The Crew has already been under scrutiny twice already by AYMG in its two PC betas. The idea behind The Crew is simple; you have a large map (the size of America to be precise) where you can play with the rest of the world. It’s essentially a racing MMO, a little bit like Need for Speed: World, but on a much larger scale.
The first problem is immediate and it’s that the first hour of the game is a bit of drag. There’s plenty of story, which just feels unnecessary and aimed at the wrong audience, not to mention it’s rather unimaginative and littered with unapologetically cheesy dialogue. This drags the first hour or so out and you find yourself wiping the dribble off your face to stay awake during this agonising hour. There’s a couple of introductory races splattered about, but nothing immediately breath-taking. Once you’re out the gate though, you get unleashed into the massive world Ubisoft and Ivory Tower have created.
At this point in the game, there’s no real need to progress with the story if you’re just in it to explore. The only time you’ll want to nip back to story is if you want something faster or shinier to drive around the wilderness. The story is a bit pointless and only bothers you when you get close to the mission markers. Driving around the map is pretty much the real focus of the game, and there’s a lot of it. Coast to coast takes (give or take) an hour and half or so, depending on the car you’ve got, the car’s class, the traffic (yes really), the route taken and your own driving ability. The variety of terrain is pleasing too, as you could be gracing the snowy mountains in the north one minute and then hoofing down a beach the next in the west. The only problem with the overworld, is that at times it can feel a bit empty. There’s often just not enough traffic (or anything) to compliment the long stretches of asphalt or dirt to make it feel as densely populated as America should be. It doesn’t help that the GPS isn’t the most stable thing in the world and has a tendency to glitch out or disappear entirely, waypoint and all.
It is, however, very pretty to look at. On the PC version you get a full 60fps for the majority of the time, which is an achievement, considering Ubisoft’s recent track record with PC versions of its games. There’s a lot of detail in pretty much all of the textures, which makes for an eye pleasing experience, as you whizz past everything at 100 odd miles per hour. The drawback is the poor pop-in and pop-out. The pop-in is noticeable at times but is considerably less noticeable than the pop-out. Things just disappear after you’re a few hundred metres past them, especially with traffic. It’s an unnecessary knock to the quality that could’ve been avoided.
The driving itself seems caught between an arcade style and being realistic. Instead of going one way or another, it’s as if the developers wanted a mixture for whatever reason. It just leaves the driving experience feeling a bit odd overall and takes a while to get used to, as you try and judge just how the car is going to react to your input. The physics feel a bit off too and makes the cars feel floaty and a little out of touch with the driving surface, regardless of what that may be. It’s also a bit springy in the collisions, and while bouncing off of trees is funny to look at, it’s not exactly realistic in any way. The nitrous system also feels a bit pointless and seems to succeed in only sending the rev counter through the roof instead of actual speed gain.
The main missions are fairly average, with some of the chases being more interesting than the races overall. They tend to be mostly on the plain side though and a little unimaginative. Outside the missions, there’s the three sets of collectables. Car parts, of which there’s 20 in each state and each state has a car which is unlocked through this method. The second is the numerous data stations hidden across the map, which reveal more skills and collectables on the map. The last is landmarks, which work in the same way as Watch Dogs landmark system works, where you arrive at a point and view a cutscene. The last thing to do on the map is the random skill challenges that are dotted everywhere. If you hit one of these as you’re driving around you’ll be thrust into it, whether you want it or not. It’s an irritating oversight on the developer’s part that people may actually not want to play these small, game padding, challenges. The game also forces you to play them for experience points to unlock new parts of the story, which is irritating as well.
Easily the best part about The Crew though is messing around. There’s a lot of scope with the open world and leads to some comical situations, regardless of whether you’re with friends or not. Whether you’re collectable hunting with randomers or driving over mountains as part of a crew or with friends, there’s no real end to the fun, as long as you can stretch your imagination that far. If it’s not your cup of tea though, you can do all this on your own as well, though you have to stay connected to the internet, seeing as this is technically an MMO.
As a road trip simulator, The Crew is fantastic. Driving around the map is great fun and allows you to kill time quite easily. And that’s all The Crew is really; a tool to kill time with and not much else. It lacks the realism of other titles on the market and refuses to be consistently engaging with its story and main missions. It’s a great idea, that’s a bit rough around the edges and eclipsed in quality by other titles. It just goes to show that size really doesn’t matter.
– Large Map is Great
– Plenty to Collect
– Messing Around
– Cliché Story and Cheesy Dialogue
– Shoehorned “Skills”
– Empty Stretches of Road
Genre: Action, Massively Multiplayer, Racing
Developer: Ivory Tower, Ubisoft Reflections, Ivory Tower in collaboration with Ubisoft Reflections
Official Website: https://www.ubisoft.com/en-us/game/the-crew