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.
”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.
”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.