Leaping over sand dunes and ramming my car into an unsuspecting opponent all while unloading my machine guns is the absolute height of car vs. car PvP. My enemy attempts to escape despite having four flat tires and a broken radiator. I fire off my final cannon round and am rewarded with a satisfying explosion and rain of miscellaneous car bits and pieces.
Crossout honestly takes the theme and atheistic of the Mad Max films and brings it to an absolutely fantastic car brawler. The grittiness of the terrain. Every vehicle looking like it is honestly an amalgamation of random car parts found in a junk yard. It’s just so good. In fact, it even has several PvE modes too for those times you want to play but maybe not stress out.
A few weeks back I decided to check out a recently released early access game called KEO, which on paper is very similar to Crossout. KEO is looking to be a good game. There were a lot of things to like about what the team has put together over there, and I am looking forward to seeing where the game will go. However, it is truly an early access game, so development is still ongoing. So, while I was still in the mood for more car battles, I thought I’d take a look and see if there are any others out there. Crossout conveniently presented itself to me.
Crossout was released on Steam in July 2017. It’s already a fully fleshed-out game with a ton of combat modes, customization, vehicle and weapon combinations, and so much more. I don’t think KEO and Crossout are attempting to be the same game. But until KEO has had more time to fully bake, if you’ve got any interest in a Twisted Metal type of brawler, then you have to check out Crossout.
The tutorial is almost perfect
Crossout doesn’t mess around with a full step-by-step tutorial system. Instead, you get a series of quests that are displayed as small chat windows that pop up and highlight the option to click to begin playing. Immediately, you’re sent to a Team Annihilation-style arena to figure it out. While you compete, you’ll see some tips pop up to get you oriented, but everything you need to know falls into place right away. Forward, backward, steer left and right, and pull the trigger to shoot – let’s gooooooo!
Typically, I prefer games that have a slower tutorial setup. Nothing triggers my rage-quit reflex quicker than getting pwned while I’m still trying to figure out the controls to a game. Yet in Crossout, there are breadcrumbs to learn to play even as you play, which somehow works here.
Part of the reason behind that, I suspect, is the system for grouping players in a fight. The different equipment and parts on your car will increase your overall power level (how exactly is still a bit opaque to me). It’s basically your gear score. Since you’ve just begun playing, you’ll be using only the weakest and base-level gear. This means all your opponents (and allies of course) have a similarly low gear score. So not only can you feel competitive in your first fight, but you can even be useful and contribute to the win.
The rest of the tutorial is designed similarly. It’s basically using the achievement/quest system to guide you to the next feature of the game it wants you to learn. After your first fight, the next achievement will direct you to the build mode and explain how you can switch out your machine gun for a shotgun or something similar. After that, it might instruct you to win a couple of battles before unlocking the next game mode.
Many of the arenas are locked behind a level gate, which can be annoying if you just want to get in and play but the game feels like there is still so much that I don’t understand that I can live with it – as long as leveling up keeps moving at a good clip and it doesn’t start to feel like a full on grind.
Crossout brings all the game modes home
As for game modes, Crossout has a series of different types, both PvE and PvP, and even some seasonal modes as well. If I were to sort them out, I’d say the PvE consists of the Adventure, four raids, and two patrols. Of the PvP variety, there is the basic Annihilation mode, a couple for fighting over resources (I’m not a high-enough level yet to try these), a battle royale, and a free-for-all.
Lastly, there’s a mode where you fight leviathans, which is technically a PvE mode, but these are supposedly giant super strong vehicles designed by players. So, once you’re leveled enough and have the right parts, you can actually design and build one of these machines and send them out for 24 hours at a time. While deployed, they have the opportunity to spawn against players in the leviathan raids. After the 24-hour deployment is up, you’ll receive a report (and rewards, I think?) depending on how well your leviathan performed. It sounds like a really cool mechanic, and I can’t wait to try it out.
The Adventure mode is actually the story mode of the game. I played a few missions, and while it wouldn’t win any writing awards, it is at least serviceable.
In any case, you can see there’s just about as many PvE modes as PvP, which is really refreshing. As much as I love PvP, there are times when I just want to play without feeling on edge and or needing to be at my best.
Customization options are cranked up to 11
The options available for decking out your car are seemingly endless. I have to say “seemingly” here because I’m such a lowbie, and it’s difficult to know for sure. However, at this stage, it’s almost overwhelming. That’s because you can basically design and build your car from the ground up.
Essentially, when you’re in build mode, you can change your vehicle’s frame, cabin, all sorts of roofs, fenders, and struts. You can even pick headlights and choose to paint the parts individually. Look at that beast paint, though. When adding parts to your frame, you’ll see points that the piece you’re adding to can snap into. If there’s a collision, it’ll tell you as much.
Also, weapons and other types of gear and abilities might use up energy, which you’ll be able to see as you’re adding it or looking through your parts. Depending on your frame and other factors, you’ll have a certain limit to the total energy you can have. So for example, if your car has an energy limit of six, and each cannon you want to add has a cost of four, obviously you’ll be able to put only one cannon on that car.
Now, while the customization feels a bit overwhelming at first, the game also includes some quick build blueprints that you can assemble and then later adjust to fit your style. So even a scrub like me can get a decent car put together to play.
There are also a ton of options you can get from the in-game store, including paints and car types. It’s a cash shop, but with a free-to-play title like this, it isn’t surprising. It also hasn’t been in my face yet. I haven’t played long enough to know whether there’s true buy-to-win things in there later, but early on, I’m not seeing it.
Actual combat uses a mix of cooldowns and ammo
I was about to wrap up this piece when I suddenly realized I had totally forgotten to explain the combat. That just goes to show how much fun I was having with all these other features!
When you’re actually in combat, your vehicle uses whatever weapons you attached in the build mode. The starter set has a couple of machine guns, but you quickly gain a shotgun. These weapons basically work off of a cooldown, so you can’t hold down the fire button forever and just continuously spray bullets. If you do, the weapon will hit its limit, and you’ll have to wait for a full cooldown to reset before you can fire again.
Some weapons, like the cannon I mentioned before, actually have an ammo limit. With these weapons, they don’t automatically refill their ammo; you actually need to pick some up around the battlefield. It’s a good way of balancing these otherwise stronger attacks.
Each type of vehicle has its own speed and control, so some of them feel a bit janky while others are speedsters. It all goes back into the customization of the car and how you choose to build. Go heavy and be slow but hold more gear. Go light and fast and you won’t have big guns but can zip around.
In the end, it’s going to be a matter of taste, but for me, Crossout is really hitting all the right notes. It’s been a while since I played a game for an evening and upon logout immediately thought, “Well maybe I can go back and play one more round.” Which I did.
So if you haven’t had a good brawler in a while and are looking for some Twisted Metal type of action in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic world, check out Crossout. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.