The Crew is a massive open-world racer that offers up the entirety of the USA to explore in a more sizeable, playable chunk. That isn’t to say this is a small game, though; the game world is massive and you can spend hours driving from coast to coast. Hot off the heels of other Ubisoft titles, such as Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4, you’ll be wondering how it stacks up in the stable of growing new IP from the publisher.
Upon starting out, you’re immediately flung into a world of vengeance as the main character—voiced by none than Troy Baker—sets out to redeem himself and hunt down his brother’s killer. This generally involves working your way up the 510 table, taking names and earning your right of way to take on the best of the best; an all too familiar formula to the racing genre perhaps, but that isn’t to say this is a bad thing—in fact quite the contrary.
The Crew goes to great lengths to populate the world you explore with loads of other players, which is very akin to Test Drive Unlimited, plus heaps of optional objectives located in and out of the cities. Speaking of the cities, you’ll have loads to drive to and from, with pretty much no restrictions on how you get there. See that open road that goes all the way to the mountains? You guessed it: you can go there and see what lies and waits for you to have fun with. Or even if you want to just hit the desert in a high-powered car with your dirt wheels on and just drive for hours until your heart’s content. The Crew provides all this and so much more, and as such feels like an open book for which to pen your own narrative. That isn’t to say the story is outright poor, even though it does play out like a Fast and Furious sequel. It is designed in such a way to allow the gamer the chance to try out new cars, work out new techniques and above all, use the different types of tuning—something I will jump back to a little later on.
Graphically the game is impressive just from the sheer amount of what it packs into one world. The attention to detail is really astounding, and while the vehicles aren’t quite up to the level of other contemporary racers, The Crew never set out to be a photo-realistic sim. Still, when you’re racing full speed through muddy fields and grime build up on your windshield, only to be washed off as you cruise through a puddle, you cannot help but awe at the attention to detail the developer has implemented. Even driving down a side road with the sun setting on your dashboard looks incredible. As a big fan of driving behind the wheel in a racer it is a welcome addition to see Ivory Towers put in the effort to have all the interiors done for each car. Jumping behind the wheel of a personal favourite of mine, The Ford Mustang, hasn’t felt this awesome in a long time. Every little dial lights up and moves in accordance and isn’t just some plastered on image.
Back to what I mentioned earlier about the different types of tuning, which plays quite a substantial role in the game. Each vehicle can be taken on the road with either Street, Dirt, Raid, Performance or Circuit kits, which change the initial look of your car and what surface they can handle. Early on in the game you are asked to take down another driver in a dirt modified car; this leads you to splashing through rivers, tearing up beaches and running amok through swampland. However, the dirt kit handles it just like any street car would on the road with ease. As such, there are heaps of possibilities to play with as all your cars are able to take each one at any given time, which also adds to the overall variety and the fact you don’t need to abandon your favourite vehicle either. These changes also have an effect on the actual look of the car too; for example, dirt will increase the tire size and add grips, whereas raid will add the perfect additions in order to take a few bumps and bruises.
This brings us to the customization options to which there are hundreds of different bits and bobs available to spruce up your motor however you see fit. This is an area that has definitely fallen short in quite a few racers that promise customization nowadays. But The Crew has pretty much everything you could want, for each car you’re going to find different side skirts, spoilers, hoods, body kits and so much more. Paint the car wild and wonderful colours or settle for the norm of today, though who would really want to do that when you can set some wild flair, smack on a raid kit and take on some thrilling missions.
Kitting out your car and having your very own personal beast that can take on any opponent slung at you is one of the high marks of The Crew. You’ll never really need to change your vehicle unless you really feel the need to take that one particular super-charged motor for a spin that you’ve got your eye on. Sadly, this is where one of The Crew’s flaws come into the light, namely microtransactions. While they’re not quite as bad as you might think, in order get some of the really expensive cars you will either have to grind for hours on end or purchase it with real cash. While this can be done with time, I would have much preferred the grinding process to be less arduous and more enjoyable, rather than having to fork out real cash as an alternative.
As you’d expect from the game’s title, you also get to work as part of a crew or a faction for an ever bigger effect. Most missions can be done in a co-op crew-type environment, which is fairly simple to access. When starting any event you can simply hit the co-op option and it will bring in any random players seamlessly into the mission with you. Needless to say, The Crew’s game world does make you feel like everything is connected as players just cruise around beside you and off into the distance. Apart from a bit of a shaky launch, The Crew has been fairly solid online with very few hiccups to speak of. And trust me you’ll have to call upon your comrades at times especially with how difficult some getaways can be as the AI likes to rubber-band forward to play "catch up.” Remember how difficult the cops were in Grand Theft Auto V? Well, expect it ten times worse, but then again, who doesn’t crave a challenge?