Where have all the good vehicular combat games gone? At one point we had so many to choose from it was almost tough to pick a favourite, but with the sudden and unfortunate death of Twisted Metal (which may or may not be temporary), the genre has taken a nosedive in terms of frequency. Crossout aims to be a saviour of sorts, but with a convoluted free-to-play scheme, it has quite a ways to go until it reaches the promised land.

Crossout‘s Mad Max feel and dentist’s office twangy guitar riffs are grating at first, but it gets the point across that you’re now immersed in a lawless environment where anything goes. This works in the game’s favour the more you dig into it, as it’s abundantly clear the development team had a lot of fun trying to figure out how far they could stretch the absurdity of some of the weaponry and designs.

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But that’s something you’ll experience later on, because at first, Crossout is all about immediacy. You’re put into a queue where you’ll fight right away against some folks, armed only with a trusty pair of machineguns and your old beat up pickup truck—it was way more fun than I thought it would be. But directly following that high note you’re left to your own devices, which mostly involves menus and slowly discovering the game’s monetization efforts. That sobering reality quickly knocked my rush down a few pegs.

I don’t feel any real connection to the “factions,” (where you unlock new gear) mirroring reputation grinds in many popular MMOs—and I really do mean “grind.” Daily login bonuses? Check. Multiple forms of currency, including energy? Check. $60 premium packs that give you a paltry amount of items and some coins? Check. Crossout is billed as an “MMO” but the only use of the “massive” moniker seems to be the total pool of the player base itself.

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Then again, I can see why people would think that way, given the PvE element, which is reminiscent of a horde mode. Appropriately titled “Raids,” it’s like “Brawls” (PvP) by having teams of up to four collaborate and take down a common CPU foe across multiple objective types that cycle in and out. I wish more games had modes like this as sometimes the competitive element of PvP can get to be a little too much, and the sense of progression fits far better inside of a graduating set of difficulties that you can tweak at any time. Repair kits (which allow you to return to the fight if you die) are bound to get annoying on a tougher setting, but the more I played PvE the more I was drawn into the creation aspect of the game.

This is where Crossout has the potential to be interesting long term. There’s also an element of throwing player created vehicles into the mix, and I’ve seen some really cool ones so far (a killer school bus, a giant steam engine train with a minigun, and a scorpion-esque roller machine). You can easily click on them with a straightforward menu and build them yourself if you have the parts. Building anything—even the junkiest rig—is pretty fun actually and very arcadey. You’re just crudely sticking machine guns in places they normally have no business being in (like the hood of your car) in an attempt to constantly one-up yourself.

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The actual vehicle battle bits are promising too. After you’ve waded through all of the microtransactions and potential pay-to-win problems, getting into a death machine and mowing down other players is good old-fashioned fun. I especially enjoy how smooth everything felt with a keyboard and mouse, as independent aiming is possible with the latter but without the sluggish sense of locomotion that some other games require. There’s even a “fire all weapons” button—I love it!

I’m going to keep an eye on Crossout so long as things don’t go overboard with the free-to-play element. I don’t see myself keeping up with the meta that will likely be held hostage by microtransactions and constantly introduced gear or bonuses, but I really don’t mind the idea of logging in every so often to screw around with other players to take down a new AI threat while I pimp my ride a little at a time.