Ubisoft may have won the Invision Game Community Publisher of the year award this past week and some of their games may have picked up awards as well, but they have also come under a lot of scrutiny this year. The main focus of most people’s fury came down to a very glitchy Assassin’s Creed Unity, which seemed as though it may have been released before it was actually ready to be launched. There have also been complaints about another of their newer releases in Far Cry 4, with many people stating it’s just the same as Far Cry 3, with very little imagination having gone into development and it failing to bring something new to the table. However, this year has also seen some beautiful games released by Ubisoft with a new addition to their popular Just Dance series and the educational, puzzle solving game Valiant Hearts: The Great War, one of my personal favourites this year. So how will their latest game, The Crew, fare compared to some of these other titles?
Well first of all before I go into my review I’d just like to say; “Hi Chris, I beat you in progression. The Crew is mine. Muahahahaha”. Now that I have got that out of the way I best talk about the game.
There are two types of racing games in my eyes; you have the ones like RidgeRacer Unbounded which uses made up cars that may or may not be based on real life car designs. Then you have games such as Forza and the Need For Speed series which use real cars and probably spend thousands of pounds (or dollars, euros, yen etc.) on licence fees, and many more hours on graphic design to get the cars details matching the real thing as closely as possible. Neither of these two is better than the other in my opinion, yes it is nice to be able to drive cars you know you’ll never afford in a lifetime, but it’s also nice to see what developers will come up with when given the creative freedom to design their own vehicles. As long as the game is fun to play who cares really.
The Crew follows the second of those two categories allowing you to drive around an expansive open-world in an extensive range of different vehicles that will keep performance car enthusiasts happy for hours on end. Unlike other racing games of this style though, such as the Forza Horizon and the Need for Speed games, The Crew has a unique twist that gives the game an edge over its competitors. What is it you ask? Well forget the old days where you simply just drive around racing against the computer or against friends, now comes the time where you have to learn to work together in unison to reach a common goal, to make your crew the best in the world. That’s right you can now race with friends not against them, using teamwork to help defend your race positions from rival crew members in addition to taking part in events which see you attempting to neutralise police cars so your team mate can outrun the cops.
But how does it all start? Well you take control of the central character, Alex Taylor, beginning your journey by getting thrown straight into the action driving a 4×4 across marsh land whilst trying to outrun the police. Once you evade them successfully you follow a pretty cliché story which begins when you receive a message about your brother who is the leader of the 510 crew, an underground racing organisation, but before you can see him you have a race to win first. Once complete you meet up and he asks you to accompany him to a meet with some shady people as being family you’re one of the only people he truly trusts as well as being the best driver he knows. As you watch him walk back to the car he is cowardly shot in the back by the very person you drove him there to meet. Getting out of the car you run over to him but deep down you know it is too late, he’s gone. That’s when the feds turn up and frame you for the murder of your beloved sibling. Years down the line you’re approached by another fed who believes there are some dodgy officials working with the people who killed your brother to take over the 510 crew and they want to recruit you to infiltrate the criminal group and expose the crooked officials.
From here on in you’ll take part in races and events that will earn you upgrades for your cars and increase your reputation around the various locations you’ll find yourself racing through as you trek across the USA. It’s not all racing and avoiding police though, you can explore the sights of America as you drive around the open world, which really is open compared to the likes of Forza Horizon which can be very restrictive. I mean there are fences that have the unbelievable strength to stop a car in its tracks even when it is travelling at 155mph straight into it. The only way that The Crew restricts you in this sense is when you drive into a river or a large area of open water; it will relocate you on the nearest patch of land that you drove off. This got a little annoying at times as I was only trying to find a shortcut across the river where it looked shallow; instead I had to drive down alongside the river until reaching a bridge to get to the other side.
Luckily this issue is soon a thing of the past because once you discover a location you can go onto a world map and fast travel there. What is particularly interesting about the fast travel is that Ubisoft claim there are no loading times between switching from one location to the other, you just click where you want to go and you instantly appear in your car. Now that was a big claim to make and it does the job well but not quite instantaneously. There appears to be a short few second delay between clicking the location on the map and it transporting you there, although you do arrive in your car on the road as promised, no load screens in sight.
As useful as it is, and as moany as I have become about not being allowed to drive through a river the fast travel does spoil the game in the sense it takes away the urge to explore. As you drive around you will find hidden car parts which you can collect and use to rebuild and reinvigorate classic cars, in a similar style to the hidden barn finds on Forza Horizon. Driving around also means you’ll come across challenges that will test your skills and reward you with upgrades; these include tasks such as showing off your handling skills by swerving around a series of flags (similar to the skiing events you see at the Olympics), and also taking your car to the sky by launching off ludicrous jumps and trying to clear as much ground as possible. For each of these events you’ll be awarded a score which will earn you a bronze, silver or gold 510 medal. The better you do the better your reward and also the more gloating you can do in front of your friends as they struggle to beat it.
Like I said though the game isn’t all about going solo although the single-player campaign is said to be 20 hours long, even longer if you’re a perfectionist like me and you constantly retry races to get gold medals. A lot of it is about teamwork too, because the fun begins when you form your own crew with friends to complete the game. You’ll still be following the single-player campaign as they aren’t exclusively separate but you also get the added bonus of taking on other crews as you enter races and other game modes online with up to eight people. This is kind of disappointing in the sense there is no purpose built mode that makes you have to form a crew, whether it be to finish an additional story line that could run alongside the main one or something else.
There are some other flaws to the game as well, besides the clichéd storyline which lacks anything to push you into making a crew and annoying resetting of the car when you try to drive into shallow waters. For one the user interface at times is a bit annoying, particularly when navigating the world map. All you want to do is move the cursor from A to B to quickly change location but the cursor seems to be a little over responsive at times often going further than you intended it to. The zoom function also seems to be flawed in a similar sense, in that it goes in too far even when you just tap to scope in slightly. The AI system has also come under a lot of scrutiny too for various reasons such as races being too easy with opposition drivers extremely predictable. The one thing that really grinds my gears though with regards to the AI is all the women drivers on the road; you’ll be racing along through the streets of whatever city you are in, cruising along in first place and without any indication (literally they don’t indicate, bloody typical) they’ll switch to the lane you’re in and take you out.
There is also the whole topic of micro-transactions in the game which isn’t popular amongst a lot of gamers, so much so it was recently brought up in an episode of South Park which focused on Freemium games. You’d think they’d have learnt with the backlash Gran Turismo got when it introduced them; I mean you pay to buy a game, so you should play that game, you shouldn’t have to pay more money. I mean DLC and expansions are one thing as it brings extra content and I can understand the charges for that (although priced excessively on some games), but allowing a fast track pass to better cars is just wrong. If you’re good at the game you’ll do well and earn the rewards, if you aren’t, just like any other game you’ll struggle to progress. Why should someone who has put hours of effort in to get their ideal car tuned to the max then be joined by someone who couldn’t be bothered to play properly and who probably has more money than sense?
As for the graphics they’ll no doubt get a mixed response from gamers, personally I thought they were nice although agree that improvements could be made. Cars aren’t as clinical as you see in the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo, games which pride themselves on realism; in fact there is almost a cartoony kind of feel to them. I do however like the way in which when upgrading parts in the garage, the car is put together by all its components falling from the sky and fitting perfectly into place. The environments have that cartoony effect too, but if you were to put the same detail in to The Crew as has been done with AC unity then the game would probably be in development for another year as the areas to cover would be massively time consuming. That said there are some nice monuments you’ll visit and recognise from some of the USA’s most famous hotspots but between them and the rest of the open world there isn’t a lot more to see.
So where does it come on a scale the Invision scoring scale? Well I suppose it depends on which console you get it for. The Xbox One already has Forza Horizon 2 out which is a massive improvement on the first game and has proven to be hugely popular with gamers, so despite lacking the whole “crew” experience Ubisoft may struggle to take fans away from their competitor. On the PS4 however with the disappointment that came with Driveclub, especially after the withdrawal of the PS+ edition which gamers were meant to receive some weeks ago, it may fare a little better in terms of picking up a few racing fans here and there. I’d still say for either console if you are into your driving games this game is definitely worth getting, it provides you with hours of fun, there is a lot of replayability and it offers something new in being able to drive as part of a team. It does have its flaws but what game doesn’t, and who knows in future patches we may see some improvements which will help make the game that little bit better.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.