Targem Games' Crossout is a game that invokes the spirit of Mad Max as it takes you to desolate post-apocalyptic wastelands to battle vehicles made out of scrap and weaponry. This online multiplayer game gives you a variety of ways to blast each other to pieces, and above all else, it focuses on the individuality of these vehicles, as you can make them as ugly or as wonderful as you like before you battle to become the best.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the action itself the first thing we want to praise is the fact that there are two different control schemes, and this optionality was very much appreciated. The default (when playing on PS4) accelerates by pushing forward on the left stick, with weapons assigned to R2 and L2; controls akin to those of vehicles like Mass Effect's Mako. The other setup, called Race, assigns accelerate to R2 instead, and you control the weapons using R1 and L1, and although we much preferred this system, we liked that there were the options suited to both racing fans and shooter players alike.
Once you figure out how you want to drive, then comes the building part. If you're not the creative type, or if you just can't be bothered, you can always select a pre-made blueprint for a vehicle, but half of the fun in Crossout comes from creating a vehicle yourself and kitting it out with the coolest arsenal of weapons. That way you can really call it your own, whether it's an eyesore trash-heap or a beautiful masterpiece.
There are extensive options when it comes to crafting, as there are components like weapons, decorations, frames, wheels, spraypaints, and more to choose from, all of which can either be built individually or purchased from the market with in-game currency (which, we should note, can be obtained via real money as well). If you're wondering if rubber ducks are included, yes they are, and on that note, there are items for those who want their experience a bit sillier, as well as things for those who really want a serious time after the apocalypse.
Don't get too attached to those precious parts on your car, however, as when you head into battle there's a high chance you'll be losing some of them. Part of the appeal of Crossout's combat is that you can shoot or otherwise destroy parts on your opponents' vehicles, and while it's cool when you rock up to someone's car and start blowing fenders and stuff off them, this also serves a tactical purpose, as wheels can be shot off as well as weapons, destabilising and disarming them respectively. Aiming shots carefully is therefore a must, and it's particularly satisfying when you reduce an enemy to a wheel-less pile of junk before riding off into the sunset (although it's worth noting that these aren't lost for good, as your vehicle returns to its original state after the match is over, so there's no threat of losing parts forever).
Game modes are short and sweet in Crossout, although that might not be to everyone's tastes. The Missions see you face off in PvP modes revolving around capture points on a map, most of these matches taking no longer than five minutes to complete. Although cooperative Raids against AI, such as one where you have to protect an AI truck through a set path, take slightly longer, it's still no more than 10-15 minutes a match. As a result, the matches in Crossout never really feel like the stakes are high enough, and if you lose one you can easily just brush it off and find another. There are also Brawls as well; free-for-all games similar to races that see you take on others without the hassle of teams.
With these short matches we were occasionally left wanting something more in-depth, modes that might have made the action more meaningful. For now, it feels a bit casual, where you're just waiting for the next five-minute burst to earn some valuable points, rather than feeling the weight of battle and the significance of wins/losses for your team. This is in part because, in Missions at least, you're given one life, and once that's done it's sometimes easier just to leave and enter another match than wait around to spectate (Raids, however, have a set number of respawns for free, after which you have to buy them with in-game currency). It feels like you're bouncing from skirmish to skirmish, rather than battle to battle.
Crossout does a good job of keeping things fresh, though, as you earn what's called Reputation (as well as resources) by playing matches, something that increases your rank with a faction. The starting faction is called Engineers, but once you get to level 10 here, you then get the choice between Lunatics, Nomads, and Scavengers, all of which have their own personal style in terms of not only gameplay but visual identity for the cars. Lunatics, for instance, have explosive tendencies and faster cars, but are more lightweight, whereas Scavengers and Nomads have slightly sturdier cars. As you progress with each faction, including the Engineers, you then unlock more blueprints to use, so you can keep switching your car up if you ever get bored.
You also unlock more equipment as the game progresses, including weapons, allowing for more gameplay options. Machine guns, for instance, are what you start off with, and they allow for medium range and firepower, however, shotguns are unlocked later and are better at shooting parts off of vehicles. Later come the cannons, which provide a lot of firepower but take a while to aim, so there's something for everyone here, and you're free to mix and match when you want, providing you have either the cash to pay for it or the resources to build it.
It's not all about weapons, though, as your wheel choice matters too. Not only do different tires provide more grip for those who like to focus on handling, there are also other factors to consider when selecting wheels, such as durability (i.e. how easily they can detach and leave you wobbly). Nothing comes without consequence when assembling a vehicle, especially in terms of weight, so experimentation is encouraged for sure.
As much as we liked the fine details when it comes to the visual side of Crossout, such as the tire tracks on the ground and the dirt on the cars, we did notice that there were a lot of instances where textures took a few seconds to pop in at the beginning of matches (we played on PS4, we should note). On top of this, there were also frame-rate issues when things got really hectic on screen, although these were far less frequent, and there wasn't much else to report on the technical side of things.
The points system also confused us a bit as well. The Missions, like we mentioned, are all objective-based and require players to capture control zones, but you get far fewer points for doing so. The points instead lie with kills, and if you get loads of kills and your team loses, you get far more points than if you're the only one to capture the control point and win it for your team, so we found ourselves totally abandoning the objective after a while to focus on getting our own reputation up instead.
Despite these complaints, Crossout entertained us a lot during our time with it, offering us different options from vehicle parts to game modes, and although we never got bored of the action in terms of the core mechanics - the vehicular warfare - we did find the matches got a bit repetitive and felt a bit lightweight. More in-depth modes would definitely be appreciated in the future, to make what is a fun and destructive battler into something a touch more complete.
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