Developer: Puncher Impact
Bringing vehicles back to the combat arena, Crasher is the latest creation from Puncher Impact. Described at the first Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (or MOBA as it likes to be called) it’s a game all about jumping in a fast car, putting the pedal to the metal and bringing carnage to your enemies as you fight for victory. Of course, the big question we all want to know the answer to is if Crasher is worth your time and money, and I’ll be honest with you; getting that answer was not a straight forward task.
Let me start off by pointing out the biggest problem with Crasher in its current state; because no one is playing it the servers, while plentiful, are virtual ghost towns, which causes a problem when you want to actually play a game and justify a purchase. However, I was not going to let such a thing defeat me from reviewing the title and let you, our wonderful audience, down so I devised a cunning plan; kindly convince some friends to download the demo and help me fill out a server for a decent game (many thanks to Dan, Jonny and George for stepping up when no-one else would, and venturing into the gaming unknown. High-five!) So, with the ability to at least get a server almost half full, my band of road warriors and I stepped into the digital fray.
At its core, Crasher is a mixture of twitch gameplay and MMO-stylings (in fact those of you that have experienced the vehicle combat in World of Warcraft will have a general idea of how it all functions.) There is a large choice of vehicles to choose from (although this amount is reduced if you are trying out the demo) which at a basic level separate into the ‘holy trinity’ of MMO gaming; tanks, healers and damage, with each having long range and ‘melee’ version to choose from. You are given four abilities to unleash on your enemies, each with a cooldown timer until its next use and a cost in energy (which you RPG buffs can think of as ‘mana’.) This is topped off by an auto-fire weapon which will activate when you are facing a targeted enemy. For each kill or objective you accomplish you gain XP, which slowly levels you up. Depending on where you place on the end-game scoreboard you also gain new items to upgrade your vehicles with. These range from power ups and armour upgrades to new weapons for you to install, allowing you to gradually build up a war machine to your liking. It’s a simple setup but it works fairly well… once you have figured out what is going on.
Allow me to explain; my first impressions of the game were not positive, and it can be summed up to the initial lack of information on the gameplay. While there is a tutorial button available on the main menu it amounts to an old-fashion keyboard layout picture which, while slightly helpful, still leaves a lot of questions unanswered and forces the player to learn by doing. Such an approach was taken by me and it ended in defeat rather quickly. The first match with my group faired a little better but was met with high levels of confusion, the voice comms filled with shouts of “I have absolutely no idea what’s going on” mixed with “at least it looks awesome.” That’s not to say that the information about the game mechanics and abilities isn’t there, it’s just that a newcomer to the game has to do a lot of leg work to find it all out, and a proper-in game tutorial (similar to, for example, the one provided in Monday Night Combat) would be more than ideal. Learning all about the power-ups the litter the maps would have helped immensely, especially as in one game I accidently traded a speed boost ability for a jump ability and was unable to switch back, something that ultimately cost me a match at one point.
There are two game modes in Crasher currently; Crasher Battle Arenas (CBA) which is a Team Death Match with no respawns where you win rounds by eliminating the other team, and Crasher Territory Control (CTC) which is essentially King of the Hill with battle cars. There are currently three maps in total, including the recently released Abyss map, although only one is playable on the CTC mode. This lack of content is a shame, especially as playing over the same maps repeatedly made combat predictable fairly quickly (including one game where my wingman George was on his own in a CBA game and ran for 2 minutes between health power-ups to secure a draw. While funny to watch at first it did suggest a design flaw with the game.) While CBA mode works with 2v2 and higher, CTC is only any fun with a full 10-player roster because of the large map, which unfortunately only happened once during my play sessions, something that may cause players to pass on the game.
A key feature Crasher boasts about is the ‘dynamic’ battlegrounds for its CBA game mode. What this translates to is a changing battleground as the round plays. For example, on the Eruption map the arena starts as normal, then 30 seconds later the very centre begins to (surprise, surprise) erupt lava. A short time after this has happened it does it again, causing the lava to rise and forcing you to keep moving, heading up to a circular platform at the top to avoid seeing how easily you can melt. This does keep the combat fluid and looks visually impressive when it happens, but as my cohorts voiced during our session it can be pretty annoying at the same time, especially if you are in the middle of an epic fight and all of a sudden you and your enemy are taken out of the equation (which did happen a few times to them.) While there is one static map on which to play the CBA mode, if the idea of thinking about environmental hazards whilst fighting the opposition puts you off then this may not be the game for you.
Although I may have been chipping away at Crasher’s faults so far through this review, here’s where the startling change of heart begins. Gradually over time as my group and I played through several rounds, as we had finally figured out what the controls and power-ups did, as we learnt the maps and abilities of the different vehicles, our opinion of the game grew for the better as one by one we slowly started to warm to what was on offer, and the word “potential” began to be thrown around. Yes, we found little things annoying but the fast paced combat kept us entertained (when we were able to get a game that is) and when we finally got some good items we started to really get into the action. My Apocalypse vehicle with a newly-fitted flamethrower on the front made for devastating assaults along with my other abilities (as the rest of my fellow volunteers will testify, they all fell victim to me. It was hilariously awesome.) With the graphic settings turned up it’s actually a visually engaging game (which has a hint of Borderlands-esque style about it), the combat during a match capable of lighting up your monitor as you enemies blow up in front of you, and the different environments of each map manage to strike an individual tone.
That said, even with that last minute praise of what it does right, is Crasher worth the asking price of £11.99 though? As harsh as it may be to say, definitely not in its current state. With only three maps and two game modes, even with the multiple vehicles and items you will gain as you play, there just isn’t enough there to justify that kind of price tag when you can get more feature rich and content-filled titles for the same price. Once developer Puncher Impact adds in more content this opinion will change, because this it is a fast-paced and fun game that covers the lack of car combat games currently on the market. Of course, with the demo available for you to try you can form your own opinions on the game, and I would say it’s at the very least worth a look (providing the players are there to fill out the servers.)
- Fast paced and entertaining action as you drive into battle.
- Visually engaging.
- Plenty of vehicles and ways to customise them…
- … but is countered by the lack of maps and game modes.
- The lack of an informative tutorial leaves newcomers disorientated at first.
- A lack of players definitely effects getting into a good game, and ultimately a reason to stick around.
The short version: When it gets going Crasher is a fun and entertaining game, but the lack of maps and game modes with which to play on effects matters too much, and a lack of players on the servers is too hard to ignore. Given time this could change and make it worth your attention, but until the potential is realised it may be best to wait.