Gaming

Driving around in “The Crew” beta

Last week I had the privilege of spending 15+ hours playing The Crew Closed Beta 2 on PC.  I thought I would post some preliminary thoughts. I am hooked. I believe Ubisoft and Ivory Tower are on a real winner here when it comes to this arcade racer.

The story does grab you from the start.  It narrates like Fast and Furious meets the cheesiness from the previous Need for Speed games.  Overall though I thought the story was handled very well and I actually love the look of the main protagonist. It was cool to have a spectacle-wearing mid 30’s guy as the main character in the game, considering I am in my 40’s now.

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In the north-west of the map outside of Seattle. Each area has a completely different look.

The handling mechanic is quite good. It responds well and even though it is definitely arcade-like, you still feel like you are driving a car. The car physics are good, although at times when you hit a traffic car (just cruising AI), it doesn’t seem to have that much effect on your driving performance. I’m thinking that this might be intentional though so it doesn’t slow you down too much while you are in race mode. I was relieved about the handling as this was a primary worry.  I had that dreaded thought that The Crew handling mechanics was going to be like Test Drive Unlimited 2 (which was terrible).  Based on the Ford Mustang and Focus I was driving in the Beta, this relieved my concern.

The AI does seem to be aware of you, in a rudimentary way, and might nudge you here and there, but generally they get out of the way. When I was tearing up a highway, the AI traffic were doing there best to get out of the way. I can’t put a value on the car horn as a means of improving performance but I have a feeling that would make the AI get out of the way even more. When racing, the other cars definitely didn’t just slam you out of the way, some were more cautious.

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This is me just before a ranked multiplayer race. I managed to come third – very fast paced and the track design is excellent.

I purposefully drove into cars and at higher speeds it does certainly have some impact. When you have a really bad crash it shows you a slow motion type replay. Interestingly enough, you can damage your car. It didn’t cost much to fix in the Beta, but you will give a warning when you have to return to your garage for repair. If they make it more expensive to repair, it will make you try and avoid the traffic a bit more.  The traffic AI isn’t perfect though, some of the cars do tend to pull out in front of you, which for most part is probably realistic because I was flying through red lights all the time. There is a lot of traffic and it does make a challenge trying to avoid it all.

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New York, New York!

For those worried about the long stints driving, you have other transport modes available. You can drive to an airport or train station and pay money (it cost me about $250 to travel from Chicago to St Louis). This is a nice quick way of getting you and your car to the next major city so you can unlock more challenges without having to drive. Personally I love driving in this game, and I drove to the next big city and the landscape variety is just incredible. In the scaled down southern part of US,  it was just over 20 kilometres to drive from Chicago to St Louis but this was a very small portion of the map.  This is the biggest open world we have ever seen in any racing game so far.

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This is one of the impressive things in “The Crew”. See that mountain in the distance. I drove there and the 30 kms driven barely scratched the game’s map.

You can also go off-road anywhere. My Ford Mustang wasn’t upgraded for off-road so it slid and didn’t handle well as a result but when I was trying to get away from the cops it is just fantastic cutting through a forest or farm to try and lose them.  While I am on modifications you can add and change so many parts for your car.  You get car parts for rewards, as well as cash, and you can turn your stock car into an impressive Dirt or Street racer in the Beta.  There are five different major mod groups coming in the final game.

Here is my Dirt spec Ford Mustang.

Here is my Dirt spec Ford Mustang.

Taking a cue from Watch Dogs you actually have to unlock wireless towers located through out the map to bring up the challenges in that area. There are also wreck parts to find as well (much like Forza Horizon and Test Drive Unlimited 2) and one kit car means I have to find 20 parts for it so that will require some exploration.  There are five kits you have to find  so that means looking for 100 parts, which for explorers like myself will be great fun.

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Every single car in “The Crew” is meticiously detailed with full cockpit views…

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…including the rear view as well which previous Forza games haven’t managed to capture.

The multiplayer still has issues in the Beta but it looks like you can only have 4 people in your crew at any one time. I don’t know if that is final or just for this Beta. I did play with another person who had the Beta and we tried a take-down mission. This is harder than it sounds but we were racing near a lake and over sand dunes to try and smash up an opposing AI racer so they could no longer drive. It was really good fun and hugely satisfying when you we finally pulled it off though (we had a 3 minute time limit in this case).

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Heading into the Grand Canyon. Notice the waypoint line is above the road – which is a nice touch (you can turn this off).

There were plenty of skill challenges and missions to do even if you didn’t run into too many other players.  I have yet to see how much of an MMO this game will end up being.  I wasn’t able to do any sort of head to head impromptu racing like we are use to seeing in the Test Drive Unlimited games but I am hoping this gets added later.  The console Beta (xbox one and PS4)  is out late September, so if you want to have a chance to try this before it hits our shores in November go to http://thecrew-game.ubi.com/portal/en-au/beta/index.aspx.

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Here is my Ford Focus – Street Spec. Notice the dirt from me going off-road at one point. The way-point line is also red, to indicate I should be braking hard here.

The big question, purchasing. PC or Console?  Honestly, the way this open world racer is shaping up, I’d have to say a resounding “hell yeah” to either or. There are a couple of things I would have like to have seen (like real time variable weather for example) but considering the scope of the game and the huge size of the map, I can forgive Ivory Tower for this.  I really do hope the aforementioned head to head races will make an appearance too.  However I can’t take away what the developers have achieved here.  If you want to race and drive heaps of awesome cars around some stunning and varied terrain then look no further when The Crew hits our virtual and hard-copy shelves later this year.

I am happy to field any questions if any of the “Late Night Session” readers have any.  Just leave your comments.

All screenshots were taken during the closed Beta of The Crew on PC.

Location played:  Brisbane, Queensland; connectivity good.

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Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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