The Crew Review (Updated with Wild Run)

The Crew Review (Updated with Wild Run)
[UPDATE: 01/15/2016] 
Ubisoft recently released an update to The Crew called “Wild Run” which adds in a bunch of new features. Most notable among them is a new event, added weather and physics, increased visuals, and most important – monster trucks, drag and drift builds, and motorcycles. The core game remains the same and if you didn’t buy the new expansion, you can still take part in the better visuals and physics. These two additions will be made available via a downloaded patch and makes the base game a little better off for it. If you want to the added vehicles and event though, you’ll have to buy the new expansion pack. After putting a few more hours into The Crew, I can say that the game still feels the same, but the monster trucks is where the real fun is at. The monster truck events, in my opinion, could be broken off and become it’s own expansions and The Crew would be that much better for it. It was one of the things I didn’t realize I wanted to play, until I was flying around the arena in one of those monstrosities. The weight and the overall physics of the game represent the vehicles you’re driving and everything feels smooth. If you already own The Crew: Wild Run retails at $39.99 (although I have seen it cheaper on the PSN store with sales) and you get the base game and the expansion all in one. Our review below stands as is after playing the expansion, since it’s more of an added bonus rather than a complete change in style.
[ORIGINAL: 01/02/2015] 
The racing game genre isn’t something that I gravitate to anymore when deciding on a game to play, not since the days of cheesy FMV scenes in Need for Speed or crazy hijinks in Burnout Paradise.  Nowadays, it seems most games just want to get everything perfect when it comes to the racing genre of games.  How the car sounds, how the car looks, how it drives, etc.  There isn’t anything wrong with that per se, the simulation market for racing games is a pretty big market and there are tons of people who want that type of game.  But what about those of us who like our racing games with story?  Need for Speed filled that gap, but now they are mostly concerned about making arcade racers without story.  Ubisoft has decided to take the reigns and throw their hat into the story driven racer market with their latest, The Crew.  Does The Crew have enough in it to satisfy those of us looking for the next great story driven racer or is this one already lost at the starting line?

 

The Crew begins with the bearded main character, who is voice by popular voice actor Troy Baker, being arrested after being framed for his brother’s murder.  Fast forward a couple years andcrew3 you are presented a unique opportunity from behind bars, infiltrate the car club turned gang that killed your brother and help bring to justice the head V8 (the leader) and his shady FBI agent who helps him.  After some intro missions that help you understand the mechanics, you’re released out into the world, and boy is it a big world – the size of the US to be exact (well, a shrunken down US.)  You begin in Detroit where you have to impress a local V2 (lower level capo in the gang) and win some races to gain his favor.  After a few missions, you’re brought into the gang and begin your rise to power to take down the gang from the inside out.  From the time I spent playing the game, the story is what you’d expect from a racing game story – cheesy, but in a good way.  This story isn’t going to be winning any awards, but it doesn’t have to.  It’s there for us story driven gamers to push forward and find out what happens next.  We are introduced to characters, their motivations, and we live in their world taking on the motivations of a man trying to avenge his murdered brother and get some payback.  The story isn’t the main draw in the game, but it’s nice to have and is a very welcome addition in a market where the story driven racer has fallen by the wayside.

 

While the story may not be the main draw, the world of The Crew most certainly is.  The Crew is basically an online open world environment where some of the other cars you see in the world are actually other players at their console.  You can run into some people (and see them on the map as well) while driving around the world, but the main draw is the ability to play some story missions and races alongside them.  At the start of most missions, you are presented with the option to play the mission solo or join others in an online race.  The races I joined were pretty quick to connect me to others and I didn’t have much lag or issue with the connection at all.  A few times I was dropped out of the race and ended up doing it solo, but these instances were few and far between in the grand scheme of things and I can’t verify that this was a problem with the Ubisoft servers or my home connection.  I’m not a heavy multiplayer gamer, but I like having the option for when it does suit me.  I found myself selecting the multiplayer option more than a few times because of how easy it was to play with others.

 

thecrew2Something else The Crew does right is their random events they have sporadically placed over the world that reward you with items that upgrade your car.  These events will present you with the chance to do a big jump, weave in between obstacles, and other such events where you have to make a certain time or distance to medal.  Any medal will win you the part and you can immediately install it without having to jump into a menu.  Often times I found myself struggling to beat a race, so I would back out of the event, drive around and do a couple of these side events to increase my car’s level, and then retry the story mission with much better success.  This type of progression and the ease at which it is to upgrade your car is a very welcome addition.  No one likes to grind for hours or do races over and over again to make enough money so providing some small upgrades in this manner allows you to take a slight diversion and then get back into the story without missing much time at all.  You are also allowed to quick travel to events if you have already unlocked the region, which is a tremendous time saver for gamer dads like us.Since this is a racing game, this review warrants talk of the cars and the mechanics present.  From the start, you are able to choose a car to race with from a list of a couple cars.  As you progress in the story, these options expand, but the price is pretty high to get some  of the higher end cars.  What this means is that you’ll probably pick one car and use it predominantly with maybe one or two other in your garage.  This isn’t a game where you work to unlock every car and  switch between them at will.  Instead, you’ll “kit” your car in certain ways to make it adaptable to whatever condition you’re racing on.  If you are street racing, you’ll need the street kit, dirt racing, the dirt kit.  The Crew does an awesome job of giving you a number of terrains to race on and they all feel different.  You can use a currency that you buy with real money to unclock some of the higher end cars, but I don’t recommend it.  The prices are high and you can thoroughly enjoy the game with the cars you are able to buy with the money you earn in the game.  While the types of races and kits were adequately different, the handling of each car didn’t feel so different to me.  Maybe it’s by design since you aren’t supposed to get a ton of them, but my starter Nissan felt like it drove the same way as the Ford I bought a couple hours in.  I’m not a big car guy and I don’t know the ins and outs of how cars should drive, but I did want to mention this.  In the simulation racing games, you know that Mustang is going to go fast as hell but handle like a brick and that small Japanese car is going to whip and drift around corners like a madman .  I didn’t feel that with The Crew, but again, this isn’t a simulation racer so maybe that was by design.

On the graphics front, The Crew looks nice for a next gen game.  It’s not going to win best graphics in end of the year voting for Games of the Year, but it works.  The sunsets in the distance as you’re racing across the desert area and the lights on the street at night all look nice and don’t spoil the immersion.   Ubisoft did a great job making sure that each location you are racing in feels like the actual place you were supposed to be visiting.  Detroit feels like an industrial city while racing in Florida gives the impression of warmer weather and more open spaces.  These changes in locale help keep things fresh, and even though you’re technically doing the same events over and over, the locations and background are changing enough to keep things new.

You can play most of The Crew around your little ones, but since this is a story driven game you will have some violence and harsher language than some other racers on the market.  For instance, when you are presented with a mission to track down a rival gang leader, you are told to kill them by ramming your car into theirs.  You are working for the law so a workaround is found with the help of your FBI agent friend, but you get the picture.  You’re working for a gang and gangs will do gang things.  This may be a game you’re going to want to play after the kids go to bed, or at least with headphones on.  But, the game does get dad friendly points for the fast travel mechanic and easy drop in/drop out of multiplayer through a menu at the start of missions.

 

The Crew has some amazing ideas and they deliver on a lot, but there is one thing I couldn’t shake while playing the game, the scope.  It almost feels like The Crew is too big for it’s own good.  In trying to fill out the entire US map, I feel like they pulled the game a little too thin and as a result the entire package was hurt because of it.  I loved the individual parts of the game, but after about 10 hours you will find yourself doing the same thing over and over and the novelty begins to wear off.  The story is there to push you forward, but I could see how this will annoy some gamers.  A smaller map with a more focused design would have benefited the game immensely, but at the same time could have disrupted the story that Ubisoft was trying to tell.  Regardless, it’s worth noting that a lot of the ideas you’ll see and love early on and the mission types can possibly wear out their welcome by the time you reach the end of the game.

 

Ubisoft definitely has something special they are trying to create.  They came close to a great game with The Crew and if they continue this franchise into the future, I’m sure the ideas they came up with in this installment will be perfected for the second release.  This is a great base of a game and with the story and large, open online world, something special can certainly come from this.  In the meantime, we have a solid story driven online racer that is certainly worth your time if you like that type of game.  It fills the story driven racer void nicely and you could do a lot worse than putting a couple dozen hours into this solid racer.

 

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