Here at TSA we’re currently playing through Ubisoft’s The Crew, and we’ll have a full review out in the coming days. However, I thought it would be good to give you an idea of what to expect after putting so many hours into this huge world of racing. And I mean huge. Seriously, this is, without a doubt, one of the biggest maps in gaming you’ll ever see, and the scope of it is nothing less than impressive. I’ve been playing for absolute ages and I don’t think I’ve even uncovered a quarter of the game’s landmass.
The developers, Ivory Tower, have to be commended for taking on the challenge, and for providing a place where I can drive from Miami to Los Angeles without actually having to deal with traffic. The map is big, but why does it feel so empty? It isn’t empty in the sense of things to do; there’s plenty to do from the story missions to challenges, and also PvP modes. However, outside of PvP, The Crew’s world just feels so lifeless. Maybe it’s because that despite of the world’s size there will be a maximum of eight players at any one time in your session, and even then they won’t play with you.
When you start a mission you have the option to invite other session players to help you, but almost always no one responds. Even worse is when you occasionally get the message saying that there are no players even in the session; this a game where teaming up is supposed to be encouraged. I’ve managed to play co-op with other players, including TSA staff, and when you do play co-op The Crew suddenly gains another dimension, making it fun.
Driving together to evade the police can be hilarious, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong. Let’s not be the coy about it: the police AI is brutal and stacked against the player. Somehow a standard police car can keep pace and even overtake the likes of an upgraded Ferrari or McLaren, two car makes known for speed. Also, don’t expect the police to interfere in races, even if you are breaking the speed limit through the centre of New York City. This rubber banding is made even worse in races against the AI. Let’s take an example from earlier when I was trying to complete a mission known as Family Matters.
In this mission you have to beat a performance car while using an outclassed dirt spec car. During this race I saw the AI crash and flip over a fence, making it land upside down. This obviously gave me an advantage and I managed to get a six second lead on the other car. Less than six seconds after being informed of the gap the AI car managed to pass me. This isn’t the only time the rubber banding has been so obvious. I’ve gone back to easier levels with an overpowered car which should wipe the floor with the AI, but still, races come down to the wire.
When I’m playing a racing game and gain a huge advantage I want to feel like my skill matters, not to have it all undone because the developers thought it would be great to have obvious rubber banding to make races more tense. Your skill doesn’t matter as much as you hope it would. Car levels don’t seem to matter at all either. Every time you unlock a new bit of kit and apply it to your car, its level goes up. In Family Matters my car was around 80 levels higher than the recommended one, and still I’m losing. I don’t feel overpowered; I feel cheated like none of the progress and grinding I’ve put in matters.
There’s also some bugs that I’ve run into during play, and thanks to the power of the Share Button, I can show you a couple that I drove into earlier. You see at one point all traffic across all of The Crew’s USA decided to stop for me, including the police. It was like a scene from any apocalypse movie where you get that shot of the abandoned cars after people decided to run. It was creepy in a way, made creepier by birds and helicopters flying overhead.
The handling however is much better than the beta, even though some of it can only be improved by unlocking perks instead of car parts. Also the dirt spec cars are really fun to chuck around through the forests and other off road areas. Getting one to drift around a corner while going down a massive hill is great. The Crew has so much potential bubbling under the surface, but it is missing that spark that plenty of other racers have. The world is huge but it’s lacking a soul.