Tag Archives: free to play

Crossout Review (PS4)

Crossout is the latest in the free to play genre of vehicular battles published by Gaijin Entertainment. Much like War Thunder or Star Conflict, in essence you are customising a vehicle then taking it into various PvE or PvP modes that don’t last too long, where you only have one life to get as many kills as you can or complete simple objectives, before taking your rewards and moving on to the next. The essence of these games is the progression, the idea that with every match you are moving closer to a more powerful machine, until eventually you move on to end-game PvP where all the customisation in the world is open to you. Or of course you can simply pay to get there quicker.

Crossout’s unique selling point is just how far that customisation goes. Taking inspiration from Mad Max and perhaps even Vigilante 8, in this you take control of cars, trucks and even small tanks that appear to be cobbled together from scrap pieces of other vehicles. In your garage you can build up these vehicles piece by piece, rotating and painting each part and then bolting it on to create something as intimidating or ridiculous as you’d like. Somehow your creations rarely look like some sort of Minecraftian monstrosity, instead they all fall within a wider aesthetic of grime and rust that makes them look ‘right’ somehow.

It’s hard to overstate just how far the customisation can go. We’ve built tanks that are compact and hide each weapon effectively. We’ve also buillt trucks with all our guns on one side, then an arm sticking out to the other with a giant wall of metal and spikes on it. Of course all of this affects the handling and where your weapons can fire, but that’s part of the fun. Do you want tonnes of armour that might get in the way of your guns? Or do you want something hyper-mobile that can escape quickly? You can only add so many parts to your vehicle (this limit increases as you level up so you’re not too overwhelmed initially) but within that there’s plenty of scope.

Once you get into a game, it’s surprisingly strategic rather than the chaos you might expect. Your guns are aimed by the analog stick (or mouse on PC) and you can shoot individual parts of enemy vehicles. You could go for their wheels to disable them, go for their weapons to disarm them, or just go straight for the hull to take them out quickly. Often in matches you’ll find yourself spinning around with one wheel left and a single weapon, trying to work out what you can do to keep helping your team. If you want you can put explosive barrels on your truck, making it a dangerous proposition for enemies with close range weapons to attack you. Having your machine guns stripping shards of armour off your opponent is immensely satisfying and gives every single weapon in the game a huge amount of weight and impact.

Of course, this being a free to play game, microtransactions are always going to be a sore point. For the purpose of this review we were granted two founders packs, and it’s undeniable that they gave us a huge advantage in early matches. Everyone else had a truck with three machine guns on while we had a tank with a 30mm cannon and two solid machine guns. Pay-to-win is definitely a thing in this game, as in the lower brackets if you’ve spent money you simply will be more powerful. The longer you play, the less important this becomes, as everyone gets randomised loot from matches and will start finding the same things you paid for. That being said, if you want to get a lot out of this game you will be spending money. The grind is so slow, it’s hard to get much value out of the game for the first ten hours or so. Games get repetitive and you’ll be itching to get your hands on some more significant firepower sooner rather than later.

We don’t see the need to pay some money as a negative thing. If this game was £40 we’d be recommending it in a heartbeat. If you spend that kind of money on it you’ll be well placed to level up while having fun and feeling powerful, you can realistically get away with spending far less. This game is definitely fantastic value for money, just don’t expect it to be completely free-to-play and still get the same enjoyment out of it as others do.

Our only real complaint with the game is the graphics on console. We played this a long time ago in the PC alpha, and it looked phenomenal. On the consoles textures are bland, geometry is simple, and particle effects are dull and flat. While the vehicles have interesting (player made) designs, this simply isn’t a good looking game. You forget about that as soon as you really get into the game, but it’s a shame when the PC version can look so good.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic entry into the vehicle combat genre. If you like War Thunder, World of Tanks, or Star Conflict, you need to take a look at this. Thankfully it’s free-to-play so you can try it and get a long way into it without paying a penny, but if you want to get the most out of it, perhaps stump up a little cash for one of the starting packs.

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Star Conflict Review (PC)

Reviewed with an AMD Powercolor R9 290

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Star Conflict is a free to play space combat game from the makers of War Thunder. In principle it controls in much the same way, you steer your craft with the mouse and lock onto targets and shoot them down when you’re in range. Unlike War Thunder you have a lot of auxiliary controls like shield management, alternative ways of moving around and hotkeyed special weapons that add a little flavour to the combat.

In terms of mechanics and visuals, Star Conflict is an absolute treat. Space looks superb and the array of lasers and missiles streaking across the black sky at any one time is consistently impressive. It’s an easy game to access as even the starter ships are in some way viable due to their small size and high speed. You might not be able to take down larger frigates single handedly but you can definitely help out or capture points while the heavy hitters take on the brunt of the opponent’s force.

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At the end of each game you gain experience and currency which can be spent on modules or new ships and over time you slowly research new parts and craft with the experience as a way of levelling up. There are three different factions with their own styles of ships and you unlock everything at such a steady rate there’s always an incentive to play one more game.

All of this focuses around PvP which is definitely the meat of the game. Thankfully the community is incredibly forgiving and welcoming, helping new players out wherever they can and somehow avoiding the toxicity that plagues other free to play games. You’ll definitely be outclassed and outgunned regularly but it’s rare that a fight feels completely unfair. Everything is so precise and exact that it’s hard to feel hard done by when things go wrong. Strategies are even deeper than War Thunder as you can hide behind asteroids or wreckage and move in ways impossible in any kind of aircraft. The fighting regularly makes use of every direction and attacking enemies from what appears to be ‘beneath’ is surprisingly effective against newer players who struggle to get their heads around it.

For a free to play game, this is an immensely fun title. When you start paying for things it’s a little more blurry. You can spend money on new ships, modules, customisation options or boosts to experience or currency income. If you accelerate the progression the cracks begin to show. Many of the ships play in a very similar way, there’s little difference between the highest end ships and some of the second tier ships in terms of actual gameplay. Some of them serve as status symbols to be sure, but people have been playing Star Conflict for so long that nearly everyone who cares has what they want already. If you buy your way through the game you’re likely to get bored of it quickly unless you can join an organised clan or get competitive in which case the game has some legs. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly spectator-friendly game so it’s unlikely to gain any traction as an e-sport, but there’s definitely competition out there for those who want to rise through the ranks.

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For the more casual players you can always dip into a quick pvp game or two (they generally don’t last very long) or you can try out the new pve mode, invasion, which lets you fly around in freedom between colonies taking out AI controlled ships and earning experience. It’s not particularly deep but with some friends you can definitely have a laugh as you scoot about blowing stuff up.

All in all Star Conflict is an excellent free to play game, but whether it has any legs depends on how well you can pace yourself or care about progression. It’s a shame there aren’t more spectacular ships to buy or earth-shattering weapons to earn but we get the feeling they were omitted for the sake of maintaining balance, which has been achieved for the most part.

Verdict 8

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Dead Island Epidemic

All the islands are dying!

DeadIslandEpidemic_logo

Today Deep Silver announced a new entry in the Dead Island series, a free to play game called ‘Epidemic’. Pitting three teams against each other in an arena-based ‘fight for survival’, little is known about the game so far but the free-to-play aspect has definitely got us interested. We’ll hear more about the game at Gamescom but for now you can sign up for the newsletter at http://www.deadislandepidemic.com/

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Free to play

The best things in life are free… to an extent

Free to play games have been around for a long time. Early ‘Multi-User-Dungeon’ text based MMOs were generally free, and even mainstream titles like Runescape could be played for no up-front cost. Early first person shooters such as Doom and Quake even gave away their entire first act as a kind of demo for the game. More recently, free-to-play has come to mean something new, a new way of monetising games. Is this a good thing?

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