Crossout (developed by Targem Games and published by Gaijin Entertainment) is a game that is, at its heart, essentially Mad Max Simulator 2016. Have a look at the trailer to see what I’m talking about:
In Crossout you build road vehicles from the ground up by attaching components to one another. You begin with a couple of frame pieces, add on a cabin, and attach some wheels. After that you’ll add guns or accessories and follow it up with a good bit of wasteland armor. Each individual component has a “Power Score”, and the total of this Power Score is the game’s rating of how strong your vehicle is.
How you construct your vehicle and the materials you use are absolutely a factor in the game. Lighter armor will mean less weight and faster movement but it will also give you less protection. The way you build things is important, as well. Everything except for the core frame of your vehicle can be blown off in combat, and it’s not unusual to see a car missing wheels and most of its guns struggling to stay in the fight.
The construction system is pretty robust overall. There are a variety of parts of different sizes and strengths that have unique physics interactions (such as metal plates on hinges) and different “weld points” where you can attach things. For example, you could put a van door on the side of your vehicle as a piece of armor but you won’t be able to attach anything to the outside. That particular item is best used for the outermost armor.
The weapons are a big factor in how you build your vehicle, too. A common creation in the early game is placing four light machine guns on your hood and roof and positioning them in such a way so as to have as wide of a field of fire as possible. I tend to favor left turns, so I often orient the gun placement so that my northwest quandrant can bring all four guns to bear.
In some cases, you might want to protect your guns as well. One of my later builds involved a stationary cannon that couldn’t rotate on a turret. I made cage armor around my entire vehicle (which also served as ad-hoc stabilizing struts). This new addition protected my gun from countless big hits, and there were quite a few fights where I ended the game with half of my armor gone and my main gun still intact.
There’s a few different gameplay modes. The forefront of the game is the PvP missions. Matches are usually around three minutes, and it’s sometimes the case that victory is reached with a minute on the clock to spare. Crossout is a game that starts quickly, ends quickly, and rarely gets boring in the middle bits.
There’s PvE missions as well. Generally you get one extra life (with the option to respawn again via tokens) and have to either assault gargutuan player-designed machines called Leviathans or defend objectives from a horde of enemy bots. Even with good vehicle designs and careful play you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the oncoming enemies. Both PvP and PvE tend to go best when you group up and take enemies down one at a time.
The flow of the game between matches is helped along by exciting music that really gets your adrenaline pumping. I can close my eyes and often picture a key point from the last battle almost as if it were really something straight out of post-apocalyptic Australia. The roar of engines and the cacophony of cannons and machine guns makes for an altogether different (but still wonderful) sort of music throughout the match.
Between my description here and the images throughout the article, I think I’ve made a strong case for showing that there is really quite a crazy amount of variety in how you can construct your vehicles. Balance patches throughout the Closed Beta have changed the meta in one way or another, and the game in its release state will likely mean that players will have to continually evolve their builds to fit new mechanics and equipment.
I imagine this might all sound like a lot of fun to people who like building their own vehicles and gallivanting around in multiplayer. It often is, but there are also quite a few nasty limitations in place that render what I believe to be the most interesting and engaging part of the game altogether impotent.
The first bugbear is that you have to actually acquire the parts for your vehicles. You begin the game with enough parts to have some degree of freedom in constructing your vehicle. Even so, it will inevitably look like some kind of pickup truck with a Starter Minigun and a bunch of armor welded in important places. As you level up and complete missions you’ll acquire access to new parts. Some parts are direct upgrades in terms of their strength. Some are sidegrades in that they might have a different armor-to-weight ratio. Lots of parts have different sizes and attachment points so you might get more utility from some than others. I can tell you that after around thirty or so hours in the game I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s available.
I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with Crossout if it were just a matter of leveling up and acquiring new parts as you go on. Unfortunately, Crossout looks like it’s slated to be a Free To Play game and it comes with all the trappings you would expect – cosmetics (which aren’t a big deal), a “gold” currency (that you can thankfully acquire by selling stuff on the market), and the worst bit of all – a durability system.
Most of your structural parts aren’t impacted by the durability system. It mainly affects the functional parts of your vehicle – the cabin (which is the core of your creation), weapons, wheels, and any special devices such as ammo racks, supplemental engines, and the like. Every time you lose a battle, all of the items on your vehicle sustain one point of damage. Once the item has run out of hit points you can still use it but it will be comically fragile and be blown off in combat rather easily.
You can either elect to buy items from the market (using the “money” currency) or repair them. Repairing has had a couple different iterations in my time with the game. The current one involves “Scrapping” serviceable parts of the same quality level and using those scraps and some other components to repair your equipment back up to full health.
I also think that this system inevitably leads to the conclusion that the only practical way to play is to use either a bunch of cheap weapons or to use one or two really good pieces of equipment and hope that you can afford to replace or repair them when they break. There are “Star” items that never break, but they are very rare and quite expensive to purchase on the player-driven market.
My current personal vehicle is essentially a truck with a Light Machine Gun on the hood and a turreted cannon on the roof. The turreted cannon is slow to move and horribly inaccurate unless you come to a full stop. I tend to move into a good spot and fire from afar. This is effectively the game’s version of a sniper and it’s quite satisfying to land a devastating hit and make an enemy pull back with a chunk of their vehicle blown away. Eventually, though, the cannon is going to break and I’ll have to replace it. If I want to try something else – rockets, for example – I would have to put a good bit of money in the game or grind for an insane amount of time to craft it. I might get lucky with a drop, but expecting RNG to be in your favor is rarely wise in my experience.
My Crossout creation is a halfway point between what I would have liked to build. I’d ideally like something stylistically similar to a BTR-80 – an eight-wheeled monster that’s decently armored, highly mobile, and has a nasty big gun on top. It’s a halfway point between a Technical and a tank. If I were to try to build it, though, the practical problems of the durability system rear their ugly head. Eight wheels provides excellent redundancy, but every loss is going to cause damage to all eight of them and it’s unlikely I’ll get enough replacements to keep using that kind of design. To be mobile enough I would need an engine accessory (which I don’t have) and I’ll have to eventually replace that as well.
If you look up Crossout on YouTube, you may see a bunch of videos by people who are making all sorts of wacky creations. It’s my experience that this will be effectively impossible for your average player unless they’re willing to sink an obscene amount of time into the game or pony up a lot of money for stuff that will eventually break. I’m of the opinion that the diminishing returns in Crossout actively discourage what is one of the most fun parts – experimenting with new configurations and designs.
If you’re wondering how these YouTubers do it, it’s because they have Press Accounts that have very few limits on them. They have a decent amount of nearly every part as well as access to every weapon. That allows them to experiment and come up with some really cool things. That version of Crossout is, to my mind, way more fun and interesting than the version of Crossout I’ve seen in my time with the closed beta.
There’s a handful of other tiny issues that can probably be easily fixed. You don’t seem to gain any Reputation from winning a match on its own. A streak of bad luck and not getting much combat can result in a practically nonexistent increase in your Reputation. Completing objectives isn’t rewarded much, either. If you were to sneak into the enemy capture zone and win the game for your team without damaging any enemies you’ll win the match and gain zero Reputation for it. This incentivizes deathmatch-style combat over gameplay, and it’s often the case (in my experience, anyway) that games will end due to everyone being dead rather than the objective having been completed.
I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. Crossout looks pretty damn good on my midrange PC and manages to run at 60 FPS with few issues. It only ever really dips below 60 for a brief moment on the loading screen and that’s probably the only place a framerate hiccup would ever be considered acceptable. The variety of different cosmetic parts and paints as well as the sheer level of customization means that no two vehicles will ever look alike unless you and a friend purposefully made them that way.
The netcode is pretty solid, too. I played on European servers from the East coast in America and I rarely had any major stutters. There was one particular bad day during my time with the game, but that’s the reality of games hosting servers and it wasn’t a persistent problem.
US-based servers are now open, but I missed the big window to test them at capacity due to illness. I’ve yet to make my way into a match despite trying, and I think a part of that is that the game probably has far more people living in Europe right now. The European servers work perfectly fine for me despite thousands of miles of distance so I can understand why players would be reluctant to use them in a closed beta with a smallish population.
I think Crossout is shaping up to be a fine game overall. My only major problem is the durability system, and I sincerely hope that the team behind the game considers doing something that takes advantage of building crazy vehicles while still being able to turn a profit.
If you’d like to try Crossout yourself, you can sign up for the Closed Beta here for free or purchase one of the packs on offer to get in right away.
Crossout was previewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
What do you think of Crossout? Does it look as appealing as comparable games where you can build your own vehicles such as From The Depths or Robocraft? Let us know in the comments below!