Review Price to be confirmed

The Crew - Hands-on from E3 2013

Racing games are an easy choice for any new console launch: all those cars and tracks work brilliantly to showcase the new graphics hardware, but there’s no need to knock yourself out on the gameplay fundamentals. What makes Ubisoft’s The Crew so exciting is that it’s trying to do a little more. It’s being developed for next generation consoles the PS4 and Xbox One by Ivory Tower, a studio formed by developers from veterans of Eden Games, and Ubisoft Reflections, who bought us the excellent Driver: San Francisco in 2011, and it’s a racer featuring a persistent online USA, which blurs the lines between single-player, co-op and competitive multiplayer play.

Watch The Crew E3 2013 trailer

Read our in-depth Xbox One vs PS4 comparison

The idea is that you have a concentrated version of the entire USA to drive around. You can take to the streets in the cities and the suburbs, enjoy the open road or even drive off-track onto the beach or through the corn-fields. You can race on your own tackling races, takedown challenges and furious cop chases, or you can work together with a crew of other players, seamlessly joining each other’s games at any time and in any mission. The hope is that The Crew will capture the feel of a Fast and Furious movie, with racers both working together and competing with each other to pull off the most outrageous feats of driving. There are no lobbies or nests of menus to get through, and you can play as socially or anti-socially as you wish.

The Crew

Cleverly, this flexibility extends to the cars. Need to take your vehicle off-road for a mission? There’s no need to go back to your garage and change or re-equip your current car; you can switch to a dirt-racing kit while on the move. You’ll even see the old parts spring off and the new parts clip into place before your eyes. It’s not exactly realistic, but since when did realism have anything to do with high-octane thrills?

The Crew

Our E3 playthrough took in some solo on-road and off-road racing in the desert before getting fast-tracked to a group mission in Miami. The first section gave us a chance to get used to the handling, which is similar in nature to recent Need for Speeds. The focus is more on accessibility than authenticity, but there’s still enough of a real-world feel to keep your pulse racing as your rear-end threatens to spin out. There’s a real difference in handling between on-road and off-road surfaces, and the engine seems to deliver on the go anywhere promise of the game. Ubisoft promises that if you can see it, you can drive to it, which certainly worked in Eden’s Test Drive Unlimited 2.

The Miami section saw our ad-hoc crew taking down a target in a black Humvee. Theoretically, the mission should have involved working together, but in practice it was all a bit chaotic, as urgings to push the target into trouble were ignored, and all of the participants – including us – sent our vehicles flying over sand dunes and sudden inclines, or pranged our motors on walls and palm trees. Eventually, though, we bought him down, and much fun appeared to have been had by all.

The Crew

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a racer to showcase that next-gen console, then The Crew will more than do the job. Forza 5 has the edge when it comes to car porn and sumptuous lighting, but The Crew still looks spectacular, and – given the freedom that the game allows – there’s an impressive amount of detail in the cars and in the scenery.

The Crew: First Impressions

What we like most about The Crew isn’t just the space it gives you to explore or the social characteristics, but the fact that it feels wild and unpredictable. Even Need for Speed: The Rivals – another stunning-looking game that tries to break down barriers between solo and multiplayer racing – seems to be playing it slightly safe by comparison. With all the interesting bits of the US to race through and a wide range of ways in which to do it, this might just be the most exciting racer to hit the new consoles, which makes it all the more frustrating that we’ll have to wait until early next year to find out.

Next, read our Forza Motorsport 5 hands-on from E3 2013

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