The closed BETA for The Crew is winding down and first impressions from across the internet are rolling in. I had a chance to join in on the rubber burning and this is what I had to take away from my hands-on experience with Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflections’ open-world racing game.

The Crew isn’t a precision driving simulator, but in this case, that’s a plus. The casual controls make it easier for anyone to pick up and play without investing hundreds of dollars into peripherals. That being said, The Crew really focuses on the act of driving. Challenges and missions are all activated by driving over their respective locations on the map. Many times, car-centric games allow the player to pop in and out of driving mode and eventually the game deteriorates to full fledged foot races across the map. The Crew offers only one method of transportation: wheels, reminding the player that it’s what is inside your car that is going to take you places.

Challenges like Speed, Slalom, Precision and Escape put your skills to the test in the form of arcade-like mini games. Spread across each city in every state of the map, challenges can be completed solo or with other players. Completing challenges will earn you a medal level and the upgrades that go along with it. Challenges are also replayable. Players with their eyes on a gold level rating can have at it for as long as it takes to earn their rank. Those with a more competitive streak can have fun demolishing friend’s scores or go right for the throat and try to take down those on the game’s leader board. This kind of replayability will work wonders for The Crew in the long run.

Visually, The Crew is stunning. Car aficionados will have no shortage of souped up aluminum and steel to admire and tinker with. All of which looks fantastic. However, the game is large (spanning the whole of the United States will do that) and after a while most of the environment outside of the pavement starts to blur together. Intentional or not, when you’re winding your through crowded Detroit streets or hightailing it down a freeway, the only real eye catching item on-screen are the rides.

Image Credit: Ubisoft / Ivory Tower

While The Crew hosts a single player campaign, it is short and unobtrusive. Listed at about 20 hours of playtime, the goal of infiltrating and climbing the ranks in the 510 gang operation is used more as a primer to the finer things in the game and not a means to an end.

Customization is key in this game. Players can choose from different specs and parts to outfit the cars in their possession, making each one unique to specific terrain or need. A large catalog of aesthetic changes is also available, making it possible to build the absolute dream ride and that is where the game’s on-point visuals really shine.

All in all, The Crew is shaping up to be a dream for gamers that have been craving a truly open world, minimal narrative addition to the driving simulation world.

The Crew will be available September 9th of this year on PS4, XBOX One and PC.