The problem that faces most MMO’s is trying to do everything well all at the same time. For a racing MMO that means an absolute bucket full of missions and races but not really much else. So long as we can play easily with other people. Although it would be nice to have a decent character and some plot in a racer for a change.
Well The Crew isn’t going to deliver on plot and character. Your first task will be to recklessly speed across open fields to make the cops lives more interesting. But your late for the big race, as your friends keep reminding you. You’re just such a rebel that you don’t care. And that’s just about as deep as the characters get. Your a street racing criminal, something bad happens to your brother, you get blamed and end up working with the FBI to get out early. Just about every character is as two-dimensional as possible. The voice acting doesn’t help either and ranges from cheesy to hilariously cheesy. After as little as an hour or two I had become totally disinterested with the plot and decided to ignore it entirely. There’s not much to miss.
What’s far more distracting early game is the unbelievable amount of information contained in the tables post race. It doesn’t take long to fully understand all the info but most of it is just unnecessary. There’s a base score plus some other number added to it and then the threshold and…you get bored and stop looking at it. I need to know my score, my exp and my cash. I need to know if I got bronze silver or gold and what prize I won, if any. I can’t believe the only way to get this information across is to have two results pages after every race. A concise and clean results chart would’ve gone a long way to making The Crew less cluttered.
The map is overly cluttered too although it’s partially because there’s so much to do. There are a fair selection of tasks, some standard races, checkpoint races, takedown missions, escaping from the cops and more. It would be useful to zoom the camera on more than 3 levels especially considering the map size. It is huge. I don’t know when I’ve seen a map so big in any game before. It’s not particularly dense but there’s a lot of road to race on in The Crew. Getting across the map by car will take a noticeable amount of time but luckily there are trains and planes you can pay for to fast travel somewhere you haven’t visited yet. Other than that fast travelling is quick and easy.
New parts can be acquire by completing mini challenges. As you drive around you can go through a checkpoint to start one and you might have to drive as fast as possible without going off the track or race through increasingly small ‘goal posts’. They’re quick and quite challenging so you’re never short of some way to acquire new parts for your rides. But because you level up quite frequently parts quickly become redundant so you find the constant need to repeat the same tasks just to keep up with the XP those tasks give you. It feels progressive but in reality there are just so many upgrades that they become devalued. And finding missions is an absolute pain. If you want some higher levelled tires, for example, you’ll have to flick around the map and look through 10’s of objectives to find the right one. A simple filter to select which upgrade you were looking for would have done. There are filters for other things but not the one you actually care about. It doesn’t seem like a difficult feature to include and its omission makes life more difficult than it needs to be.
Handling isn’t quite an all out arcade affair but sliding around corners isn’t going to ruin your race. It makes sure you’re always having fun but doesn’t have the finesse or accuracy to reward those who race ‘properly’. The rubber banding AI is extremely obvious too. Whenever you do have an accident and end up at the back of the pack you’ll soon recover and find yourself back in first within 10 seconds or so. Only to then constantly race against second place as he snaps back. It’s so difficult to get a lead that the only part of any race that matters is the end. Often the rest of the race is a waste of time. Inevitably on one occasion I had lead a 30 minute race only to go off track on the final straight and lose completely. I didn’t even get a consolation prize so 30 minutes wasted because I made a mistake at the end rather than at any other point.
Sadly ‘never race alone’ doesn’t work quite as well as it should. Or more specifically it doesn’t work as often as it should. On a handful of occasions me and someone else quickly got into a crew just because we played a mission together. We then remained together and completed plenty of missions until we finally parted ways. That random co-op is were The Crew really comes to life. There are decent competitive co-op objectives and joining a crew and playing together worked seamlessly.
But more often than not you’ll be playing alone. When starting a mission you can send a request to other players to join you. But ultimately they’re better off playing alone. And so are you. There’s really very little incentive to play with others besides the fun. And that apparently isn’t enough to get people to join you. Time after time my requests were unanswered and I just played alone. For a game with the tag line ‘never play alone’ you rarely get chance to play with anyone else.
And that’s The Crew’s biggest problem. It’s just a massive racing game with a huge map. And the scale of that map is undoubtedly impressive but there isn’t nearly as much variation to the races as there is quantity. The co-op is by far The Crew’s biggest asset but you rarely get chance to see it. There are plenty of cars and upgrades to unlock but the missions become repetitive before too long. And premium currency in a full priced game again Ubisoft? It’s a disturbing vision of the future if this marketing ‘tactic’ catches on.
The Crew is an ambitious MMO with unrivalled scale and great co-op play. But the poor looks, repetitive missions, two-dimensional characters and narrative are far too much for the occasional co-op to make up for. I still had a lot of fun on The Crew, but I had it alone and lost interest far quicker than I wanted to.