Review: The Crew Complete Edition
Editor’s Note: A year after the game’s release, this review has been updated following the release of The Crew: Wild Run expansion, which reflects on the overall score, and final verdict.
Prolific in the end of year, Ubisoft delivers its last hurrah of 2014 with The Crew, their ambitious MMO themed racing game, with an impressive open world environment… but what about rest?
Talking about The Crew is almost impossible without mentioning its gigantic playground. Never had an open world universe been so great in a racing game. The developers of Ivory Tower offer players kilometers upon kilometers of roads across the US, from the Northern states to the Southern passing by the East and West Coast. This is obviously not a perfect 1:1 reproduction of the United States, but you get to visit much of North American regions and their diversity (Rocky Mountains, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Miami), giving the impression of traveling throughout coast when you go from one city to another.
The effect is frankly successful. Virtually, it will easily take an hour to cross the map from East to West, which in itself is a challenge. Especially since the variety is there, necessarily, but above that, the developers have placed a lot of surprising elements here and there, with beautiful views, and of course tons of challenges. So when you go from a one mission to another for the first time, you end up banging you head at the tons of challenges listed, such as slaloms, speed challenges, making your roadtrip a more playful journey, and literally engulf your playing time. But is this plethora of content in itself a guarantee of quality for the whole game? I’m not sure on that point…
The Crew remains primarily a racing game with interesting gameplay. But the game suffers from a deficit in terms of driving, which is the soul of such a type of title. Compared to Forza Horizon 2 (another open world title which I reviewed), the sensations are mundane: nothing in the physics engine makes it possible to actually feel the speed and rush while driving. Things certainly improve when you up the range in vehicles, but concretely vehicles give an unpleasant feeling to pilot something crudely put on a four axis, especially in exactly the same way regardless of the vehicle … Not really worthy of a game in 2014.
Other gameplay elements linked to tarnishing the gaming experience is the bizarre collision engine, whether with the environment or other vehicles. They are unrealistic and often exaggerated or completely incomprehensible. In short, between that and driving without the feel of speed, it is the physic engine of The Crew that disappoints the most.
Another rather annoying element is the artificial intelligence of the opponents, who – if I may say – cheat during the races via the famous “elastic AI concept”: first they slow down, then their speed double during the last run… A principle that is also completely hallucinating with police cars, which take you sometimes ages to get rid of, fueled by some sort of atomic-powered rockets from the future.
Finally, if Ivory Tower has managed a feat to achieve a playing field so wide and varied, it also seems to have been at the expense of the graphics… Well, that is a bit harsh, but the game is not “ugly”, but fail to feel next generation level. Specifically, it suffers from random popping elements the horizon. Jagging aliasing and a modeling render that is rather basic, but at least no slowdowns that penalize gameplay. What is certain, therefore, is that despite efforts on the aesthetic (there are some beautiful landscapes, filled with variety and topped with next-gen lighting effects), The Crew doesn’t give this instant gratification to players who have paid for next-generation console and waiting to take full advantage of it.
Despite this string of small disappointments, I must nevertheless admit I had a good time with The Crew as it brings many good things to the little world of racing games. As said above, its enormous open-world setting offers a real satisfaction to discovery, exploration and sense of immersion. The missions and other challenges are numerous and, except in the deserts, they cover effectively almost all areas of the map, with variety ranging from classic races, interceptions, on road or off road and sometimes-in surprising places like an airport with planes landing and taking off.
Furthermore, the structure of the game is interesting, with a change of equipment installed on the fly, and the cars which can be transformed quickly from street, dirt, raid and finally race setup… Everything is well thought out with a “tidy “competitive multiplayer menu that can also be started during free-run, with a matchmaking that lets you play during the time the game finds your competitors (often very long). However, the cooperative multitasking, which is the main focus (the same word “Crew” just there, because you can build a team of 4 at any time) remains a small failure, with much lack of interest. Let’s say it has a good intention, but in the end the players are so few (or so badly filled by the CPU), that the benefits of playing in cooperative is so little visible, we quickly abandoned the idea, which is a shame in a game like that, without forgetting the permanent and obligatory connection to Ubisoft servers.
In short, from the moment one is ready to forgive the features’ implementation not being groundbreaking, The Crew offers a huge challenge on a gigantic plot that finally takes a lot of fun to go from start to finish.
The Crew – Wild Run Expansion Pack
After a year in which Ubisoft gradually improved its racing game and MMO formula with blows of updates, The Crew tries to get back on track with his first extension, Wild Run. What revive interest?
If the French studio has managed to compile a list of symptoms that plagued The Crew’s experience, and has therefore reworked the graphic and physics engine, the result is still quite limited and not totally messes experience.
Specifically, the vehicles are now better modeled, special effects – including lighting, reflections, etc. – are also more satisfactory than before … But The Crew remains well below what one would expect from a game like today, and above all it still suffers from a very present aliasing, including in the cities since the engine must display many items. We note here and there also problems popping or slowdowns. In short: there is certainly a step forward (the game even offers now weather variations), but certainly not enough to satisfy hardcore players.
Even gameplay aside with progress on the physics of vehicles, which certainly make driving more enjoyable than before, it is still quite far off. Without asking Ubisoft’s racing game to do as well as Forza, control and feel in The Crew really are flat, and this is probably the biggest flaw of the game.
But enough of these “touch-ups”, which are visible, welcomed, but not necessarily sufficient. Let’s look closer at this expansion brings new content because on that side the festivities are more pronounced…
Wild Run first proposes a new type of vehicle, which are the motorcycles. These were highly demanded and they do add real variety. Do not expect a more interesting driving sensation that with a car, it is still very arcade-ish and unsubtle, but it really renews things. If we can regret here a physics engine to the limit of the ridiculous (in particular collision or non-existent falls such as in Driveclub: Bikes), driving through all these American routes on a bike remains a great satisfaction.
We also have three new “specs” for cars, to transform your car into a Monster Truck, Drift Car or Dragster. If the latter spec is by far the least interesting, the first two bring more joice and even more variety to a racing game that doesn’t lack it. Monster trucks in particular arrive with their dedicated zones in different parts of the map: real fun arenas where you can do jumps and chaotic stunts. This little expansion also comes with dedicated modes, which add tons of missions in addition to the original game, and of course some new multiplayer modes like fun arenas with the Monster Truck.
Another interesting point: the “free ride”. The Crew have offered many instant challenges during your free exploration phases, with slalom races and other stuff that could appear randomly, but this time the developers had the good idea to allow players to start at any time these challenges as a Crew. By simply pressing left or right on the cross direction, you can start a “Free Ride Challenge” or “Cascades Freeride”. These two innovations not only improve the experience, but are fun and give a real meaning to the Crew functionality, which lacked a bit before (also note the new “Look for Crew”, which makes finding teammates easier). Anyway, here is a great novelty, which can really make you swallow hundreds and hundreds of kilometers between friends, and you will not see the time passing.
And that’s not all, as we left the piece of resistance for the end: the “Summit”. This is a new competition involving all players on The Crew who wish to participate. Specifically, it is a gathering around multiple challenges covering all the genres (drift, racing, drag racing, slaloms…), where you can position yourself globally, with as many tries as you like. You start by winning your entry ticket via qualification phases (not too hard, rest assured you) and then participate, and all this is subject to a specific timetable that will require you to play regularly. A great Summit session is available each month, and the best of the best will apparently participate in Summit even more rare and with bigger rewards. Yes, this is the MMO side events that will occur gradually over time and expand your progress, as well as end game challenges.
The Crew and Wild Run was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable copy of the game provided by Ubisoft Middle East. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
The Crew Original Release
• An gargantuesque open world.
• Missions and challenge galore.
• A lot of variety in the map.
• Vehicles are unlocked smartly.
• Huge lifespan.
Wild Run Expansion
• A giant open world still full of good ideas.
• The addition of Summit and new challenges.
• The new vehicles and classes bring freshness and variety.
The Crew Original Release
• Permanent login required even to play alone.
• Disappointing graphics
• Arcade driving that lacks subtlety.
• Cheating AI.
• A Fast & Furious story.
• The principle of Crew does not add much.
Wild Run Expansion
• Despite the improvements, it is still quite limited and graphically aliased.
• Ditto for the gameplay, not always physically up to it.