The Crew is an open-world online racing boasting an mmo-like experience. How does Ubisoft’s first racing game in quite a while fair against the recent releases in this category?
So much to see, so much to do!
The Crew has the biggest and most impressive map I’ve had the pleasure to drive through. Where Forza Horizon’s 2 European countryside was eerily empty, The Crew’s United States is richly detailed and alive. Since this game is online, you’ll cross other players on a regular basis. You’ll hit heavy traffic when driving into New York City. Once in town, you can go sightseeing: from the Statue of Liberty to Central Park and everything else the Big Apple has to offer. Leah and I drove to L.A. to see the Convention Centre which houses E3 each year. I spent a lot of time just driving and gawking and the world that was offered to me.
The sheer size of the map is not just for show: it’s the stage for a multitude of missions, skill challenge and secrets. I must say, The Crew offers a wide variety of activities and it takes a while before you cycle through them all. This game will keep you entertained for a good 30 to 50 hours easily. You’ll find things to do well beyond the main storyline: searching for hidden cars, complete skill challenges and PvP matches. The missions are challenging and intense and sometime downright frustrating. The Crew clearly caters to racing game afficiendos. And here’s a tip: check the mission duration before starting it. Some take hours to complete. I saw one that had an estimated completion time of 2 hours! You really don’t want to mess that one up and have to restart it!
Press B to skip movie
The Crew has 30-40 hours worth of main story missions, all stringed together by a loose plot acted out by flat characters. It’s a better effort than Forza Horizon 2’s “Dude, let’s have a limitless driving festival in Europe” but it’s nothing to write home about. The Crew’s story is fleshed out beyond an excuse to get you to drive around to really get that MMO-RPG storyline complete with a reluctant-hero protagonist, a trusty side-kick and a variety of bad guys. However, it fell short of an epic story worthy of the genre. A couple of hours into the story, I didn’t even bother with the cut scenes anymore, I skipped them all and went straight to what mattered most: driving.
Levels are just a suggestion
I got quickly frustrated with the missions. I couldn’t complete them no matter how well I drove and my car felt unresponsive. After a few tries, I realised I repeated a mistake I do too often when playing RPGs: I forgot to level. I didn’t spend my Perk points nor did I grind enough skill challenges to unlock car upgrades. Once you get your car above the mission’s requirements, everything will be peachy right? Just like grinding a few levels in an RPG, right? Wrong. After playing with a friend who was twice my level, we saw how the AI was normalized when he could barely stay in first place. No matter what you do, your opponents will always be on your tail or one step ahead of you.
To me, this undermines the whole leveling system. Unlocking perks and upgrades should help me complete missions. I love a good challenge but this is just frustrating. A well balanced game will keep your objective within reach, even if you need to get on your tippy toes and stretch as much as you can. Ubisoft needs to narrow that gap a bit in The Crew.
Here’s a tip, the AI cheats, so you should to: take shortcuts, ram them, make them crash.
Is this a Nissan or a bumper car?!
At first, I was not impressed by how my car handled… Having clocked a good amount of hours in Forza Motorsports 5 and Forza Horizon 2, The Crew’s driving felt clunky and unresponsive. After digging through the menus, I found where I could adjust the driving options. Word of the wise: stay away from the assisted driving! Once I activated the full on simulation “hardcore” mode and maxed out the steering sensitivity, my car finally felt right.
Choose your ride
… and choose it wisely because you’ll be driving it a lot. New cars aren’t as accessible in The Crew like in Forza or Gran Turismo. Cars in this game are like legendary equipment sets in MMORPGs: you gotta grind for them which means plowing through challenges and missions to earn the means to buy those coveted cars. If you were hoping to build an epic collection like in other racing games, you better be ready to put in the hours.
That one car will serve you well though. You’ll spec it for different types of terrain: from circuit racing to full out off-road. Each spec feels and drives differently so you may not have different vehicles, but you’ll definitely get a varied driving experience.
Down in front!
The Crew has a very annoying UI design. Not only is it barely legible because of the small type and grungy design, it’s in your face. Literally. As in taking half the screen and located in the top half, conveniently placed so that you can’t see where you’re going. Pro tip: when you finish a skill and you get that giant rating in your face with the tiny menu options underneath and you’re swerving around in traffic, don’t bother trying what they are. Just hit “A” until it goes away and get back on the road.
Other sub menus like the settings are located in a small menu that keep to the right side of the screen. Ok, so now you’re trying to keep my field of vision clear of obstacles so I can keep driving, great, but having the small menu in the lower right corner means my eyes are off the road altogether. You know what, nevermind. I’ll just break and park. It’ll be easier for me to lean in and squint to try to read the small text.
Bring a friend.
The Crew is an MMO: you are online, they are other players on the map with you, you can team up to play the game to complete PvE or PvP challenges. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many players that want to team up. I mostly played solo, plowing through the challenges like I would any racing game. Gameplay vastly improved when I had the chance to team up with a friend. If you’re picking up this game, I strongly recommend you find someone to play it with.
Although The Crew has some great features it also has some underlining flaws, the AI being the predominant issue. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring its vast open world, completing missions and challenges along the way. It’s a good arcade racer that will please fans of the genre but may be an extremely frustrating experience to newcomers. If you’re looking for a racer to play with your friends, look to The Crew.