The Ninjabot

The Crew Review: Car On Country Roadtrip Spectacular

Posted on February 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm by Felix Mui

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Ubisoft’s latest addition to their library relies on some unique and brand new methods and technologies that have cultivated in The Crew. Announced at E3 2013, the open-world action racing game sets players across the continental United States. The game is developed by Ivory Tower, a French developer with a staff whose previous work included other racing games such as Need for Speed and Test Drive Unlimited. Ubisoft Reflections, who developed the Driver series as well as the upcoming Tom Clancy’s The Division, also helped develop this game. With its premise set within an immersive world, fast and action packed gameplay, and an advanced online enhanced framework, how does this racer set itself apart from its competitors?

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As a small note, there have been some hiccups in the game when I reviewed it. The Crews reliance on a constant internet connection even when playing alone can be a double sided coin. Anytime the Ubisoft servers were down, the game couldn’t be played. The same can occur if the platform you play on has its online service affected, the game won’t launch past the “Press Start” screen. If you don’t have an internet connection at all, this game is not for you and won’t function without it.

A Fast-Paced World

From the very instance that you’re dropped in you’re thrown into the fundamentals that Ubisoft had planned for The Crew. Chased by the Police, driving through grassy fields and swamplands, bypassing dirt roads and rail roads; the city of Detroit back drops the horizon as the sun sets in the background.

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You play as Alex Cross, a street racer whose brother is the founder of a national motor club known as the 5-10s. What unfolds is a tale that borrows from various famous movies filled with family, murder, competition, and vengeance. The first few missions felt like they were straight out of the Fast and Furious movies.

Soon your character finds himself working for the FBI, ultimately going after other rivals within the 510s and from other racing gangs across the US. You get set up with an initial car that you can customize with your own personal albeit basic flair, and then you’re unleashed upon the world to rank up and improve both as a driver and the vehicles at your disposal.

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The overall story involves races, chases, takedowns and many more action packed set pieces that add up to 20 or so hours of gameplay. While the story isn’t “there just to be there,” don’t be too keen on having something that is thought-provoking and intense. With a plot written like a typical B-Movie or a TV show, along with characters that aren’t memorable or engaging, the story alone isn’t going to get you through this game on it’s lonesome. While I never came into this game thinking so, with actors like Troy Baker (Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us) and Charles Parnell (The Last Ship) I kind of expected more.

The World Is Your Playground

The first time you gaze upon the World Map you’ll appreciate the time and effort that the developers placed on the idea of open-world. While not a 1:1 replica of the entire United States of America, this US will cover all of the main landmarks and unique terrain and culture that you’ll see in the real world.

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The entire map is split into five regions: the Midwest, the East Coast, The South, the Mountain States, and the West Coast. Scattered about are large cities which range from New York to Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Your journey from city to city will actually take time initially, but once you begin unveiling the map you can easily hop back and forth using quick travel. Road trips are definitely something that is a big highlight of the game as the scenery changes and you get to explore the unique places all along the way.

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Driving from Detroit to Seattle took me nearly 30-minutes, and I saw the dramatic change from the flatlands of the Midwest through the snowy Rockies and out to the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. You’ll never run out of places to drive and repetition is far and few between with an entire country to drive on. That said the only way of discovering more places is to hunt down Intel Satellites hidden across the country which award you with quick travel options, but also clutter the screen with various missions and challenges that make a new-found city exhausting if one was to complete every single item there.

Tools of the Trade

While you can perfectly progress through the campaign and multiplayer relying on your initial car, you can ultimately expand your personal garage with various car dealerships in the metropolitan areas. Additionally, there are car parts hidden in each region that help you unlock a unique car.

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Each vehicle can also be customized into a specific type for use in various terrain of situations, known as Specs. A Street specialized car won’t work as well as a Dirt one on muddy roads out in the middle of nowhere. The customizations for each car themselves are pretty vast and guarantees a unique car suited for you and only you–everything from decals to changing the back bumper and rims. The variety of make and models can range from a BMW Z5 to a Jeep Cherokee.

While you have a primary garage to customize and modify your vehicle, you can also exchange and equip Specs and Parts on the fly with the Start Button. The latter are a big part of improving your vehicle’s level and ultimately how it can perform. Brakes, Fuel Injections, Air Systems; these can be bought or earned through challenges and missions on the road. All of these help provide the player with incentives to perform admirably in order for their car to be the ultimate racer.

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My initial car accelerated slowly even as a sports car and took corners like a brick, but with some time put in to acquiring parts, my 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT is a quick and nimble beast. But even with improvements to the vehicle through progression, the base attributes of driving felt a bit off. I wouldn’t go as far as to say unresponsive because it feels like an improvement from Watch Dogs mechanics, but it still isn’t as on par with Need for Speed or Forza.

Improve Yourself

The skill challenges and missions you encounter on your cruises help turn your car into a responsive and quick machine that you’ll grind through to achieve. As I hinted at before, your progression applies to two separate levels that apply to you (1-50) and to your vehicle (1-1299). While your driver level will increase as the story goes on, your vehicle level will take a little more finesse.

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Each challenge or mission requires you to earn a certain amount of points in order to unlock a car part that’s tiered bronze, silver, or gold. The better you do, the better your car part is, which in turn impacts your car level more. Missions mostly focus on story, but they also include typical races, timed runs from point A to B, as well as evasions from the police or rival gangs.

Challenges are much more natural and will be encountered simply by driving. You’ll see a blue marker on the road and triggering it will reveal the nature of the challenge be it a skill jump, weaving between markers, breaking marker arrows, etc. The allowance of retries on the fly and the fairly non-interruptive nature of these challenges make them a fun addition to the game.

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Even though I may have bronzed or silvered the challenges with a lower leveled car, returning later on a return trip along with a better car can easily have you complete these with flying colors. I never ran out of things to improve upon which highlights the MMO-like attributes to the game to encourage me to continually advance. Nevertheless sometimes the best performances in skills and missions can easily collapse upon you with a rubber banding AI opponent that leads or lags based on your performance, or a civilian car that drives into an intersection and stops right in front of you.

The More the Merrier

The Crew shines in its execution of multiplayer especially in regards to playing with friends. You can play through the game solo, but if you are feeling competitive enough to go against other human players there’s plenty to go around. While maneuvering throughout the game world, you’ll quite frequently see other players show up within the vicinity, most of the time within the city limits. While you can easily just drift by without interacting, you can also choose to see who you’re willing to start a crew with allowing you to tackle missions and challenges with an additional bonus to XP or credits.

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You can also drive up to missions yourself and hit up the quickplay option to automatically let others know you want to play. While playing with strangers is a thing that people have tended away from with the advent of Party Chat and Private Groups, you won’t be stuck with those you’re set up with. After the mission ends, everyone can go on with their merry way: no strings attached.

Even if you never interact with others, there will always be the constant reminder that others inhabit the world. Performing challenges on your lonesome will trigger Ghost cars of record breakers that give you a sense of how the top player in the world completed a challenge. Leaderboards and prompts will always remind you that you’re in a game with many players trying to one up each other.

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While I played most of the game solo, I always took a chance at quick matching with nearby players. This was easier in the cities (Detroit especially) where you begin at the start of the game with other new players wanting to play together. As you move out to other cities you’ll find yourself getting no responses because most people have worn out that mindset and the ranking levels are a larger range. I did get a chance at inviting another random player who was paralleling my attempts at story missions and while we never chatted, the game was ultimately much more enjoyable with another to experience with.

The Grit and the Grime

As a visual experience The Crew looks gorgeous, even with a graphics engine that is clearly grounded in the dated Watch Dogs graphical fidelity earlier this year. The modifications and improvements that both Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflections made have emphasized the living world and the cars within it. Light will reflect off the paint and road, and the draw distances on the terrain gives the satisfactory feeling of a world that you won’t ever get bored of or distracted from. The day and night cycles as well as a decent weather system really gives the game a sense of substance.

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The audio and sound effects could decidedly have received some more attention, as the game is oftentimes louder than usual requiring some tweaking in the settings to hear dialogue and music. But the rev of the engines adds to realism along with some ambiance for each city and the examples of wildlife in the wilderness. Human characters walk around furthering that realism, but upon some accidental collisions it’s clear these characters are part of the veil rather than the actual world as your car carelessly passes through without so much as a scratch.

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The cars themselves could have also been given some more attention as the handling and the actual transition times such as going from reverse to acceleration begs to be sped up and tightened. Often times you’ll find yourself hitting other cars or walls with a small adjustment to the directional controls, which hilariously results in some physics that clearly showcases the arcade nature of this game. Any aesthetic damage to the car is quickly molded away with time, which is something that subtracts from the realism they try to instill. The camera that you can rotate while driving or idle to observe other competitors or the scenery is oftentimes too responsive and distracting. Driving in first person makes the game worse when trying to do so.

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The obstacles that are unreliable can cause you to repeat missions or challenges at various times not due to driver error, but some AI or physics out of sync with the rest of the game. There are instances that I feel breaks the parameters where the game will highlight a path to you, but you can easily bypass or circumvent the track by forcing a shortcut in order to get to your goal. Along with the AI opponents that speed up when you do well and slowdown or crash when you do so, some of the less worth mechanics of the game reveal themselves.

Final Word

What The Crew comes down to is a game that’s worthy of being played once, but if you’re looking to play again or to extend that first playthrough even more you’ll be rewarded by playing with others. Racing for higher tiered car parts or even a personal best in time completed missions or challenges can be rewarding. But when the game is affecting that outcome more often than not, then to repeat something again and again can be frustrating. Playing with others also helps if someone does end up encountering a “random act of god,” the other players can successfully continue and finish without restarting the mission. So even if you fail, you can succeed in the company of others.

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The Crew ends up being a game that successfully touts its original intentions in bringing an open-world racer to life. Be it competitive or cooperative, the game succeeds in encouraging its players to continue playing long after the final mission completes. With a variety or events and activities to do, one can never be bored of the game. The optimal way of playing the game is to team up with three other friends and just cruise and sightsee across the US, competing in races and challenges. This living and breathing world built for the speed enthusiast out there does more than its job. But with its lackluster story and some problems with the AIs and mechanics, it can definitely be weighed down by its faults.

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The Crew is a game that I’d recommend if you have that social group and an internet connection as well as being an enthusiast for the racing genre. If you don’t have one or the other, the game most likely will be a letdown for you. Now excuse me while I begin my road trip with others from Seattle down to Miami…

Presentation: 8

Gameplay: 7.5

Replay: 7

LEGACY SCORE: 7.5

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox One version of The Crew provided by Ubisoft. The Crew is also avaliable on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox 360.

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

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