The Crew – An ambitious take on the racing genre

Developer: Ubisoft

Platform: Xbox One (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PS4 & PC

For the gamer in me, most of 2014 was spent yearning for the release of The Crew. I’ve never been one for racing games, however the concept instantly drew me in and ultimately made The Crew my most hyped for game of the year, if not this generation as a whole.

Following delay after delay, The Crew was finally let loose on the world at the start of December 2014, and traversing its enormous world has been an experience like none other so far.

Gameplay

The Crew is an open world, always online racing game that takes place across the entirety of the United States of America (minus Alaska), or at least Ubisoft’s interpretation of the USA. While the map may not be entirely to scale, it can still take up to an hour to drive from one coast to the other.

Aside from the free roaming that will take up most of your time, The Crew’s plot proceeds via completing a series of varying missions. These can be a simple drag race, a race around the city, time trials, driving from one location to another or trying to destroy another car by repeatedly bashing into it.

The standard drag/street racing is as would be expected; it starts of easy then gets progressively harder forcing you to acquire new parts to get faster cars.

Time trials usually consist of you using someone else’s car and trying to beat a benchmark time, as does the simple driving from A to B missions.

Whilst the standard missions are great and follow what you would expect to find in a driving game, the missions where you have to destroy someone’s car by basing it repeatedly can be very frustrating. Unless you happen to have an insanely fast car or happen to know exactly where the foe’s car is going to drive you probably find these missions taking several attempts, as the opponents manoeuvres are extremely unpredictable. What’s more, these missions happen far too often and are extremely repetitive.

Placed sporadically across the country on each of the roads are also a series of mini-games that can be completed. By completing these, players can unlock extra cash, XP and parts for their cars.

The mini-games are simple, yet work well in keeping your attention on the game rather than zoning out as you drive from city to city.

Despite the fact that the game takes place across a huge map, there are only roughly 10-15 major cities and a few smaller towns and settlements, so at times the game can feel a little bare if you are not near one of these cities. Most, if not all of the major landmarks of the United States can be found in the game however, which is great for anyone who loves exploring or site-seeing. From Mount Rushmore, to the Whitehouse and the National Mall, if you can think of it then it’s probably in this game.

Living in the UK, its unlikely that I’ll ever get the chance to see these amazing sites in real life, at least not for a long time anyways, so seeing them in this medium is definitely the next best thing.

As mentioned above, The Crew is also an always-online game that places multiple drivers into the same world. These players can be interacted with, used to set up quick parties and crews to complete missions together and even set up Player versus Player races.

Graphics

Graphically, The Crew is good; but not great.

Other more recent driving games, such as Forza Horizon 2 and perhaps even Driveclub, are much more visually appealing. Being over a year into the Xbox One’s lifecycle, and even the PS4, admittedly you might expect more from the developers. However it is worth noting that both of these games have nowhere near the same scope as The Crew. With this in mind, it is easy to forgive Ubisoft on this occasion – at least in my opinion.

Controls

The Crew controls just like any other racing game on the market, allowing anyone familiar with racing games to jump straight in and hopefully enjoy it.

The shoulder buttons act as Acceleration, Brakes and Reverse, while the control sticks control movement direction and camera. Face buttons are also used, for a number of functions, such as the hand brake, however aside from the few menus that need to be navigated here and there, The Crew is perfectly playable with just the shoulder buttons and control sticks.

In Conclusion

Overall, The Crew is a decent game.

Placing the standard tropes of a racing game into a huge open world really pushes the boundaries of the driving game genre.

What lets The Crew down however, is the repetive and oversaturation of annoying missions – I want to race, not attempt to bash into someones car – and the somewhat empty world. Although I guess it’s asking a bit much of the developers to complete fill a world of this size.

I suppose, to a lesser extent, the graphics could also be something to pick up on for most people, however as stated that isn’t a huge issue for me.

Overall, 7/10.

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