Ubisoft’s rather ambitious, always online racing project has finally been released after a fair few delays. There were concerns leading up to its release with some less than impressive footage. The beta put many in two minds as the game actually played quite well from the bit you could find in there. Now on full release, will it be crewsing down the road freely, or is it crewsin for a bruising? (Last time I’ll do that, promise)
Yes, there is a vague outline of a generic story within The Crew that sets things in motion. You control Alex Taylor who witnesses his brother being killed and then framed for the murder. Oh, somewhere in here there is mention that you are a good driver. Once you go to jail for the murder you spend 15 years there before some agent releases you so that you can assist her in finding the real killers.
To do this you will need to infiltrate the gang called the 521, become part of them and get knowledge on the killers. To do this you will need to drive in all different kinds of missions and races so that they take note of you, give you tattoos to show your increasing rank and then get close to the top to take them bad boys down. It’s completely generic and loses its purpose half way through as you stop caring about what you are doing. The story plays its part though, and it’s not terrible, nor anything to write home about.
The graphics are probably the biggest let-down for me. There is lots of pop up, so much so that at times I would be in a race and an oncoming car would pop up in front of me and I’d instantly crash. It’s very frustrating. It also looks a little too pixelated for my liking, it feels rough and dull and just very little to inspire. The cars look better at least and actually look pretty cool.
One ridiculous thing though is that damage plays no part whatsoever. You can get the car repaired after it’s damaged, by paying a small fee, or alternatively you can just carry on driving and your car will miraculously recover from its damage. It’s ridiculous.
The gameplay encompasses a few things. Firstly, being a racing game the cars are a big part. Now I have said they look pretty good, and it’s pretty cool that you can customize your car in quite a bit of detail. There aren’t exactly an abundance of cars to purchase or unlock though, but what is given is pretty cool. Each car has different stats and the handling feels slightly different, but to be honest all the cars feel like they handle the same for the most part.
You do have to get certain upgrade kits to take part in different events. Dirt, Speed, Performance-based and a couple of others. There is ‘some’ difference, but again it didn’t seem like it had a huge bearing. You also get perk points for finishing certain missions and races. Perks give you various advantages such as better braking ability, better handling and other such things. These again don’t feel like they matter too much.
The Crew’s most promoted aspect was the map. It spans a huge area over the USA and taking a drive from one side to the other can take a full hour to do. The map is seriously impressive and seeing certain landmarks while you take a cross country drive is really quite something. It’s actually incredible how much detail they have put into the map.
The game plays to the map’s advantage too with its open-world type gameplay. On the map you will have your main missions which take you to various places across the US. The main missions unfortunately get stale real quick as they follow one of a very few patterns. You either race opponents, or you have to crash into an escaping enemy, or you have to test out a car and go through a track in as short a time as possible.
The missions start feeling very tired after a few hours of gameplay and it’s kind of disappointing that there isn’t more variety within the main missions. It does take you in a few different cars and terrains, but it still feels a bit dull. The AI even cheat a little bit as I noticed plenty of times that the AI in the lead would slow down just before the finish line allowing me to win the race, which is just bizarre isn’t it? One cool thing is that any of the missions can be played co-op which allows for a buddy or 3 to join in on your mission, or if nobody is online you can play a quick co-op and whoever is on the same map as you can simply join. It doesn’t change the mission at all but does add a slightly different dynamic.
While the main missions are a bit stale there is still quite a bit else to do on the map. There are sights to see, skill missions to attempt and lots and lots of multiplayer options. The Crew is online only for this exact reason. You can play PvP races against friends and randoms which works pretty well and while it doesn’t have that many options either it is quite fun. Or you can take part in Factions races. Each player chooses a faction to side with and by taking part in these races you earn experience and points to help your faction to the top. It’s a nice little sidequest type thing, but again doesn’t add that much in terms of diversity of the gameplay.
Levelling up is a large part of the game too, and by completing missions you can unlock parts for your car, increase your level and improve stats and abilities. It’s almost like a car RPG (Ed – CARPG), but missing any real depth. The levelling up can be a bit of a pain on PvP where you end up racing people on much higher levels, but for the most part it is quite fun to grind a bit and improve your car where you can.
The sound in The Crew is decent without ever inspiring. The soundtrack is pleasant, but I’d be lying if I said that I noticed a particular song standing out. It’s good background music, and nothing more. The sound effects are decent too, except that the difference in car sounds are hard to really point out. There definitely are differences but they are hardly noticeable to any real effect. Even Troy Baker voicing the main protagonist doesn’t inspire much. It almost feels as though they wanted him just to have the name attached, but it’s definitely not his best performance ever.
I am little disappointed with The Crew. From the Beta it had so much potential. It’s actually quite fun to play but possibly better in short sessions after the first 5 or 6 hours. The map is amazing though, and some races and events can span huge areas that will last over an hour which is good or bad depending on how you do in the race.
The Crew has its merits, and the potential is there for something amazing. Sadly, it fails to inspire anything other than the ordinary, as things stand. It will certainly keep you very busy, and as always it is better when playing with friends. But in a time where there are quite a few racing options it’s hard to recommend The Crew as THE ONE to get.