Although it’s not really my milieu, per sé, Ubisoft’s wham-bam new racing game is superb entertainment. Filled with gorgeous CGI sequences that really give you a quite convincing point-of-view sense of speed, accompanied by the thrill of danger as your competitors do their best to smash you and your vehicle to smithereens, this is quite the vroom-vroom entertainment vehicle.
Is Ubisoft’s claim that this the best driving game ever made valid? I’m not sure, simply because I haven’t encountered too many quality racing games beyond Forza Horizon 2. Still, I was so thrilled and impressed by this one that I went down the street and rented Forza Horizon 2 simply to allay any sense of bias. The main difference is in visuals. The color schematics in The Crew are layered textures of earthiness for street lamps, cars, sunsets in deserts, trees and hills and something much simpler for city life, etc. Forza Horizon 2’s palate is simple, straight-up old school, more fundamental in a set of panels that’s more Marvel than D.C.
What I loved best in The Crew was a long sequence where I drove from L.A. to Vegas as part of a four-man-team that toyed with the police and a group of fun-loving bikers. Traffic itself in the game offers up a kind of indecipherable glamor while you spend time weaving through the complexities of rush hour traffic. There is nothing like doing a give-and-go with your colleagues while the police are way out of their comfort zone and can’t cope. Indeed, if you like beautiful vehicles, like old-school Camaros, Aston Martins, souped-up Sunbeam Alpines and garishly-delightful Ford Thunderbirds that might have come right out of Jeff Gordon’s garage, this will really give you woodies. Nothing comparable at all in FH2.
Handling is definitely superior in The Crew. It uses three handling options. Your start-up is assisted. Then, one step at a time, a style you upgrade while beginning to learn unknown categories of your engine. There isn’t all that hard-core attempt at industry talk you get with FH2, but there’s a kind of tingling with pure pride as you hurtle off on off-road adventures as you go from Street Ride to Dirt, Performance, Raid, and Circuit variants. The ‘plot’ which makes you an ex-street racing gang member obsessed with vengeance for your little brother’s death is all a bit too Fast & Furious to suit me and seems unnecessary.
There’s noisy rubber-banding and you are never able to burn off the competition of macho police drivers, but what makes things fun is in the show and atmosphere. Yet once you travel out of Michigan the world really is a big beautiful vista as variations in topography, landscape, weather, landscape, vegetation, wildlife, architecture change the way you drive and endows more resolve in you to be more thoroughly competent. FH2, while it’s fun to race, never comes close for variety. You can even get out your GPS out and program it to mark you off a special route to go see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in funky Cleveland.
The Crew’s 65-mission story has you war with rivals to sort out leadership of five warring, rudderless factions in an effort to win control of the map’s five main factions – Midwest, East Coast, South, Mountain States, and West Coast. Yet, that’s just a taste of what’s actually available. Scores of little time-killers that enhance your point scoring of engaging skill mini-challenges and tempting discoverable points, numerous PvP and Faction events, plus additional community-focused trials keep you constantly busy while working towards maxing your XP—the game’s splendid leveling system. Such a layer cake of difficulties in points-scoring are hard to get used to but eventually pay off in complex bits of fun I don’t want to be a spoiler for.
Your earned budget also allows you to customize your ride, both physically and performance-based —all executed in visuals that thrill you as a gear head witness. Drive all over the county and use the airports and train stations to get across the country. I had a super time going back and forth from Chicago to Seattle and back. The Crew: Go get it!