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The Crew: Ubisoft’s racing MMO is fully featured but lacking soul

Tuesday, 8th April 2014 17:00 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman takes to the open roads of the USA in Ubisoft’s The Crew and finds a game with plenty of content but a lack of character.

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”There is certainly no shortage of things to do and activities to pursue and this variety of tasks and freedom of approach is essential for a full-priced racing MMO if it’s to keep players interested beyond the 20+ hours of campaign mode.”

Despite a wealth of content and game modes, some truly expansive landscapes through which to burn rubber and a whole host of customisation options, there’s currently something missing from The Crew.

It’s something intangible but stems from what feels like an overall lack of identity. From the unexciting title to generic NPCs, the world of The Crew feels at once packed with things to do but lacking in ideas in how best to motivate you to take part.

That’s a shame because it’s clear that the developers at Ivory Tower have poured an awful lot into ensuring that players of this open-world racing MMO will have plenty to do, see and explore at the game’s launch and beyond, it just needs to find a better way of getting you excited about it.

Perhaps it’s because one of The Crew’s core strengths is actually the absence of something, rather than the presence of a specific feature. While there is a loose narrative underpinning the whole experience, it’s the lack of a rigid structure and absence of constraints across its open world that stands as a key selling point.

As such, if you want to work your way through the story missions – that see you infiltrating a gang to take down local crime bosses on the way to an ultimate showdown – you can do so but if the first thing you want to do is take off cross-country to make the purported 90-minute drive from one side of the USA to the other, you can do that too.

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”There’s certainly something liberating about being able to take-off in any direction and encounter varied landscapes from the bright lights of Vegas and Detroit’s industrial areas to the natural wonder of the Rockies and Yosemite National Park.”

“The key question for us throughout has been how to make sure the player has options,” explains Ivory Tower co-founder and The Crew producer Ahmed Boukhelifa. “We want to make sure that whatever the player is doing they’re having fun and also getting a taste of other experiences along the way.”

This translates to a wealth of varied activities that exist to help you earn experience and subsequently level-up your cars, which are being touted as the true characters of the game. While missions have you chasing down off-road quarry or street racing against rival gang members, the smaller skill challenges range from slalom runs to catching air by launching yourself off ramps.

All of the challenges can be completed solo or with fellow members of your crew and more or less everything you do from skilful driving to multi-part story missions earns you XP and currency. This ensures that progression is constant and the warm glow of positive reinforcement radiates from each and every task you perform.

As with more traditional MMORPGs, the aim here is to level-up in order to access increasingly challenging missions that yield better and rarer gear. In The Crew, this gear comes in the form of gear boxes, fuel injectors, exhausts, engine blocks and the like. In total, there are 19 elements to improve and tweak, 11 of which are performance related and 8 cosmetic.

All of these are rated across a wide range of stats that improve both your overall level and allow you to drill down to tinker with specific attributes that ultimately affect how your car handles, much like customising a character build to ensure that it’s tailored to your liking.

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20 Comments

  1. adam-22

    ow man i was really excited for this game they still have time though
    pictures look nice that my be the reason i buy it lol

    #1 9 months ago
  2. jmg24bad

    There seem to be worse mmos then this one. So the crew is still on my list of games to buy.

    #2 9 months ago
  3. GameStunts

    Thanks for the insight Stace.

    I’m very interested in this game just for it’s sheer scale and freedom, so I will still buy it on release, but your points about it lacking drive or structure are interesting.

    #3 9 months ago
  4. Dragon

    “Lacking soul”
    Sorry Stace, but that is a cop-out imo. Either you pinpoint the things you don’t like, or you don’t. A developer simply cannot improve upon a game when the review/preview says that it lacks soul.

    #4 9 months ago
  5. Michael Ireland

    @Dragon, “Sorry Stace, but that is a cop-out imo. Either you pinpoint the things you don’t like, or you don’t.”

    “From the unexciting title to generic NPCs…”

    “…lacking in ideas in how best to motivate you to take part.”

    “…feels like it’s underselling itself and that its fully-featured driving experience, varied and detailed landscapes and wealth of content is being undermined by its lack of a strong identity.”

    I think the keyword here is “dull”.

    #5 9 months ago
  6. Dragon

    @Michael Ireland,
    Thanks for not getting the point. Suppose you are a developer, you read a preview and the biggest concern of the writer is that the game lacks soul. Now you improve the game.
    Reply again after you found out the solution to improve the game.

    Off topic, but I am sure you read about the bet. Looks like you aren’t confident enough in your predictions to take it, not surprising in the least.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. SlayerGT

    Hate to say but most Ubi’s games lack soul. I believe it’s due to their multi studio dev process.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. tenthousandgothsonacid

    How many fps ? Arcade racers need to be 60.

    #8 9 months ago
  9. Legendaryboss

    @8
    No, 1080p 30 fps.

    #9 9 months ago
  10. Michael Ireland

    @Dragon Giving it some personality would be a start. It looks derivative and uninspired.

    This has long been a general problem with a lot of Ubisoft games. They’re technically polished, but they’re bland to the point of tedium.

    #10 9 months ago
  11. Michael Ireland

    @Dragon Bet? I have no idea what you’re on about. I’m barely on this site anymore.

    #11 9 months ago
  12. Dragon

    @SlayerGT ,
    I agree :P

    Btw, I am raising this point because I remember a dev (Obsidian maybe?) making this point about how some reviews just give games bad score due to “lacking soul” and so on. Also mentioned how absolutely nothing can be gained from such feedback.
    Its good in this case that VG247 doesn’t give scores. However, with the importance of score aggregators like metacritic increasing, hopefully reviewers would be a bit more “exact” with their criticism.

    #12 9 months ago
  13. Dragon

    @Michael Ireland,
    Look at that JM thread about gamer entitlement and so on.

    #13 9 months ago
  14. DarkElfa

    I’m interested but I’m boycotting Ubisoft till they either fix or remove Uplay.

    #14 9 months ago
  15. tenthousandgothsonacid

    @Legendaryboss cheers. Won’t be bothering then

    #15 9 months ago
  16. tracyis300

    I have high hopes for this game. I really want this to be successful.
    Mann!! I miss test drive unlimited. Would there ever be a successor?

    #16 9 months ago
  17. abdooltk

    I have Concern about ubisoft after what with Watch Dogs and guys is that trailer from PC or PS4 Version
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9jSNuUfdXY

    #17 9 months ago
  18. tenthousandgothsonacid

    So they’re gimping the other versions to be as bad as the xbone version ?http://m.neogaf.com/showthread.php?t=798536&page=1
    Fuck this 30 fps racer bullshit.

    #18 9 months ago
  19. Dragon

    “really trying to get parity across all versions, so it’s something that’s important to us not to branch out and not do individual things for individual platforms.”
    lolwut?

    #19 9 months ago
  20. BBaZ00k

    “This ensures that progression is constant and the warm glow of positive reinforcement radiates from each and every task you perform.”
    I miss the games were you actually had to work hard to get rewards

    #20 9 months ago

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