The Crew Preview: Drive America

POSTED BY Toby Berger May 4, 2014 in Articles
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Never Drive Alone

Amongst the other midst of racing games hitting next-gen is Ubisoft’s The Crew – an ambitious, massive open-world driving game that takes place around all of America. It’s not like the casual racing game you’ve played before; it’s an entirely different thing altogether. When I was tasked with travelling down to Ubisoft and having a go at the game, I prepared myself a little. I’m not very good at driving/racing games and often find them slightly boring over an hour or so time frame, but The Crew was different. It feels like an entirely different beast to anything I’ve ever played before and it could well pave the way for what racing games are all about during the new console cycle. It’s beautiful, massive and most importantly – incredibly fun.

If I were to describe The Crew in one word it would definitely be ambitious. It takes place over all of America, and the area is around 5,000 square miles big. To put that into perspective, GTA 5’s map is around 100 square miles and Skyrim’s map is around 14.3. The Crew is huge. It’s said to take roughly an hour and a half to drive from coast to coast in the fastest car in the game, too. Lucky there’s fast travel. Throughout my time with the game I could feel the place was alive, not only giving me a sense of the world around me, but immersing myself within the game very quickly. This is something that can be quite difficult to establish in a racing game, but The Crew did it with ease. Whether it was driving through muddy swamplands, a large city, a small town or a farm-like area – The Crew has thousands of areas to explore and it all feels unique and varied. I was amazed with how beautiful the environments looked as well, not to mention the details on the cars and the way they interacted with the environment.

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Speaking of cars, there are five specific ‘spec’ types of cars you can use within the game – each giving you an advantage on a specific terrain. You could feel the difference in each of the spec types and that’s something that is important in a game like this. One spec type is best to use on dirt tracks, whereas another is good for manoeuvring around the streets of a city – the list goes on but it becomes clear that each spec type you choose is important to the way you drive. Of course, you can’t do missions without the spec type that’s needed, but you can equip your car of choice with the specific spec type you need to jump in on the mission when you want to.

“Whether it was driving through muddy swamplands, a large city, a small town or a farm-like area – The Crew has thousands of areas to explore and it all feels unique and varied.”

Car customisation is another massive part to a racing game and The Crew has that sorted to a tee. There are many different types of customisation options available in the garage/performance shops to try out and give a distinct look to your vehicle of choice. There are stickers/decals to choose from and many different paint options that add a great sense of personalisation to the game. There are also upgrades you can equip on your vehicle and those are earned through levelling up and doing certain challenges. What’s interesting about these upgrades is that you can activate a ‘demo mode’ during the tweaking of your vehicle to get an idea of what the upgrade is doing and how it’ll improve your vehicle while racing. It’s all quite in-depth and I’m adamant car-nuts will love it. There is a ton of things to do within the games customisation options and I’m sure I’ll be having a load of fun meddling with my vehicle come launch day.

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The Crew encourages co-operative play. Even in the title, it’s clear that this game is built for playing with friends/others. While you can race and do all of the missions as a solo racer, the adrenaline fuelled fun just isn’t as strong as it is when you play with three other racers in your crew. I had the ability to run through a couple of missions/races by myself and then join up with the crew to complete it again and it truly does encompass that feeling of being part of a team and working together to get to the final objective.

What if you wanted to race against your friends/others though? Well The Crew has you covered with that as well, having a full PvP racing system ready to rock. Races come in all shapes, lengths and sizes and can be customised quite a bit allowing for something unique and fun every time you play. It’s usually capped at 8 player-controlled racers and even with the three other racers I went up against it felt fast, fluid and a heck of a lot of fun. Be reminded that you’ll probably get frustrated at times, like all racing games, due to the fact that players love to get a bit bumpy and one bump can destroy your whole run.

“Races come in all shapes, lengths and sizes and can be customised quite a bit allowing for something unique and fun every time you play.”

One of the most impressive things about The Crew is the way the AI adapts to your driving skills. In one of the missions I was tasked to take out a driver (which involved lots of ramming) and nearly every single time they’d lure me in and as I was about to make contact they’d make a sneaky quick turn or somehow get out of the way leading me into a water puddle or in the worst case scenario, a tree. It was brilliant. Likewise, the cars that swamp the roads of America try to evade you when you come flying at them and they genuinely feel like they don’t want to get hit. It’s excellent and adds a solid touch of realism to the game that I really appreciated.

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There are still a few problems with The Crew though, and they are quite minor. I did find myself bugging out at times and at one point when all four of us exited a performance shop each of our cars ended up inside of each other. It’s a little dodgy, but I’m adamant it’ll be straightened out before launch. I also found myself flipping out of the map and coming back down at times when I had a spectacular car-fuelled crash. Again, hopefully all of these small glitches are gone by the time the game releases. One of the biggest problems about the game is the way the rewards system pops up on your screen after you finish a race or complete a skill challenge. It takes up 3/4’s of the screen, often leading you into an insane crash because you can’t see what you’re doing. This is a major problem, but I’ve been reassured that the crew (no pun intended) will be fixing it up before the game officially launches.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Crew. It feels unique and fresh and could be the game that will pave the way for others to follow over the new console generation. While there are still a couple of problems apparent, the developers have quite some time to iron things out and prep it up for what will be a big launch later this year. I can’t wait, and if you’re a racing/driving game fan – you should definitely have this on your radar.

The Crew is available for Pre-Order on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

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