Before release, The Crew was championed as a persistent, open world that spans key regions of the United States and turns it into a race track – but has it been successful?
You are launched into a massive world that is mainly story driven. Aside from the story there are a number of features to take in. The very first “mission” is to evade the cops, although it is in fact a race to a magical finish line that gets the police off your back. Escaping the police can become a recurrent theme of gameplay if you are a reckless driver – and escaping is no easy feat. For whatever reason, in the FreeRoam portions of gameplay, the police really do put themselves above the law, and reality, to catch you.
Moving away from police, there is an awful lot to be done in the open world of The Crew. It cannot be questioned that for a racing game, there is a big world on offer. The map system within the game allows you to get a scope for the world, but navigating the map itself is very fiddly and awkward. It does allow you to zoom all the way into a detailed street view but moving around in a greater sense is annoying. Setting a waypoint closes the map, which seems unnecessary – the game decides that you must be done with the map because you have a destination, and this is just irritating and presumptuous. From setting the waypoint to travelling to your desired location, The Crew does things a little differently to the mass driving/racing genre. Instead of the usual GPS indicator on ground level (the guiding line, in other words), The Crew provides a hovering line to your route. It may just be that I’m accustomed to the way other games do it, but the sky high GPS line just seems unhelpful and distracting.
We said The Crew was story driven and it is, but what we can’t figure out is why? Who wants a story in what is essentially an MMO? Especially a story that revolves around a specific character. You don’t play as whoever you want in this MMO world, you play as Alex Taylor, quite possibly the most Ubisoft protagonist to date; white, boring safe American name, voiced by Troy Baker, doesn’t want to be breaking the law but he’s doing it to protect his family. He’s Aiden Pierce’s street racing brother.
The plot revolves around Alex’s brother Dayton, who runs a street racing gang called the 510 motor club, being killed by rivals before Alex himself is framed for the murder by a corrupt FBI agent. Skip forward five years and Alex is let loose by another FBI agent looking to bring the corrupt agent down. Alex must work his way back to the top of the 510 Motor Club to bring down the evil FBI dude because reasons.
Honestly, here is a fun game for you. If you’re playing The Crew and a cut-scene comes up, skip it and instead watch a random scene from any of the Fast and Furious movies. It will make about as much sense and you’ll have more fun. The story is cliché, unwanted and just plain-old awful.
The amount of side missions and skill quests on offer add to the size of the game, but don’t really offer much appeal. The first time it popped up I quite enjoyed the slalom skill test, weaving between the posts, but after a while it gets very repetitive. There are little missions like this around the map that are very easy, and recommended, to avoid. They do help you upgrade and progress through the game, but they quickly become dull.
The Crew does have upsides, though they are few are far between. The scope of the world is one of the major selling points of the game and the beauty of the regions match up to this. The cars are nothing special but the environments are pretty enough to distract from the gameplay. The one area of gameplay I enjoyed from the start was the Workshop. This element of The Crew feels like it is from a different game entirely. The customization is in depth and also looks great. Switching between different components for your vehicle is displayed in a very enjoyable way – the old part rotates off screen as your selected upgrade flies in its place. How much these upgrades affect the performance of your car is up for debate, but the method is definitely a diamond in the rough.
All in all, The Crew aimed high and ultimately fell short. The online gameplay is fun when it happens, but if you don’t have a “crew” then solo gameplay is often necessary – and then you can really get bored. The Crew held so much promise but I feel like the promise was never fulfilled. Ubisoft take note, video games should be fun. The Crew is not fun.