After almost two weeks of non-stop play, it’s about time we put out our review of Ubisoft’s open-world racer The Crew.
Ubisoft’s always-online racer has been hotly anticipated and has a bit of competition with the likes of DriveClub and the Xbox exclusive Forza Horizon 2 currently out on the market, so is there any reason to pick this one up?
Read on for the full The Crew review.
Believe it or not but The Crew is a racing game that has a story, something of a rarity these days. Most racers just put you behind the wheel and let you rip-roar on the open roads but The Crew wants more from you.
Instead of just going point-to-point there’s a tale to be told, albeit a mediocre one that takes many of its story cues from the Fast & Furious movies, like, a lot of them.
The game starts you off in the home of the automobile, Detroit, where you quickly meet some no-gooders who become your game-long acquaintances that who suggest missions, upgrades and the like.
I’ll be completely honest, the story didn’t stick with me at all and I don’t think it ever will. It’s a racing game, all I wanted to do was race! Essentially, that’s at the heart of the game; driving. Each and every mission and plot point only serves as a reason for you to drive a different car in a different manner doing different tasks. Ubisoft could have easily removed the entire campaign and just made each of the missions optional and it would have still made sense.
That aside, there are moments of humour and the characters are surprisingly well acted, though none really stand out as spectacular but kudos the ladies and gentlemen who lent their larynx’s to The Crew.
The Crew’s campaign can be beaten relatively quickly if you fire through with the intention of finishing it quickly, so around 10-12 hours with some exploring and just generally joy riding around the huge open-world and its many environments.
In short, if you’re looking for a racing game with a decent story you’ll be disappointed, but the fact that there is something to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing does help ground it in reality, even if it’s a little far-fetched and over-the-top at times.
Now this is the real meat and potatoes of a racer; how it plays. The good news is that it’s not that bad, the bad news is that it’s not that great either.
I do admire the ambition behind The Crew’s premise; an open-world racer where you and thousands of others can exist concurrently and compete with one another, or form a crew and go at it like real boy-racers.
Unfortunately The Crew falls flat on its face in this respect. Something that I noticed fairly quickly is that The Crew doesn’t really need to be always-online, it’s perfectly playable as a single-player experience and you don’t get penalised by driving on your lonesome, though it’s naturally more fun with a few good mates and the mischief you can achieve together. Whilst the game does encourage you to invite a buddy or three into your game, it’s not essential and due to the sometimes off-course netcode it actually becomes a hinderance.
So what about the actual driving? Racers have come along way since the early days of gaming, but The Crew feels like a step back when compared to its rivals that are currently available on the PS4 and Xbox One, in fact it feels very last-gen in that manner.
Driving around the different locations can be great fun, but the dodgy physics are definitely a dampener on the experience, as is the amount of content.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to see and do, it’s just not all that interesting. The different mission types quickly repeat themselves and grow stale within a matter of mere hours and there’s only so many made-up games you and your mates can invent to stave off the boredom and buyers regret.
It’s not just the lackluster gameplay that brings down The Crew but the poor choices implemented into the gameplay mechanics. Missions are set out with recommended levels that suggest what rank you should be at before attempting to take on the task, a fairly good decision in itself, but the way it works is a different matter. Instead of not allowing you to attempt the mission until you’re at the recommended rank the game lets you career forwards into a headlong smash of frustration.
In fairness it could be said that the game does recommend the level you should be at and what upgrades you should have acquired before attempting the said mission, so I only have myself to blame for thinking that I could cheat the system and advance without putting in the work. Sort of.
Some missions are so easy and mundane that you can be well below the recommended rank and still achieve victory with ease, a fatal flaw if you will.
Still, at least the minimalist RPG mechanics work well. Upgrades are available for purchase with the in-game currency that you acquire for completing tasks, though there are repercussions for smashing up your ride too much, though the cost of repairing your car is almost negligible when compared to how much cash you make so it seems a little pointless.
The variety of vehicles is fairly good, but it does feel like there’s not enough and in all honest there’s not really much point in exploring the different automobiles available; you can go from start to finish in the car you begin with. So aside from being a completionist there’s not really much to motivate you to collect the relatively short collection of cars, but they are there which is better than them not being there.
Online play is a big part of The Crew, or at least it’s made out to be, but as I mentioned earlier it’s essentially pointless and you’re better off playing solo lest you suffer the consequences of the erratic netcode. On more than one occasion I lost out in a race due to some of the worst lag I’ve ever encountered in a game, racing or otherwise. However, when it works it works well and with a few mates in tow there are some jollies to be had, but the fun is short-lived and you’re left wondering what else is on offer.
To summarise, The Crew reaches above its grasp and while at time it does manage to succeed in some aspects, the dated driving mechanics, the dodgy physics and the alarming damage detection just serve to remind you that you’re playing a game and aren’t really joy-riding through the greatest landscapes America has to offer.