Despite the hardcore description offered by Gaijin Entertainment of their new creation, once the game was launched I was met with the laid back tunes of an acoustic guitar, strumming in a way you'd appreciate after a long, hard day at the office. The visuals tell another story though. Each visual presentation holds the promise of blood, fire, and chaos and the contrast is intriguing, to say the least.
My first ride reminded me of a jacked-up Toyota Hilux owned by a North-African terrorist. I skipped through the tutorials which tried to explain the in's and out's of the various menus to me. I don't care about that, I just want to shoot something.
Crossout is currently available for free at their online store.
After a few minutes of frantic next-clicking, I'm finally in my post-apocalyptic arena with a few insane teammates and we immediately set out in search of an enemy to destroy. But something is wrong. My African terrorist-mobile isn't playing ball. I press the accelerator, but nothing, then after a long delay I finally move forward. I turn right and again there's a lifetime before the car responds. Frantically I open the menu to adjust the video settings, despite my rig being more than capable of running the game, and before I'm even done configuring, the match is over.
The result was a victory for my team but this wasn't exactly how I imagined my first match going. I went back into the video menu and decided to instead try rebooting before making any changes. This proved effective and my next deathmatch started way more successfully. I clumsily stumbled across the wastelands in search of my foes and accidentally crashed several times removing a few body parts before ever firing a bullet. Luckily for me, the online community for Crossout is still somewhat limited and I was matched with some highly incompetent AI players. With the help of the dual machine guns mounted on my roof, I lead my team to victory in a short but satisfying round.
The next dozen of so matches each lasted less than 3 minutes and I soon became bored so I decided to explore the menus the game tried to guide me through earlier. I found a list of items available for manufacturing but unfortunately, I don't have the necessary scrap metal needed to build anything on the list. Even after playing nearly a week, I've only managed to manufacture a small number of items.
Next, I headed off to the garage to see how to unlock additional vehicles. Strangely though, I couldn't find any new vehicles to unlock which left me somewhat puzzled. This was when I discovered that my garage was filled with tools which allowed me to break down my steed to its bare essentials. Obviously, I couldn't hunt bandits with a wheel-less chassis so I rebuilt my vehicle in a new and exciting way. The controls here take some getting used to but soon I have my new mechanism of chaos ready, as can be seen below.
Turns out you don't unlock new vehicles, but every match won grants you new parts to stick onto your deathbox. One juicy little item I discovered in my arsenal was a cannon, a big one. I couldn't mount it on the back of a pickup since I would probably end up shooting my own brains out. I doubt that the game would allow such a thing but it didn't seem right nevertheless, hence my strange design you see above of the cannon mounted up front and the cab on the rear. You'll also notice the pointy bit sticking out the front. This helped me deal some additional damage when ramming my opponents, I wasn't trying to compensate for anything, my big cannon already took care of that.
There are a few things to keep in mind when constructing your vehicle though since each item has an up and down side. The more items you strap onto your ride, the better your armor, however, the additional weight slows you down. More wheels give you better stability during battle, should one be blown off, but it also affects your handling in a negative way. You also want to cover your weapons with panels to keep them safe from incoming fire but this also inhibits their range of movement.
The cab is one of the most important things to consider during construction. Each new cab allows for a certain number of parts to be added to the car, allows a different maximum weight and provides a set number of power points. The power points are distributed among the weapons and support items you choose to mount to your car. A simple machine gun uses 2 power points, while a shotgun uses 3. The big cannon I mentioned earlier used 5, as did the jet engine I later unlocked. The highest number of power points my unlocked cabs allowed was a mere 12 which meant I had to think long and hard about which items I wanted with me in battle. I could mount my big cannon along with the jet engine, that would give me speed and incredible damage, but the cannon's limited movement made it useless in close quarter combat and a single machine gun simply wouldn't suffice.
In addition to unlocking spare parts by winning battles, you can also purchase various game packs. In essence, this allows for nearly unlimited customization options. I was granted one of these content packs and received a number of shiny new toys. After playing a few more rounds I went back to the garage and came up with the masterpiece you see below.
Now I used up all my best parts so I reckoned my ride was about as good as it was going to get, so I got back to the battlefield. A good feature to mention is that shooting at an enemy doesn't just drain their health in a generic way. Target a wheel and your opponent will soon have to outmaneuver you with one leg missing. Exploit the vulnerability of exposed weapons and your foe won't be able to fight back.
In addition to the team deathmatches, you can also perform raids. These change on a daily basis and require fuel, which replenishes slowly over time. This means that you can't just do the raids which in my opinion was a lot more fun. During one of these missions, I had to defend a series of towers from waves of raiders. In another, my team and I had to escort a fuel truck down a perilous path and fend off yet more raiders. These missions are much more interesting than the usual match, a pity that you can only play so many of them at a time.
I loved the music that played when browsing around in the menus but for some reason Crossout has no in-game music. The sound effects are fantastic though and each weapon has its own distinct sound.
As for the visuals, Gaijin Entertainment has another winner. The game looks great, and I actually wished for some more time to just admire the scenery. The best thing here is, of course, the various vehicles you encounter and it’s a treat seeing what the other lunatics you play with or against get up to.
Crossout shows a lot of promise but as the game is still in early development you can expect a number of bugs. The worst of these were frequent network problems that threw me out of numerous matches. The second is laggy controls like I experienced in my very first game. This happened on several occasions, sometimes to be fixed by a system reboot and sometimes it just corrected itself. Either way, it was a huge annoyance.
The biggest problem with Crossout however, is the gameplay. You’ll notice that most of this article was dedicated to how I manipulated my vehicle into something greater while very little was mentioned of the action that followed. This accurately reflects how fun was distributed during my play time. In truth, the deathmatches were dull at first because of the idiotic AI, frustrating later due to difficult car controls over very rough terrain and eventually nearly impossible to win when facing much more experienced players.
Crossout is what do you get when you combine Mad Max, Death Race, and Carmageddon? In essence, that’s a game I’ve been waiting for since Carmageddon died so many years ago. Crossout gives you the customization option which Carmageddon never did but in terms of pure entertainment and raw action, Crossout falls way short. Perhaps it would have been better if Crossout was a race themed action game too.
I have to add that I think Crossout will become better down the line once you have a good amount of hours invested in it and you've unlocked some decent gear, however getting to that point is slow and tedious. The gameplay isn’t bad mind you, it’s just nothing special.
I really do hope this game improves so I'll be crossing my fingers that Gaijin Entertainment can save Crossout from being crossed out completely.