Going Solo In The Crew Beta

I’ve spent the last couple of days burning rubber in the American Midwest, or to put it more accurately, I’ve been playing The Crew Beta on my PS4. For those not in the know The Crew is Ubisoft’s attempt at the arcade racer with the addition that you can join your friends – or perhaps complete strangers – to work together when tackling various missions all across the continental United States of America. Though I would have liked to experience that part of the beta, server issues and constantly empty sessions kept cooperative play behind the garage door.

http://youtu.be/V_JxALkmloA

So instead, I’m going to write about the solo content of The Crew, and the first feelings that came to mind when I started it up. It is rather reminiscent of Ubisoft’s other franchise that revolves around driving. I am of course talking about Driver, a series that was all about the cars and navigating those through crowded streets while racing or trying to take people down, and the thing is that I can’t help but feel The Crew started life as a Driver title. I wasn’t alone in thinking of that iconic series either as my brother wandered into the room, saw me playing The Crew, which he hadn’t heard of, and asked if the beta was a new Driver game.

The question, then, is why does The Crew remind me so much of Ubisoft’s other driving franchise. The most obvious answer is because they’re both about driving cars around cities, but there are plenty of games like that and none of those cropped into my head while driving through The Crew’s Detroit.

One answer is the visual design of the game, which really reminded me of Driver: San Francisco. From the car design to the lighting, the map design to the challenge icons floating in the air, all of these things feel like they’ve been lifted from the last game in the Driver series. That’s not all though, because even the game’s soundtrack feels like an extension of what was in San Francisco, with the similar mix of rock, indie, and some funk part of the playlist.

TheCrew-Int-IL2

The story almost feels like it has been lifted from the original Driver, where you have to infiltrate a gang to bring down a couple of powerful figures. During one of the opening sequences I wouldn’t have been surprised if the main character, who looks a little like Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s Adam Jensen, was confronted by Driver’s John Tanner in the interrogation room when discussing what the situation was. In fact I wouldn’t be shocked if he did make an appearance, even a small one, due to how easily the plots of both games could merge together.

Then there’s the gameplay and most of the challenges in The Crew are things that have been done before, or have been inspired by Driver. Remember the slalom challenge from the first Driver? How about that on a long stretch of road with traffic coming both ways in The Crew? Still, that’s easier than the original game. There’s also ramming vehicles until their health depletes, which featured quite heavily in Driver.

Even the vehicle handling feels similar, but slightly worse, in The Crew. It feels too arcadey unlike the other series, where it was arcade-like enough but still gave you decent control. In The Crew’s beta, the car almost always feels like something you’re fighting against, as if you’re wrestling control back from a virtual passenger. It’s a vain hope, but hopefully that’ll get sorted before next month’s release.

I’m pretty convinced that The Crew started life as part of the Driver series, but was branched off into a separate brand during development. Instead, you’ve got a game that has borrowed so much from Driver you can’t help but stack up The Crew against it. The Crew is an ambitious title and I can see how it could be great when working together with others during a race, or embarking on a road trip from New York to Los Angeles. But should you decide to go for a quiet drive alone in virtual USA, don’t be surprised by what you encounter if you’ve played the Driver series. You’ve been down this road before.

20 Comments

  1. After being burnt by DriveClub I will definitely wait until this is a little more established before I get involved.
    Sounds like the handling is not so good too which is a shame. I’ll, of course, withhold judgement on that until a full review of the finished game though.

    • The handling is like trying to steer a dying fish across an ice rink. By staring at it. It’s that bad.

      Once you upgrade the cars though, it gets a bit better. Then the handling just becomes “a bit crap” and you’re only struggling with it half the time. And random tiny things will make you crash. Sometimes.

      It’s like they’ve taken a big open world game, like a GTA or a Saint’s Row, and removed all the fun bits, just leaving the driving parts. And made the car handling even worse, somehow. (Unlike Saint’s Row, which solved the crap driving problem by giving you super powers in the 4th game. As if they’d just said “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. Because they’re annoying”)

      The second beta last weekend felt a bit better to me though. Not sure if they’ve changed things, or I’d just got used to it.

      The size of the map is impressive though. There’s something to be said for just picking whatever bit of the US you fancy driving to and spending half an hour getting there. Although, rather disappointingly, it does seem to try and prevent you driving your car into big drops. Who doesn’t want to drive up to famous waterfalls and plummet off the top for a laugh? No, it’s not allowed. It’s protected by a tiny fence.

    • Yes , Until a full review of the finished game though by http://tiny.cc/17w6ox and We won’t need any judgement.

  2. I quite enjoyed my weekend on the beta, the handling is very arcadey which I don’t mind. What did annoy me was some of the police chases, if they stopped in front of you, you hit them like a brick wall. I was expecting to ram them out of the way but it just doesn’t happen, also I made some swift evasive maneuvers, however the police managed to go what seemed 350mph to catch up to me again. I was expecting more from the off road aspect. You can customize cars and make them off road, you can even put snorkels on them like land rovers, however don’t expect to go into any water as you will just be reset. And again, the police can some how go 350mph off road to catch you up. I was hoping if you were sporting an off road vehicle that would help evading such situations but it does not. It all just seemed to be cosmetic which is a shame. Other than that the racing was good fun, doing challenges to unlock new parts to improve your car etc. Couldn’t get on any of the online matches or the co-op though. Will see what the complete game is like at release.

  3. Well, the big difference for me is that Driver had good handling…

  4. Completely sick of Ubisoft’s formulaic, identikit mapmarker games where everything is pretty much a riff on Assassin’s Creed not really mattering whether you’re an Assassin, a hacker in Watchdogs, or a mercenary in Far Cry…. now many of the key elements spill over into a racer

    Hopefully The Division breaks out from their mapmarker genre and we can drink in the whole world & story rather than spending time focusing on a tiny corner of our screens and accompanying UI overlay breaking what should be the beauty of their huge worlds

  5. If it doesn’t have the whole ‘lift yourself out of the current car you are driving & select a new one by floating around a bit’ mechanic, then its just another driving game that looks like Driver.

    Hands down, that mechanic was one of the most enjoyable of last gen & I hold hope of a sequel where that is included.

    Of course it would mean that the protagonist would likely need to be in a coma again, which I am not entirely sure how they would work in.

    • That was awesome. Had such laughs with my mates in multiplayer, when you timed it perfectly and took control of an oncoming vehicle for a bone-breaking head-on collision

      • Exactly. It was useful in the single player (& nicely integrated), but multiplayer was where it really shined.

  6. Enjoyed the beta and explored a lot of the country after completing all of the events. The handling was much improved but apart from the co-op in the events I wasn’t able to try the multi-player. Every time I selected a PvP event all I got was ‘searching’, the longest I waited was over eight minutes before giving up.

  7. The handling initially was truly abysmal and then after a few hours of missions and side missions (why do I need to slalom across an airport runway to earn a parts upgrade?) the handling became just poor.
    Is it me or do some of the upgrades make little sense? I’m sure I saw an exhaust upgrade improve the handling. Have the Devs dropped all the post-its on the floor then just put them back in to random ‘upgrade’ piles ready for coding?

    I noticed that I didn’t have to actually drive to get across the map. When I opened the map there appeared a green area around my position and I could ‘quick travel’ to any point within the aforementioned green area. So, I picked the furthest point from my location but still coloured green, spawned there, opened the map to see an expanded green area, selected the furthest point from my location coloured green, spawned there, opened the map to see an expanded green area, selected the furthest point from my location coloured green, spawned there, opened the map to see an expanded green area, selected the furthest point from my location… you get the idea. A couple of minutes and I was half way across the USA. Bizarre. Not the most exciting way to play the game but it got me to places where the next level of car part upgrade was available in a challenge.

    I’m going to wait until the reviews are out for this game. After the massive let down of Watch Dogs I really don’t want another Ubi title disappointing me.

  8. I managed a couple of PvP. It was exactly how i expected with everyone seemingly more interested in stopping each other racing rather than actually bothering to race.
    The solo stuff i quite liked and the driving around America was quite cool but the graphics were very disappointing I thought.

    Won’t be buying at full price, maybe a used copy in a month or so

  9. I only tried the first beta but I thought the handling was quite good especially when switched to ‘realistic’

  10. I deleted the Beta after about 10 minutes, maybe it was a bit hasty but I thought it was terrible. The opening race with a 4×4 off road was shockingly bad, no noticeable speed difference on road or through a ploughed field, I went through trees as if they were not there (again no speed loss) but was stopped in my tracks by a trailer park flag pole. I then spent 5 minutes seeing what would stop the car and what would not.

    I am not after a simulation but this was just too bad for my liking.

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