The Crew Beta Impressions | MOUSE n JOYPAD

The Crew Beta Impressions



Upon booting up The Crew, I was treated to a long disclaimer asking me to refrain from forming or sharing an opinion based on this beta experience. This coupled with the fact that the review embargo is lifting after release, and that no major outlet is getting a copy until launch was all enough to destroy my confidence in The Crew. It’s a shame that The Crew is releasing in this environment, because I have nothing bad to say about it’s online or technical performance and the strong story had me forgetting I was even playing a beta. This is the most solid Ubisoft release I have played in a while, and it isn’t even out yet.

While playing The Crew on Xbox One, there was a big elephant in the room. Is it better than Forza Horizon 2, the masterpiece of a social racer that came out a few months ago. In my experience the answer is not really, but both games do very different things. The Crew has a strong narrative and a strong understanding of what makes story good in a game. Cutscenes are well produced with dramatic camera angles and well voiced characters without going on for more than a few minutes at a time. Animations are numerous emotive, and realistic, a far cry (UBI PUNZ) from the animations of another open world game I have been playing, Sleeping Dogs. When there aren’t cut scenes, you are able to drive around while taking calls. Phone calls are often clever with banter that honestly had me chuckling.

You are Alex, a bearded and bespectacled driver who learns humility through loss. Your FBI handler is a gorgeous woman who teaches you the systems of the game in a somewhat natural way that reminded me of Otakon from Metal Gear Solid. Characters with less screen time aren’t always interesting, but The Crew’s writers do a good job of stirring up some chemistry between Alex and anyone he talks to. Very rarely does he give canned responses to gangsters. I kept playing The Crew longer than I though I was going to, for reasons normally reserved for RPGs and Action Adventure titles.

It’s been three paragraphs and I have yet to address The Crew’s driving mechanics. They didn’t knock my socks off. Most vehicles control like boats in a sea of molasses. Tilt a control stick more than a few degrees to the side, and your vehicle will start overstearing in an attempt to make driving more dramatic. Get up to a speed higher than 50 miles per hour in most vehicles and you can kiss any semblance of control goodbye. After an exhilarating first section driving a huge truck while escaping cops in the introduction that reminded me of Excite Truck, The Crew drops you into muscle and street cars, none of which control well.

So The Crew doesn’t control that well, how is it’s track design. Pretty fucking horrible in this beta state. There is a lot of traffic in The Crew, and there is no rewind function. Many tracks are designed to keep you on the side of cross traffic on two lane roads. NPC drivers have AI that make them look more intelligent when you are casually speeding through red lights and public parks. NPC’s will try to move out of your way, you can continue on your merry way, and one less virtual family has to mourn the death of someone unlucky enough to be in an open world driving game. In races this means getting close to an NPC might mean they get out of your way, crashing into another competitor or visa versa. All in all track designs are an exercises in pain. The cities themselves have so much clutter they are difficult to move around, and the game at it’s recommended gamma setting is extremely dark. I crashed into a whole lot of things I didn’t see coming, and without the ability to rewind I ended up using the fast travel system almost exclusively.

The Crew is a functional if not very pretty game, it’s graphics are decidedly “last-gen” albeit in higher resolution for the current-gen platforms. None of the pretty HDR lighting effects from recent racing games are present, and car models don’t boast a huge amount of detail. Cars sound good, and the radio offers a lot of all american tracks. Given that the game starts out in Detroit, it feels appropriate and helps ground you in the modern, mid-western setting.

Ubisoft has described the Crew as a playground, and I’m not quite seeing it yet. Racing with other people at the press of a button is a good feature, but not one we haven’t seen before, and I’m just not sure how the MMO part factors in or enhances the experience. Social, sure, racing other people is fun and having them in your world right in your face reminds you of the community around the game. The thing is, I don’t think I will be playing The Crew much with other people. It’s driving is loose, it’s track design, especially in congested areas, is unintelligent, and it’s world is bleak. The best thing the Crew brings to the table is it’s well presented story.  That might not be what racing fans are looking for, and it certainly isn’t the component of The Crew Ubisoft has been highlighting, but it is the strongest part of The Crew as of this writing.

I did have a few issues with The Crew’s characters. In my time with the game, which took me from all the way through every mission in Detroit and had be getting adopted by a gang in Saint Louis, the only black males I encountered acted like Morgan Freeman or Warlords and the only women I encountered acted like they were Alex’s mother or they needed my immediate help in a mission. Not just for games, but for all american media this kind of cheap stereotyping is par for the course, but it was still uninspiring and disappointingly predictable.

The Crew is a cinematic action adventure like Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs, except you are in a car and the main character is likable. I spent a good long time criticizing the game part of The Crew, and Ubisoft’s ethics, but I still like it. My time with it ended with me driving to Saint Lewis, and I’m excited to see what happens next. The Crew is engaging for reasons you wouldn’t expect or really thing you wanted, but it you are interested in experiencing the best Fast and Furious story in the last decade you will likely have fun with The Crew. Given that this is a beta literally all of The Crew is subject to change, but it isn’t likely to change much. I would advise you don’t pick up The Crew until you know the online experience is stable. This is a game that only plays when you are connected to the internet, and given the number of high profile broken online releases this year I doubt you will have as good an experience as I did on launch day. If you do, that’s great! Tell your friends the game works and give studios who do their job money. Don’t give your money to people who haven’t finished a game they say they have.