The industry isn’t exactly short of games with fast cars and ‘crews’ using street talk. Indeed, the movie industry isn’t done with the idea yet either, with the upcoming Furious 7 film again turning to the hip youth culture of pimped out rides via stars such as Vin Diesel (47), Dwayne Johnson (42), and Jason Statham (47). This game’s going to have to be something special to stand out; could it be?
It’s easy to describe the basic concept, and there’s no getting away from the fact that in terms of presentation and general design, The Crew is very similar to Need For Speed: Most Wanted (which in turn, of course, lifted heavily from Burnout Paradise). For the benefit of the six of you who don’t know, that means an open-world racer with start points for missions and challenges dotted across the map. Although these elements are instantly familiar, there are a few significant differences here which aim to give The Crew its own, memorable stamp.
One of the main bullet points for the box is that rather than a single city, the game world here is (theoretically) the whole of America. While I didn’t have time to explore the whole game world in the beta (and it’s clearly going to take hours upon hours in the full release), it quickly becomes obvious that the map as a whole is absolutely huge.
The other big difference is the eponymous Crew concept. You’ll be able to play the whole game solo if you wish, and that’s what I spent most of my time with the beta doing. However, you can also form a ‘crew’ with a few of your friends or, if they’re not available, you can form a temporary crew with one or more random players in your session. Almost all missions have the option of being played in co-op, and there’s a few benefits to doing so. Firstly, you’ll earn more XP this way (levelling up allows you to improve things such as braking and the rate at which you earn XP overall). It’s also a good idea to do this for any mission you’re having trouble with, as only one player has to complete the objective in order for the mission to end; and all players present will benefit from the rewards. Naturally there’s still an element of competition, as the game will rank crew members according to points earned. Only the person who initially formed the crew however can start, abandon, or restart a mission.
Handling is planted firmly in ‘arcade’ territory which, for my money, is a good thing. That’s not to say that there’s no variation in how a car handles – far from it. Asphalt, grass, dirt and sand all have a significant impact on a car’s speed, stability and control. For this reason there’s a variety not only in car models, but also in how you can tweak and tune your ride. A machine that’s a near-unstoppable beast on the streets, for example, will handle like a horse having an epileptic fit while travelling over rough ground at high speeds.
There’s also variety in your surroundings. The streets of Detroit are different from those of Chicago; the instantly recognisable Las Vegas Strip is yours for the speeding irresponsibly down; New York looks like New York, yellow cabs and all; and so on. There’s a lot to love here but there were problems, too.
This latest beta had hideous connection problems on the first day. To be fair it was smooth sailing after that, so there’s hope for the final release yet. In terms of gameplay, the difficulty distribution is a little uneven. I found I could breeze through three or so missions with little trouble, then have to restart the next one several times, then progress again with little trouble for another half an hour before hitting another difficulty spike, and so on. It also remains to be seen if the missions themselves can sustain interest over a game of this size. It didn’t take long for objectives to start repeating themselves, as what I saw was essentially limited to ‘win this race’, ‘smash this car’, ‘get here within the time limit’, or ‘get through these checkpoints’.
First-day online woes aside, the only technical issue I came across was the occasional line of traffic stuck perpetually at a set of traffic lights. This will hopefully be fixed for release, but the story – a dull, lazy, derivative mess – certainly won’t be. Bottom line is however that The Crew hardly registered on my radar before; after spending a few days with the beta, I’m genuinely excited for the finished product, and somewhat frustrated that my progress won’t carry over. This is definitely worth keeping a close eye on.