On paper, Crossout sounds like a sure thing: a vehicular combat MMO in which you customise battle cars to take into a Mad Max-like wasteland. At first glance, it looks like a delicious hybrid of Rocket League and Destruction Derby. And at this early access stage, the game lives up to those lofty comparisons, but with a few mechanical caveats.
Jumping straight into a match is an initially jarring experience, largely due to the default control scheme leaving a lot to be desired. Controlling camera, aim, and vehicle steering with both sticks feels oversensitive and frustrating – especially when you end up spinning like a dervish because you moved the stick slightly to the left during a pursuit. Thankfully, an alternate control scheme is available that makes vehicle direction relative to the camera (think warthog steering in Halo), a far more logical option for console steering. With the controls sorted, the mayhem becomes a far more enjoyable prospect.
The combat itself is fun and uncomplicated, cars have a satisfying weight to them that changes depending on what cabin you use. The starting vehicle is a lightweight pick-up that’s good for chasing down targets, but its standard machine guns don’t do a lot of damage. The founder's pack we tried out came with the Armored Turtle, a bullet sponge tank with a large cannon that takes some skill to aim but can obliterate an enemy in a couple of shots. During our time with the game, servers were as barren as a scorched desert and fighting the AI can get a bit tedious, as they’ll either swarm you from all angles or amble around just waiting to get blown up. The odd match against real players was much better, requiring good map knowledge and a familiarity with weapon types in order to survive. Games are short and matchmaking is fast, which will make the grind much more bearable if the community grows. Net code is also satisfyingly stable and we saw no performance issues during our time against real players.
Progression relies heavily on building up your vehicle by winning parts in matches or crafting them from materials won or bought on the open market. It’s a robust system that a little overwhelming at first; there’s a considerable amount of item categories and stats and it isn't always clear how much of a benefit you're getting in-game until you start accruing the higher tier items.
Building your rig is a bit like the Gummi Ship customisation in Kingdom Hearts – only with a lot more firepower and shades of brown. It’s a satisfying feeling to snap on spikes, sleds, and guns, throw on a lick of lightning pattern paint and see your creation mulch opponents online.
This being an MMO, there’s a quest system linked to a series of factions that net a specific set of blueprints and offer varying rewards for loyalty and performance. Checklists comprise your day-to-day missions, with weekly targets rewarding more XP and faction standing. Raids are larger operations that usually have multiple objectives, differentiating them from the standard skirmishes in the main stretch of the game.
But at the moment, there doesn't seem to be enough variation in the game modes to guarantee a lasting commitment. Standard assault encounters and raid variants can sometimes feel like a means to end when there's no clear narrative outside of the faction missions. Yet the pace of the game makes it perfect for piecemeal grinding and loot hounds will love it.
Crossout is available in Early Access via a 50 per cent off Founders Bundle on the PlayStation Store now. A full free-to-play release is planned for 30th May.