Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
Review: Running with The Crew, trying not to crash


Between the high-profile critical disappointments of Look at Dogs and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, criticism of Ubisoft has become somewhat fashionable lately. As much as I’d like to buck that trend, my exposure to the company’s latest game, a massively multiplayer racing game The crew, confirms that the mega-publisher is struggling.

That of the crew plot revolves around the 5-10 gang, founded by your character’s brother back in the day. You’re fresh out of a stint in prison (for street racing, of course) and things have changed with the 5-10. Your brother is gone, and a real bad guy now has the title of V-8 in his place (subordinates have titles like V-6, V-4, and so on). Now the 5-10 has gone all over the country getting heavily involved in smuggling. Your job is to work your way up the 5-10 hierarchy as an informant for the FBI, while exposing high-level corruption.

To that end, you earn reputation within the criminal organization by completing standard classes of racing missions – delivering a passenger to a location, beating other people in a street race – as you fight your way across the US and work your way up the gang power structure. Since this is an MMO, you can do so in the company of friends (or random members of the public) and collaborate on missions. You can also just hit the open road and explore a virtual America that’s surprisingly detailed, even when it’s made so small you can drive through it in less than half an hour.

Unfortunately for The crew, the list of things I don’t like about the game steadily grew over my first few hours of play. The first few hours were spent – perhaps foolishly – playing the game with a steering wheel instead of the Xbox One controller. Consider this a warning: if you own a steering wheel for your console, don’t bother using it with The crew. The back cover of the game states that a wheel is optional, presumably because the words “optional, but only if you’re a serious masochist” wouldn’t fit. My experience using the Xbox One Thrustmaster TX with the game has been inconsistent and buggy. Sometimes the pedals don’t work and you have to unplug everything. Sometimes there’s a lot of force feedback, but rarely do you ever feel like you’re driving a vehicle with mass or a real connection to the road.

Okay, forget the wheel. How does the game perform with a controller? Well, the cars drive better than those in an average GTA episode, but the physics model is still far less captivating or compelling than something like Forza Horizon 2. The cutscenes are frequent, and honestly they’re not bad – they’re some of the better parts of the whole thing The crew experienced, in fact. If they don’t crash, that is. Overall, the game feels buggy; more than once the game would just hang instead of loading properly, and sometimes after completing a challenge I would be returned to the Xbox home screen.

Ubisoft did not provide review copies of it The crew before public release, citing the need for reviewers to test the game on live servers with real players. Even with that allowance, the servers were down about a third of the time for the first few days, requiring an annoying login through Uplay in addition to the standard Xbox Live infrastructure – not exactly a seamless experience.

Aside from those crashes and cutscenes, The crew rarely pauses to acknowledge your progress. Where other games would show you your winnings and progress with a series of splash screens, The crew instead uses overlays without taking you out of active control of the car. It’s different, but it distracts rather than liberates. I would rather be able to focus on my progress or the road instead of having to drive around with an overlay taking up half the screen blocking my view of the road, thank you very much.

There are similarly curious design choices everywhere. Why did the developers make the right stick of the gear lever instead of putting it on the buttons? Why did they hang the GPS route indicator in the air (instead of placing it on the road), forcing you to divide your attention between the floating line and the road itself, as you struggled not to hit curbs or lampposts to walk? Who was responsible for the dizzying array of horrible flag stickers one could use to “decorate” their ride? And why oh why does my character look like Terry “terrible human being” Richardson? While we’re at it, the first rank in the 5-10 gang should be called V-twin, not V-2, Ubisoft (although that’s admittedly a pretty minor issue).

To be honest, I started to warm up to the game a bit more after investing a few hours in the open-world missions. I loved the challenges where I had to drive as fast as possible along the double yellow lines that mark the middle of the road. And I quite enjoyed finding a waypoint in the distance and cruising along, watching the scenery change. Plus, I appreciated the fact that the open world is really open – no need to unlock levels or win championships before trying to see how fast you can get from sea to shining sea. In fact, Polygon reports that you can even drive along the US-Mexico border and knock down the giant anti-immigrant fence, which sounds like a lark.

Still, any driving MMO, especially one on the Xbox One, has to measure up Forza Horizon 2, which is simply a more satisfying and stable driving experience. As aspiring members of the 5-10 may know, don’t miss out when you get to the King.

The good:

  • A truly open world, from day one
  • Decent mix of real cars
  • Nice cutscenes

The bad:

  • Unattractive physics model
  • Too frequent crashes for a console game
  • Having to do with Uplay for a reason if Xbox Live exists
  • Bad steering wheel support

The Ugly:

  • Some really questionable UI choices

Pronunciation: Say no to gang life – get your MMO drift kicks from Forza Horizon 2 instead of.

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.