The Crew is a massive special game. Now personally, I am not a big fan of racing game as I have stated previously in other reviews, but somehow I spent 60+ hours on The Crew. I adore this game and while yes, it has some problems, the experience it offers is like nothing that came before it.
It will not blow you away with incredible weather effects or photorealistic jaw-dropping car models like some of the other contemporary racing games have. Nor will the undercover revenge story it tries to tell or the driving physics or the generic racing system we have all seen before. Neither of these things alone will blow you away, but blend them all together adding the freedom that the massive map provides and you have yourself a special cocktail.
When the game was announced the devs came out saying that The Crew will feature the whole of USA as a playground and many, me included, thought: "Nah, they can't possibly do that". Yet, somehow they managed to deliver on that and in my opinion it is the main reason you have to just play it. Where other racing games shy away from letting us get off the track by using invisible walls, The Crew removes them completely and in some instances promotes going off track, taking that shortcut, offering an unprecedented sense of freedom for a racing game.
Sure, most of the races or missions, still revolve around a "scripted" track and there is nothing wrong with that since this is indeed a racing game while some of the races, the cooler ones like Raid or Escape, let you drive to anywhere, no boundaries whatsoever. But still, the races or missions are not the most interesting thing to do in The Crew, getting to the start of these races is. This is where The Crew shines.
There is something utterly satisfying driving for 2 hours from the East Coast to the West Coast passing the Black Hills in a Dodge Challenger cockpit-view with the sun setting while listening to Willie Nelson or On The Road playlist on Spotify. Or driving at night down Las Vegas famous The Strip with some synthpop songs in the background. Or drifting on the icy roads on the Snowy Mountains and stopping to relish the beautiful vistas. Or competing with other players you find randomly in the map and finding out whose car is fastest in impromptu drag races on the Salt Lakes. As Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
The Crew is all about the journey from one point to the other, exploring and discovering America well, the beautiful rendition the artists at Ivory Tower created. Setting a waypoint on the map and seeing how the kilometers or miles drop on the small counter beside the minimap is extremely satisfying. You can play it as a normal racing game, by "teleport" instantaneously anywhere in the map or quick starting something directly, but you will be missing the heart and soul of the game.
Well, I guess what I just said might not apply to everyone and that's fine cause if you just want to race and complete challenges, The Crew has enough for days to come. The map is literally littered with races, missions and challenges which at first might put some of you off. But the more you play the game, the good things separate themselves from the bad, the padding, the annoying fillers.
The story missions or races side on the good part, not because the undercover revenge story is cool or intriguing or anything like that, but because they do not follow the same generic way other racing games do. Yes, you have your selected car and yes you still use it for some of the races, but in most of them you get to drive a different car with different types of kits installed depending on the type of race. And what is great about this way is that you get to experience driving all of the types of cars or better say, kits, early on in the game. You get to taste what it feels like to drive an extreme car, a raid one, an offroad one and so on, it prepares you for what is ahead of 40+ hours of singleplayer content.
What is the point of teleporting from and to the big cities like Detroit, Chicago, New York, Miami and the countless small ones? Where is the fun in that? Ivory Tower has perfectly captured the essence of each of the cities, the uniqueness of each location and famous landmark, and have made each and every road worth exploring. The Crew is a beautiful game. The presentation is slick, clean and sexy. People argue on the interwebs that visually The Crew looks below decent, some say crappy etc. You can't compare this game to Driveclub or Forza, those are just showcases for the graphics chips the consoles have. But if you compare them, you have to take in mind how they are structured, how big the maps are and how quickly it has to load and render everything. Well, if you take all that in consideration, The Crew craps all over them, in terms of graphics, rendering draw distances and the ability to teleport anywhere in an instant. The cars look great as well, fantastic renders, although I am not a big fan of the damage models. But I am a big fan of the cockpit view and my god how I wish I had an Oculus Rift or Morpheus to experience that immersion. I would love to go and watch in first person view the sunlight bouncing back on the Yosemite recreating the Mac background or see the hot air balloons flying over the fields.
To view more screenshots captured directly on a PS4, click here.
Another thing that The Crew does differently which is something that I really liked is how it handles upgrading the cars. Apart from having an in-depth customization options where you can change up parts to make your cars run faster and change the look of them, there is also the more streamlined and easy system of just "install the better part and be done with it". For the most part while playing I didn't go to the garage to modify my cars, to be honest, I didn't even knew you could do that. I just pressed X to install the part I won after finishing a race or completing a challenge and that was it, my car just got better, a clean, simple and fast way.
Much like Destiny in this regard, The Crew is a multiplayer only game meaning that if PSN or Uplay are down, you cannot play the game. Also like Destiny is how the open-world nature works, people just appear in your game by server magic or you can invite them to join your crew. Your crew is the equivalent of the fireteams on Destiny (I know I know, stop with the Destiny comparisons) and if you tackle the races or challenges with your friends, apart from the satisfaction of burning tires with your buddies, you get bonus XP, parts and credit which you can use to buy new cars and customization options for them. I have to say that the multiplayer works well, it worked for me, and maybe that is because the game is 3 months old and Ubisoft has gotten their sh*t together.
Bottom Line: The Crew is a fantastic game and probably one of the coolest racing games ever to be released. The driving mechanics, the collection of cars, the types of racing, the insane amount of content and the multiplayer are well developed and work well, but those are just icing. The freedom, exploration and the satisfaction these two bring is the cherry on top and it's the main reason why you should play this game.