It’s difficult to write about Crossout without hyperbole. In a year that’s brought us Mad Max, Metal Gear Solid V, The Witcher 3, Until Dawn and Splatoon, this might still be the best thing we’ve played. Imagine The simple controls of War Thunder, the world of Mad Max, the building of Kerbal Space Programme and the procedural damage of Besieged and you’re only part way to imagining how good Crossout is. Oh and it’s going to be free. We’ve been playing the ‘Battle-Test’ (Alpha/Beta) of Crossout for a while and if they released it right now and slapped a £50 price tag on it we’d buy without question.
The user experience is so good it puts nearly all other AAA titles to shame. You start in the main menu with the usual free-to-play options in front of you, you can see who’s online, join various types of games, or tinker with your vehicle, which sits front and center. The tinkering is incredibly immediate and uses Kerbal-esque control so you simply drag and drop parts around, taking new bits from your storage and attaching them wherever you want. At first it seemed restrictive when we saw we were building around the chassis of a pickup truck, but we quickly realised you can take that apart too, building a new vehicle up from small parts. If you want three wheels on one side and one on the other, try it. If you want to add guns on the side, top, and bottom of your car, do it. As soon as you’ve made a change you can take it for a test drive and rather than being taken to a loading screen, you simply drive out of the menu and into a small arena where you can see what the monstrosity you have created is capable of. Here you can drive around, take pot shots at another inert version of your car (seeing what’s vulnerable and what will break off) or set up some enemies to try out your skills. The handling is sublime and there’s a real sense of connection between your vehicle and the ground, something that is sorely missing in the majority of driving games. If you lose a wheel or some suspension you’re not out of it, you can still limp on with the handling affected proportionately. You have to worry about your centre of gravity and how wide your wheelbase is. You’re guns are usually on a swivel but will stop firing if they’re going to shoot through a part of your own car, this leads to some interesting conflicts about whether to put a gun in an exposed position to give you 360 degrees of targeting, or whether to cover them up a little and accept that your will have to be thinking about positioning all the time.
Once you’re happy with your vehicle you can lunge into an online game and see what your car is made of (scrap, mostly). The game types are fairly familiar to anyone who has played World of Tanks and you’re generally trying to capture a base or kill the opposing team (whichever happens first). Coming up against other people’s designs is absolutely thrilling and strategy is hugely important. Some people stick huge howitzer style cannons on their cars, which are massively powerful but also easy targets. Keep to their sides and focus down the gun and they’ll be defenceless. Others will focus on ramming and try to chase you down. Occasionally you’ll underestimate a wounded enemy who still has a working turret and be ripped to shreds from behind. The vehicles disintegrate into their constituent parts in a very satisfying way and the combat is always brutal, fast and entirely skill based.
We’re very excited to see Crossout release and anyone who has ever carried a passing interesting in competitive gaming needs to at least give it a try.