The Crew ReviewPrice:
Ivory Tower/Ubisoft Reflections
PC, Xbox One, PS4
Within a couple of hours of launching The Crew I realised it wasn't going to click for me. It took considerably longer to figure out why. I like racing games, and I love open-world exploration games. Since The Crew brings these two genres together in a pretty spectacular fashion, it should have been a delight to my senses. Instead, within a few races I was growing bored, and spent much of the remaining time playing in a sort of numb trance. Then, as I entered Miami, the game's third area, it occurred to me what was wrong.
The Crew is basically The Elder Scrolls Online
, but with cars.
OK, perhaps it isn't that bad. But its problems are eerily similar. While The Crew is ambitious in terms of technology and scale, it's built upon ideas that were exhausted years ago by other games. It's ostensibly an MMO, but one which has a contradictory fixation on solo content. It's almost completely static when it needs to be dynamic. Also like an MMO, it takes bloody ages to get to anything remotely interesting, and its core mechanics, while functional, don't engage as they would in a game that could fully commit to them.
Having tied up the game's problems in a neat little bow, let's now proceed to unpick it. As I said, The Crew isn't a complete disaster; it does some things well, like start. The game opens in the middle of a police chase, with you evading the blare of sirens in a pick-up truck driving over rough terrain. The setting sun bathes the countryside in a warm orange glow as your vehicle literally kicks dirt into the faces of the authorities.
Within five minutes, your brother, leader of the 5/10 street-racing gang, is dead. And you've been framed for his murder. Within ten minutes another five years has passed, and you've been released from prison to work undercover for the FBI, who want you to infiltrate the 5/10s and uncover their dealings with the corrupt agent responsible for your wrongful conviction.
It's petrol-huffing nonsense. But it's nonsense that moves with pace and purpose. Then the game throws its high-cards on the table, sliding four fossil-powered wheels under your feet and saying, "Here's America, have fun." The Crew's racetrack is the entire United States, condensed through some arcane techno-wizardry into 10,000 square kilometres of open terrain. Cities like New York, Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas are all present, and feel sizeable while only taking a few minutes to drive through. Meanwhile, your travels take you from the autumnal woodlands of the East Coast to the Floridian Everglades, Monument Valley and the snowy peaks of the Rockies.
Cruising around this vast, seamless environment as the virtual sun arcs lazily across the sky is a pleasure in itself. The Crew boasts a lovely cockpit view, reminiscent of that from Driver: San Francisco (which isn't surprising given Reflections' input on the game). Unfortunately, laid-back simulation isn't the thrust of the game at all. It constantly pushes you toward the next objective in that really bothersome Ubisoft fashion, and although the story begins strongly, like Watch_Dogs it becomes bogged down trying to spread itself over such a large area.