I’ll fully admit that I’m a sucker for arcade style racers. Give me blazing speeds, unrealistic jumps, and slamming cars over realistic simulation racing any day. While Burnout’s overly long absense has left a pretty big whole in my heart, I’ve been searching for the next great arcade racer. The Crew from Ubisoft caught my attention last year at E3 showing off some interesting gameplay bordering more on the arcade than sim. I’ve been curious ever since and thankfully got some hands on time with the online connected racer at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston this year. Will it be the next big racer?
While standing in line waiting my turn, I was able to watch people play the game and the first thing that really struck me was how big and detailed the map of the United States was. Developer, Ivory Tower has not been shy about the map and it shows. The major roads are detailed along with the city hubs in each of the five zones that make up the continental US. Being able to quickly zoom in and out of the map looked pretty impressive as well with more and more detail being added the further back you panned. Reports also indicate that if you wanted to race from either end, you’d be looking at a few hours. The size of the map is just one aspect which has me pretty excited.
The four demo stations were set up for two people each since Ubisoft is aiming The Crew to be a socially driven MMO style experience. With that said, the first race took place on the streets of Detroit and was a solo race. The nice thing about The Crew is that while it does have a lot of social features, you can still play it as a single player experience if you want. The Detroit race was fun and the game looked great during this city at night race, but this alone didn’t do anything different enough. If this was all Ubisoft was showing, it would have been a disappointment because frankly, it was fairly basic. Not sure if the AI was turned down for the show, but I had little trouble besting my AI opponents. In traditional arcade racer style, a turbo boost was available in what seemed to be a constantly regenerating bar. I’m not sure if this was by design or due to the aggressive driving I was doing.
The real treat came next as my partner and I were about to take part in a “co-petitive” type of mission. While we were both on the same team, we’d be competing against each other to take down a runaway truck. This is what I signed up for. Rocketing through a small ocean side town, the two of us soared over beach dunes, drifted around grassy stretches, and basically tried to slam into this truck who desperately wants to get away from us. The match ended spectacularly as I managed to take an angle which shot me over a hill completely ramming the truck from the side and taking him out. One element that did surprise me however was the lack of visible car damage. I’m not sure if that was intended or if it was just not turned on for the show. Granted, it didn’t really take any of the fun away from what I was doing, but it would have been a nice added touch. While both of us technically won, I was awarded with a new part for my car.
Speaking of spare car parts, The Crew plans to be “dropping” loot in a similar vein to games like Diablo where completing challenges and races earns you new parts you can use to change/upgrade your car. I did earn a few parts during my demo but wasn’t able to explore that side of the game at all so I can’t speak to it directly.
Overall, I had a fun time with The Crew especially considering it seems to be stocked with gameplay that could be ripped right from a game like Burnout Paradise. I’m curious to see what else is hiding under the hood of a game with a map this size. If you have a crew of your own, the game appears to be even that much better, taking cues from more traditional MMOs such as customization, leveling up, and getting better parts (gear). With this much going on, would anyone be surprised about dungeon raids being included at this point as well? If you’re going to make an MMO style game, might as well go all the way, right? The Crew hits the finish line later this year on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. I personally can’t wait to hit the open roads.