especially on full priced games, where they are a waste of time. However, as a free to play title Crossout needs to make some money. The usual packs with cars and special parts are available from £10 up £60 and in-game currency is also available with pricing from £3 to £100. Now I have a problem with some of these packs as they give players access to higher levelled equipment right off the bat, creating an almost pay-to-win scenario. That I really don’t like. If it just gave you cosmetic changes that simply added new bodywork part, or different cabs only, then I would not mind so much, but giving you access to rare weapons is a questionable marketing ploy. I got a pack as a review bonus for this game which gave me a hot rod body kit and access to a rare autocannon which meant for the first few levels I was very much over powered and very rarely was I ever in danger of dying. Of course, as you level, the gap shortens and disappears altogether, but the higher tier packs give you access to what are basically tanks. This favours those who can spare the money to get a better start and better weapons. The competitiveness of the game is then lost if you can simply pay your way to victory.
The in-game currency is another issue as the only way to obtain it is to buy it with real money or to trade for it on their marketplace. This is also an irritation as there is no way for anyone with low level equipment to gain any by using the marketplace as it sells for a pittance. The in-game currency is a must have if you want to craft any of the high-level weapons or components. It is needed to rent out the workbenches that you build the components on and even then, the benches are only hired for a restricted number of parts, before you must pay yet more in game money for them. This is very much a money grab scenario, and I don’t like it one bit, because only those who have the ability to spend money on this game will ever really be able to progress quickly enough for it to be enjoyable. Even the standard random loot boxes you get, which are hard enough to obtain, have a lesser chance of giving you any high-level or decent equipment.
As a concept, the game is great. The mechanics in play are very good and the build-a-car workshop is one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the game. The amount of freedom you get when building your vehicle inspires creativity. The game modes are also terrific, with the fun, “fling your vehicle across the map”, driving model and the ease at which you can aim and pursue the opponents. You are often left with a mild adrenaline high after some very close games, whether you win or lose. However, as with many MOBA like titles there are issues with the microtransactions and accessibility of the high-end equipment. This makes the game fun but quite grindy when you can’t spare any money on it and detracts from the competitive gameplay and enjoyment. Apart from those niggles if you just want to try it out for a quick “drive by shoot ‘em up” experience it is definitely recommended.
- Driving off a ridge into a hole, after a failed jump, and getting stuck. Then proceeding to watch the rest of my team in its entirety follow me into said hole with varying results.
- Watching a player with a small tuk-tuk like vehicle with a large cannon bigger than his vehicle attached, try to fire, only to be flipped over backwards by the force of the cannon firing and tumble off the platform he was sitting on and out of view.
- The array of randomly exploding bots that signals a player has just joined your lobby and will be playing in the next match. It’s like confetti signalling a joyous arrival of someone who is vaguely competent!