Ubisoft had a great idea; not really a new one, but still great: A massive online playground for car lovers to race together or against each other, with a multitude of activities and a variety in scenery so that they may never want to race elsewhere. In reality, What Ubisoft did with The Crew is not as good as it set out to be. Though ambitious, The Crew stalls at times and has trouble getting started again.
You start out your journey in manner fitting a Need for Speed or The Fast and the Furious movie. You are a young, hip (Gordon Freeman lookalike) ex-con with a good heart, looking to avenge his brothers’ death. Or something along those lines. It’s not really important, but it gets you started, and it does get you motivated to explore. The story provides you with some scripted events along the way, and some of the weirdest out-of-body dialogue moments (it’s even weirder than it sounds). If you aren’t interested in the story bits, then you are free to explore at your leisure. There may be nothing more than a tacked-on plot, but hey – it’s a driving game, right?
You will end up going across the entire USA. The places you go through are varied and exciting, and the sheer variety of it is staggering. When you go across the vast deserts of Nevada, or driving through New York City’s streets – it’s always impressive to see the size and scope of The Crew’s map. Too bad then, that when you start exploring this HUGE game, you see how bumpy the road actually is.
Outside of the story missions that will boost your level and fatten your wallet, there are many many side missions scattered through out. The selection is varied enough – you will smuggle illegal goods, chase armored trucks, try your skills by driving as fast as you can for as long as you can without crashing, or conversely as dangerously as you can. These activities are fun at the beginning, but as you advance, their automatic activation as you drive through the map becomes annoying. When you want to get from point A to B in a map this big, these can be considered an obstacle.
The Crew also makes car selection somewhat redundant. There is variety here as well – from super and hyper cars of Europe, to the street racing Japanese cars and the US muscle monsters. You have open wheelers and road cars. Here’s the thing though – you can kit your cars in a manner which will let you race optimally on every type of road and under any condition, so there’s no incentive to pick a newer, faster car when you can just upgrade the one you have and just keep a few others for every scenario. Sure, it’s an arcade racer, but miscellaneous generic upgrades and vanity items do not push the player to experiment. There is just no unique characteristics to the cars you drive. It’s all very sterile and grey.
And it’s not the only grey aspect of the game. For a map this huge with so many different locations, The Crew doesn’t look very good. You can blame it on the open world, but really – is that a reason for bland textures and graphical bugs? When I drive through the noisy streets of Detroit or New York City, the game often looks void of anything distinguishable, and the vast deserts looks more deserted than they should. It feels like the map is huge for the sake of size, not content. It can take 2 hours to drive coast to coast, and there are even longer missions than that, and while it does has it’s moments – like driving cross country and see the scenery change – ultimately the game’s size works to it’s disadvantage.
Being an online-only game, The Crew flaunts it’s MMO mechanics like they’re a good thing. Reality, however, tells a different story. The grind for the next car means a lot of work through the game’s events, and that means competing against AI cars too. Unlike traditional MMO AI, however, The Crews’ AI can be down right annoying. Whether it’s the traffic that seems like it’s getting in your way at the most inappropriate time, or rival AIs – the rubber-banding this game has is hideous. You can make your way up the roster feeling like a pro, only to have your place plucked out by a dumb AI car that was there at the exact wrong moment. You may say that it’s like this in almost every racing game – and you would be right – but The Crews’ AI makes it look like it’s on a mission to get you. The UI also works against you at times: it offers so much information during races and outside, that it can mess up your rhythm and take your mind off the road. Accidents ensue.
If you don’t want to go it alone, The Crew can be played in co-op with up to three of your friends. You can tackle all the game has to offer in a group, and race through the entire map together. Being an MMO of sorts, the game offers unique missions that take several hours to complete, much like raids in other MMO games. The driving physics however will probably prevent you from enjoying such missions for its duration. Even choosing different driving setups and aids, the driving itself still feels dull and inconsistent. At times you can control the car as you would expect. On other occasions you will think your controller is drunk on volts because there’s no other explanation for the way your car is handling.
Do you still want to try your hand at multiplayer with other players? There are several lobbies scattered throughout the map for you to park at and wait for other players to join you. Unfortunately, the games’ population is scarce at the time of writing, so my only option was to get a couple of friends to drive alongside me. It’s during these moments that the game truly shines. Start chatting up random drivers and get to building your crew – only then will you start seeing The Crew for what it really is. The huge playable area this game provides will give you and your friends some of the best thrills in a driving game yet.
The Crew is a game you won’t survive on your own. It offers what you would expect from an MMO, though some things were lost in translation and at times it would seem the game is simply about just driving any car on a large map. Add three of your buddies, and it’s a different experience altogether. The diversity shines best with a full crew. Take heed though – if Xbox Live or PlayStation Network are down, you won’t be able to play (for example, when a bunch of hackers take down Xbox Live just for fun, or just the unstable servers of the game). When everything’s on, the US is at the palm of your hand, and when your crew is with you, no one can stop you. Well, apart from your GPS.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.