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The Crew

By Bobfish10-11-2014
Gronnings (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
The Crew

The Defence

Ivory Tower; Ubisoft Reflections
MMO, Racing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.66 GHz
AMD Phenom II X4 3.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce 670
AMD equivalent
8 GB
18 GB
10, 11

MMOs are hardly a new thing in the gaming world. New ones seem to pop up, mostly of the free to play model, on a daily basis. Covering such, ahem, diverse settings as high fantasy, sci-fi, sci-fantasy and...yeah, that’s pretty much it. Street Racing MMOs, though? Not so much...

...until Ubisoft came along and had a quick think, which resulted in a management meeting that went something like this. “No-one has ever done a street racing MMO before. Challenge accepted!” Some time later, they announced The Crew at E3 2013, which is, shockingly enough, a street racing MMO. Set in the continental US, with the “entire” country at your disposal, you participate in a massive free-for-all of street racing, racing on streets and various permutations thereof. At this time, it remains a month away from release, but Beta events have begun, the most recent of which your friendly neighbourhood Bobfish took part in.

Ooh, pink and shiny. Me like.

Ooh, pink and shiny. Me like.

Let me be upfront about this. Racing games are not my thing, at all. I have an extremely dim view of cars in the real world, never mind digitally. So let the full gravity of the following sink in for a moment, before continuing with the rest of this monologue. The Crew, which has distinguished itself by being something different, if nothing else is...actually a damn fine game.

Within the week of play time on offer, I sank easily thirty hours of my life into it. Exploring a number of the story missions (yeah, it has one of those) and just the randomly encountered street tasks. Slalom events, jumps, impromptu street races and the like. All of which were, well, rather shallow, truth be told, but how much can you really do with street racing? You drive your car faster than the opponents and you win. Which is precisely what it should be. There is no need for anything more complex than that, and The Crew is not at all concerned with adding it for the sake of a cheap gimmick.

The cars are the stars here, absolutely they are. A great many are on offer, for increasingly ludicrous although accurate to the real world prices. They’re coupled with a phenomenal range of customisation that covers everything from your tires, to your fender, to the colour of your interior, and everything between. If you want a bright pink Chevrolet Camaro with a leopard print interior, carbon fibre hood that goes 0-60 in 1.1 milliseconds? Well...the latter might be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point.

Motorin'. What's your price for flight?

Motorin'. What's your price for flight?

Those who have a more in-depth knowledge of how cars really work, and who expect the tuning options found in Gran Turismo, will be disappointed. Others will probably be content. Ubisoft have clearly kept in mind that a lot of people are not fully qualified mechanics: the tuning itself consists of looking at a series of numbers listing which stats are affected by the parts you have, then deciding if you want the boost it gives to speed, for example, or would prefer the extra handling offered by another similar part.

There’s a clear effort to balance the intricacies of real world car mechanicing with an easy access arcade feel an effort that has not been in vain. Each car has a distinctly unique feeling to it, as do each of the pre-set specs options within each car, such as Road and Dirt. And there are a hell of a lot of cars here. Most of them fall into the muscle car category, those that rely on brute force power to move as quickly as possible but suffer in turning, which makes sense, since this is set in the US and offers access to what you would normally expect in a standard car dealership.

The map is, whilst not inclusive of the entire United States, still absolutely freaking enormous. Even driving full bore all the way from Detroit to the outskirts of LA takes the better part of an hour, which is a good thing, a very good thing. Although a lot of places out in the wilderness require you to travel manually, there are airports and public transport options for fast travel to many locations. Any location previously visited can be jumped straight to afterwards, but getting there the first time will take a while, for sure.

It's just a flesh wound.

It's just a flesh wound.

There were some complaints that the game was locked at 30FPS, although Ubi assured us that was for the Beta only. Even if it wasn’t, it was an extremely stable 30, which shows a genuinely surprising amount of optimisation has already been done within the engine. And it looks amazing, it really does, so much so that it would be worth booting up the game and just leaving it running as a screen saver. After staying idle for a minute or so, the camera starts panning around your car and...yeah, it be real purdy.

Honestly, if the game was released in this state, it would be worth buying. It plays great, it looks amazing, the map is frikkin’ enormous and the very act of driving is just a joy. In fact, hooking up with a friend or three (your crew can be a maximum of four people) and just cruising around to random locations is the best part of the experience. Check out what the AI is doing, have a brief chat with other players as they pass by, watch the animals in the woods! There are bears, deer, wolves, ravens, cows, bison! Attention to detail and variety coming out the ears.

Now, admittedly, the servers were a little derp, with the game often dumping people into a private room when they approached populated cities. But it was a Beta. That’s precisely why those things exist. The problem was a result of the sheer number of people who wanted to play, which tells you a lot. Should these server/session connectivity problems persist, that will be an issue, as you can only talk to your crewmates when you are in the same session. But that remains to be seen.

Let's see where the road tak...oh.

Let's see where the road tak...oh.

If there is any complaint that should be made, it lays in the story. After the initial mission, which is a quick dash to escape from the police there was a race, then something else that I forget. Then I was arrested, jumped forward a few years and was recruited by an FBI agent trying to nail the guy who killed my brother. All good so far. But after that, she told me to go meet some dude to tune my car...at which point I said “nope” and immediately set a path for Chicago, because I have friends there, in the real world, and wanted to see what it looked like...only to reach the edge of Detroit and get the “you are leaving the combat zone” effect and be teleported back in.

Now that is a pain in the arse. Sure, it’s only about two hours of gameplay, and only two more missions after that, but the game presents us with this amazing, open world playground, then forces us to play through those two hours before we can go play in it with cinematics that are unskippable, I might add, and which are at the beginning of some of the most difficult missions the game seems to have! Urgh, that was frustrating, certainly not the wisest move. But that, genuinely, is the only complaint to be had. So let it be said, this is going to be a great game.

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