Is Crasher a smasher? or will it crash and burn?

Crasher, the new vehicle based MMO by French studio Puncher’s Impact, has had a slow launch. Finding enough people to play with in order to review the game turned out to be quite a task… though of course my unsociable hours provide no help.

Watching 800 seconds of your life tick away on the automatic match maker is no fun at all. I do however remain optimistic that this problem will fix itself once the game gains popularity. Crasher deserves more fans; it’s unusual, fun and has a certain charm.

One thing that is clear to any player upon loading their first matches is that Crasher is not for the graphically obsessive. The Borderlands-style shading and simple maps are not pretty, though of course anyone with a slow internet connection will be quite happy to sacrifice visuals for smooth gameplay.

On the plus side, the gameplay does carry the game a long way. At first there is a great deal of button mashing and accidentally driving backwards until you get used to the mouse steering and number key skill buttons. Chaos rules the day, especially in smaller maps, where a variety of space age cars will smash into you while launching missiles and you and making the ground turn into chain saws. Yes, chain saws- and that’s not the weirdest of the special powers, but we will get to that later.

After getting the hang of the controls (which does not take long, they are in fact quite fluid) and the pace of the game, Crasher has a lot to offer for fans of rough and ready combat. The essential gist of a fight involves two cars driving fast at each other while activating every power they can in the hope of blowing up the other car. The trick is using the right powers at the right time and range; naturally a melee vehicle needs to close distance while a ranged attack vehicle will try to activate crippling powers before the enemy can approach.

The powers make little to no sense, so don’t expect any. My favorite vehicle, the Firestorm, can turn into a meteor, somehow. Still, its schlock fun and like most online games it becomes enjoyable and even addictive after you achieve a few successes.  The tactical element of the powers provides something for the calculating gamer and the fact that a bit of button mashing and ramming can often win the day provides something for the trigger happy gamer.

For example, Tank vehicles absorb enemy firepower and shrug it off. The Bulldozer can literally absorb the damage taken by vehicles around it by using a bonding power, allowing it to become a sacrificial lamb at the center of a trap. Constructor vehicles perform auxiliary moves like building turrets and mines to enable control of the battlefield, vital in area capture mode.

Each class has its archetypal abilities but each vehicle within a class has unique abilities too, plus stat-boosting equipment and special moves are earned through victory, so the tactical combinations are huge and allow for players to surprise enemies who judge a tank by its turret.

Capture the base mode is good fun and has a dynamic edge in that the area to be captured moves around. These games are longer and allow a player to get to grips with their powers more. Deathmatch games tend to be over in a flash but they cut out any unwanted exploring and get right to the action. A single player AI deathmatch would be great for Crasher, but its understandable why it was left out; the game is about multiplayer combat and has no story or setting to speak of.

The game has been patched already to tweak several aspects. This was much needed and a good sign of dedicated service to come. Balancing still seems to be somewhat of an issue but that’s nothing new to MMO players. The only thing I want Puncher’s Impact to explain is why the icon for Crasher looks like an ‘S’. Mysterious.

This game will not appeal to everyone. It’s rough around the edges and is so random in places that it feels a bit like someone just glued some ideas together and wrote ‘vehicular deathmatch’ on the resulting lump of chainsaws and meteors. I recommend trying out demo mode before buying. My final verdict? Crashtastic. It’s a word now.


by Bret

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