Review: The Crew

San Fransico

When The Crew was first announced in 2013 I instantly thought this would be the game I have been waiting for since Need for Speed Underground 2. In this somewhat very delayed review you can read if it meets the expectations.

Without saying so explicitly, Two Towers is aiming for an all out Fast and the Furious experience: street racing, organized crime, undercover agents, American muscle, Japanese import, it’s all there. From the first (cinematic) trailer it was clear what The Crew wanted to be.

Ivory Towers

The Crew has been in the works as early as 2006 and the people behind the game come from projects like Test Driver Unlimited  and together they formed the studio Ivory Towers. The public first heard about The Crew on the E3 in 2013, where we were promised a huge open world of a size we had not seen since Fuel. Also coop-missions and hints at a true racing MMO-experience were given.

Size matters

During the beta I had a chance to have a look at The Crew and the first thing that became clear was that this game is huge. The map is a scaled United States, in which major cities and landmarks are represented. My first road-trip took me in an hour and a half from New York to Seattle, through snowy mountains and enormous forests; the game is truly gigantic.

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The world can feel a bit empty because it is only filled with 5-10 players at a time and there is not that much traffic. You will rarely notice this though, since the whole world is packed with challenges, races, landmarks, collectibles and suicidal animals. That’s correct: all animals seem to have the urge to run across the road the moment you pass, lucky for them this is not GTA.

You’re beautiful

Well you might be, but The Crew definitely is not. While it does not look bad, it is not really current-gen material graphics-wise. The cars are all right but the world looks ok at best. Maybe it is because it has been developed for so long or that they could not adapt to the current-gen quickly enough. Either way, if you play racing games for the looks you are going to be disappointed by The Crew. I myself have not so much problems with it, except for the fact that the cockpit-view does not have a working rear-view mirror. That’s really not acceptable for a game anno 2014.

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Neither is the story by the way; shots get fired, corruption happens, FBI is involved as always and you have to save the world by racing A LOT. Not really surprising for a race game but a missed opportunity in a game of this scale.

Under the hood

But if you are a tuner and not a ricer you will be more interested in how the cars drive. The handling hovers a bit between GRID and Need For Speed, it’s definitely arcade and not very hard, but you will feel much more in control than in most Need for Speed games.

The handling differs with each spec. You have street, dirt, performance, raid and circuit. Cars can at least be tuned in two of these specs, but often more and some cars have them all, which means you can actually complete the whole game with them.With these different types you can do different missions and change the way you use a car completely. In a way it is like you change the class of your car for a specific kind of job. This offers a very variety of races and gameplay and is very well executed.

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Where your player level with a maximum of 50 decides which part of the game you are allowed to play, your car level changes the way you car itself preforms. You can level your car up by doing races, after which you always get a certain car part, or by challenges that improve your car even more. This means that if I complete 20 challenges with my street spec Skyline, my car will be a lot better than of someone who has a higher personal level but has not done those challenges. This way you decide what’s under your hood and how powerful certain cars from your garage are, which is awesome.

A little help from your friends

The Crew is not a MMO game in the sense that thousands of players are roaming the same roads as you do, but at most times at least 5-10 other players will be visible driving around and available to invite for a mission. They will join your ‘crew’, which is a group/party that you can do missions with or challenge on the open road. It truly makes playing with others very easy and because crews are not permanent you will find yourself playing with a lot of others, if you are willing to.

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The Crew is not the prettiest racer for the current gen, to put it mildly. It is however very social. Racing with others is very enjoyable and easy, even if you do not play it with friends. The cars and their different specs are diverse and you really level your cars like in an MMO, without getting really overpowered. While you can buy in-game money with micro-transactions, amassing wealth on your own does not feel like a grind and Ivory Tower has succeeded in avoiding a pay to win model. If you are capable of overlooking these flaws, you will find yourself driving around in the massive world of The Crew for hundreds of hours.

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