Online multiplayer games take on many forms in the modern era of gaming, but one that hasn't really been tackled that much is an MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). But that's exactly the genre that Punchers Impact are looking to take by storm with their latest title, Crasher. Now, on face value, it's quite easy to compare it to games of a similar ilk, like Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8. However, if you take a deeper look, the differences are quite stark. Sure, players choose cars that have a wide range of special abilities in order to try and kill other players. And yes these battles occur in a 'level' as opposed to a 'track', which gives players a far wider range of motion. But the comparisons end about there.
Once you add in the team oriented 'arena style' combat, class-based cars whose skills number far beyond the typical 'shoot missile and 'shoot larger missile' options and some pretty creative (and interactive) level design, you've got a much more deep, and rich game to play with.
You'll start off choosing what kind of car you'd like to drive, which may take a moment or two to figure out because the game features a pretty sizeable amount of cars, each with their own pretty unique play style. Cars are broken down into various classes, each of which has a more specifically outlined purpose from there. For example, anyone interested in having a heavier vehicle type can choose between a car that orients around slamming into the enemy, draining life from the opponent, or stringing opponents together making it harder for them to move and easier for you to shoot. It sounds overpowered, but no two cars have the same sort of move overlap and that's where Crasher becomes particularly interesting. Multiple types of offensive and defensive cars make for a pretty wide range of attacks, and provided a team (which consists of five cars) doesn't overlap in car types, it's possible to be ready for just about any kind of scenario.
Furthermore level design and game type mixes in a bit more challenge. A car that's particularly effective in hindering movement may not see too much of an advantage in a level that's mostly just territory control, but toss that car into an arena which fills with lava that must be escaped over time and now you've got a different story. Each map has its own particularly unique quirks, although all of them share some basic foundations. All of them are more than just flat zones, instead featuring multiple ramps, cliffs, and secondary areas which allow players access to various power-ups and offensive (or defensive) positions; and though it's possible to navigate any map and still contribute to the team, it does make a bit of a difference knowing where all the decent power-ups are.
In fact, learning the levels and choosing an appropriate car is really the hardest part of Crasher. The tutorial consists of a single image which highlights movement through the standard WASD keys, in addition to each of the cars four moves being tied to buttons 1-4 (with space bar being reserved for boosting/jumping). It's simple but effective, considering this is a game about circumstance and teamwork rather than micromanagement and hotkeys.
For as fun as Crasher is however, that fun can be extremely short lived due to the game's almost nonexistent community. Logging on at almost any portion of the day to find lobbies with only a few sparse individuals around (if any) not only makes the game exceptionally hard to play, but even more difficult to properly experience. Additionally the game does have a few lag issues, a problem almost completely unnoticeable with some cars, particularly those vehicles with single target abilities. However, it can be absolutely game-breaking with vehicles which use a targeted area effect move.
Graphically Punchers Impact did some pretty slick work, as everything from the level design to the car design stands out quite nicely. There was never a single moment during a level where I was particularly lost, or wasn't sure which car was using what ability. And that's quite a statement considering the size and relative complexity of the levels.
The cell-shaded environments are easy on the eyes, and make it extremely easy to pick up enemy players and where they're heading. Following that, the game's sound is pretty unremarkable from music to special effects. It's not really too big a deal, since the game is completely focused around combat anyway, but it would have been nice to have some less bland music to listen to between the extremely long matchmaking queue times.
Ultimately good design and interesting gameplay fall short due to some poor exposure of the product and bad lag. But Crasher seems like a title that will be able to refine itself over time. Without a dedicated community or more players in general, it's hard to say exactly how well this title holds up against the developer's original vision. If you're into trying new things on the competitive multiplayer scene this may be a title worth looking into, provided that Crasher continues to receives some solid support in the near future.