The Crew Review

Ubisoft's cross-country racer drifts onto PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC in style, but is it Fast and Furious or waiting for a tow?

The Crew on Xbox One, PlayStation

Popping the hood

The Crew is an open world online racing game set in the United States, making the playable area massive, although significantly scaled down from reality. Developed by Ivory Tower and published by Ubisoft, it released worldwide on December 2, 2014 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. The main story campaign follows protagonist Alex Taylor, played by the always up to the task voice actor, Troy Baker.

Although players can choose to tackle the game's campaign alone, it should be noted that an Internet connection must be maintained in order to play.

The test drive

Our first impressions for The Crew were solid. The game did a good job introducing us to some of the simple play mechanics through a series of introductory missions, even holding our hands while teaching us to discover Data Stations, a series of satellite style towers that when located, open up the map to reveal points of interest in the surrounding area. Ubisoft fans will recognise this feature from games like Watch Dogs, only there it was called ctOS towers; more recently is was called Synchronising in Assassin's Creed Unity. It's a familiar formula that does a good job encouraging gamers to explore all corners of the playable area.

Following the game's initial tutorials and story introduction, we found ourselves less concerned with what Alex Taylor had on his mind, and more focused on taking an epic road trip. This was our first incredible experience with The Crew, as the half hour or more drive from Detroit to Los Angeles gave us a true appreciation for another portion of the Ubisoft formula, the ability to create dynamic, open world playgrounds that beg you to ignore your objectives.

Bumpy road ahead

There's no question that the world is dynamic and gorgeous, and for people who actually traveled to the locales featured in the game, there's no mistaking Chicago for Los Angeles, or any other combination of cities. Even when you're between cities, Ivory Tower does a masterful job of seamlessly meshing the terrain from one region to the next.

Eventually, however, that initial honeymoon road trip will end, and players will have to make their way back to the story missions. This is where we felt things started to take a turn for the worse. Not specifically in the missions per se, since their repetitive objectives can be made interesting by tackling them as a co-op team rather than lone wolf. No, our gripes began to surface with the lack of depth in the driving mechanics and vehicles, both of which are far too forgiving to feel as if your choices or mistakes carry significant consequences. It was about the same time that we realised we were smack dab in the middle of an arcade game, not a simulator.

For example, the damage models on the vehicles look disappointing and pre programmed, rather than a reflection of the unique circumstances your car went through to get its battle scars. This was evident the first time we rear-ended another vehicle, only to see scratches appear on the trunk. In fact, the collisions in this game are almost a non-factor across the board, as even the most devastating crashes are mopped up with short cut scene, only to see your ride reincarnated and fully functional a moment later.

The lack of depth continues with the vehicle customisation, as parts are progressively better, rather than unique. Instead of unlocking six different types of brakes and choosing between the ones that suit your style or vehicle, you'll commonly end up going with the set you most recently unlocked, since they are almost always superior to everything you earned before. This means that at a certain point, everyone will have maxed out cars with similar parts, rather than rides with unique personalities.

Banging out the dents

Don't get us wrong. While The Crew most certainly has its fair share of problems, Ivory Tower pulled things off in very big ways, one of which is the multi-player aspect that is the entire foundation for the game. Where missions and skill challenges often seem repetitive, that feeling won't last once you throw a few human drivers into the mix, or hop into some of the PvP action that becomes available a couple hours into your journey.

While actually joining a PvP lobby proved a bit wonky in the first few days of action, once you're in, it's the most intense and satisfying racing you'll do. In fact, you'll stop caring about damage models and customisation, instead focusing on expertly navigating the track you're on while simultaneously fighting off the batch of human players breathing down your tail pipe. The intensity rarely lets up, as constant checkpoints remind players of exactly how far they are behind the cars in front of them, giving hope they can close the gaps.

It's this human interaction that will drive you back to the campaign, as your car receives a rank based on the parts and unlocks that you have. For example, we hopped into a race with a car that had a rating of 171 and completely dominated players whose rides were 158. The problem was we were properly spanked by the driver with a rating above 500. As soon as we had our fill of that lobby, we immediately rushed back to the story missions, skills and challenges to try and unlock more parts and improve our rating. In this way, the progression of The Crew is completely on point.

As a final tip of the cap to the Ubisoft formula, the game is full of collectibles and points of interest that make you want to investigate. It won't take long for players to hear a distinctive ping on their in-game radars, and following it to its source will lead you to a hidden car part or Data Station. Once you find all the hidden car parts in one region, you'll unlock a hidden car. Instead of a fancy set of tires or a new paint job, players will be rewarded with a cool new ride, making the grind of finding all of these parts more than worth it. The same can be said for landmarks, which provide a solid 2,000 Bucks just for taking a moment to stop and check them out. It's just one more reason you'll find yourself distracted by all there is to do in The Crew.

A reliable vehicle

There are things that players will love about The Crew, and there are things they’ll feel could have been better. That can be said about most games, however it appears that this title delivered in providing a solid foundation, which means that an already good game can continue to grow into a great one. Failing to deliver on the multi-player or co-op side of things would have been devastating, but luckily that, along with the absolutely gigantic playable area, the experience goes above and beyond what we expected. While players who enjoy gaming on their own can still enjoy The Crew, teaming up with friends will make this game more than worth the price tag.

GAME's Verdict: 8/10

The Good

  • Massive and gorgeous open world.
  • Co-op adds spice to the story missions.
  • Multiplayer delivers on every level.

The Bad

  • Vehicle customisation lacks depth.
  • Finding a PvP session can be wonky.
  • Weak damage modelling.
Find out more about The Crew
SKU: Reviews-321758
Release Date: 04/12/2014