Review Price to be confirmed

The Crew promises to be a sprawling monster of a game, filled with activities and leveling opportunities. Handling needs work, though…

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
The Crew UK release date: November 11th

The Crew has two of the best trailers cut for any game in the last few years. The first was for its unveiling at E3 2013. Set to the thumping, submit-or-die pump of the Glitch Mob’s ‘Warrior Concerto’, it dished out an action-packed series of cinematics that showcased the game’s deep vehicle customization options and white-hot racing.

The second trailer rolled out at E3 this year, was a softer, more low-key affair. Like its predecessor, it showed off the massive map in the game, but its focus was on the variety the environment possessed. As the strains of Oliver Tank’s ‘Last I Night I Dreamt of Everything' sidled under the action, players watched cities give way to deserts then to ice-packed mountains and stretches of tarmac lined with forests.

Both trailers, however, contained one misleading element. They both seemed to imply that The Crew was game largely focused on co-op play, and from the hands-on I had with it a couple of weeks ago, this doesn’t seem to be the situation.

Over a series of off and onroad races and a couple of missions (in which the aim was to ram an NPC vehicle off the road) there was no attempt at working together on the part of myself or any of my ‘Crew’ members. We slammed into each other to gain pole position. We shouldered each other on corners to get ahead. We cut each other off whenever we could to make sure we dealt the killing blow to any target vehicle we were after. In other words, it was every man and woman for themselves and teamwork be damned.

According to the developers from Ivory Tower, co-op does play a huge part in The Crew in its Faction Mission (which we’ll get to in a moment). But there’s very little evidence of team-based activities in the single player game.

Perhaps this is because it focuses on the activities of one individual trying to join the ranks of an a criminal organization that uses cars to pull off heists, so he can gun down the leader. It would probably make it hard to make such a character sympathetic, if he was plotting to do this with four willing partners.

See also: DriveClub preview
The Crew

As the campaign unfolds, players earn reputation and money, which respectively raises their standing on the leaderboards for each mission and allows them to buy a fleet of cars. They also earn modifications – in the form of shocks, tyres, nitro boosts, suspensions, paint jobs and more – for placing in races and mini-challenges they can complete while driving through The Crew’s sprawling, massive map in Free-Drive mode.

The mods and equipment are split across four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Players can start earning mods in the first three tiers from the get-go – and the colour they earn depends on where they place in every event – but once their level cap is high enough, they unlock the Platinum Mods. These are the elite tier vehicle modifications and they boost The Crew’s replay value substantially; once they’re installed, players can dive back into earlier missions that they placed badly in, and attempt to push themselves up the leaderboards.

The Crew

Ivory Tower says it’s also releasing a smartphone app that allows players to modify their cars when away from their consoles. Since the list of mods in The Crew borders on obsessive, the app will probably save players a huge heap of time as they can tinker with their cars and set them up for events before they need even boot up the game.

While the list of mods is vast and infinite, the cars in The Crew fall into five basic categories. Street Cars are the base entry-level vehicles. They’re solid and stable on the road, but off-road they fishtail all over the place. Dirt Spec cars are a little easier to handle off the tarmac, but they don’t grip as well as you’d expect. Perf Spec vehicles are supercars – your Lamborghinis, your Ferraris, your Koenigseggs – and while their road handling is better than most, taking corners can be tricky if you haven’t mastered drifting.

See also: Forza Horizon 2 preview
The Crew

Raid cars are the beasts of the game; kitted out with iron grills, off-road shocks and super-inflated tyres, they’re the vehicles players use to hammer other cars off the road. Circuit Spec vehicles round out the list; they’re best used in races on closed tracks, the grip on the tarmac is second-to-none and taking corners with them is a precise affair – break late and break hard.

Each race corresponds with one category of car. While players are free to mod up their vehicles to give them the edge, they can’t tackle, for example, a Circuit Race mission with a Raid car. There are over 1,000 races and missions dotted around The Crew’s huge map and they vary quite wildly in terms of length and content.

They range from point-to-point street races that are over in minutes to off-road hill climbs that can last for up to half an hour. There’re even a couple of missions that clock in at over an hour. The longest, we’re told, takes four hours to complete – so make sure your bladder is empty before you tackle that one because since The Crew is a persistent-world game, you can’t hit pause once you’ve started it.

The Crew

The main co-op play seems dominated by Faction Missions. Over the course of the game, players can join a faction based in one section of the map and once they become a member, they can work with other players for rewards in the form of rep, money and unique mods. Factions work in a similar way to FIFA’s online league. In it, players compete in co-op and PVP races and the winning Faction climbs the leaderboard. At the end of a stretch of competition, the Faction in the lead is rewarded. Then the leaderboards are reset and the whole rigmarole starts over again.

Early Verdict

There’s a lot to admire about The Crew. The notion of a vehicular MMO in which players use cars as avatars is ambitious to say the least, and between the game’s packed mission list, its RPG modding and the Faction Missions, Ivory Tower has created a highly enticing time sink.

If they can nail the some of the handling issues before launch this November, The Crew may very well eclipse both DriveClub and Forza Horizon 2 as every racing game player’s title of choice in 2014.

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