The last racing game that I put any significant amount of time was Gran Turismo 2 for the Playstation. If I had to estimate I would guess I put about 250 hours into that game. A couple months ago I heard about an upcoming Racing MMO called The Crew. It is billed as an open world Racing MMO that is developed by Ubisoft. Somewhere within my gaming core I have had an itch for a rich racing game for quite a while. I know that there have been plenty of deep racing games since GT 2, there have been three other Gran Turismo games alone, but I may not have been in the right frame of mind while trying them. This game will be on the PS4, XBOX One, and PC and is currently in a closed beta which is just on the PC. I signed up for the beta a couple days after sign-ups began and received my beta access on 7/23. The beta is only 5 days long from 7/21-7/25. To this point I have put about 2 and a half hours into the beta and I would like to share my brief experiences with the ONS Gaming community.
When you start the game you are thrust in to the story which seems to be a gang infiltration story to take down the gang and a string of crooked cops with a personal vendetta. To that end the story seems to be quite trope filled and I’m not sure how deep it will be or how expandable it will be as common place with MMO’s are their expansions. They can always just make a whole new story line if they decide to do so. It’s an extremely solo focused story in a game whose title implies that a major focus will be its multiplayer. The MMO portion will be weaved into the story as you will be able to enlist the help of your friends or crew within a good portion of the storyline. I’m not sure how into the story I will be, I don’t have high hopes.
The biggest quality in a racing game is the way that the cars handle. I like the way that the cars handle; it is closer to a simulation game than an arcade racer. While I like the occasional arcade racing game, I think that simulation racing games have the ability to hold my attention longer. A way that The Crew is taking on the way to get more cars handling in different ways is a “class” system which is an MMO staple which they call Tuning Specs. When you first purchase a car it is considered Full Stock and the additional specs are: Street, Dirt, Raid, Performance, and Circuit. These classes tune your car to handle everything from extreme off-road to high level street racing. It is a really cool way of allowing you to take whatever car you like the most and make it perform however you would like. This means I can take a Lamborghini and make it an off-road brute.
I don’t have much to say about the cars in The Crew. I really like the way that the cars look, I think they look great. What I’m not thrilled about is the number of cars they have to offer at this point in the development cycle. While I know that the game is still in the beta stage, I was hoping for more cars at this point. The one caveat to this is that you can never have too many cars for me. I would prefer that a racing game give me every make and model of care that was ever created just so I could have the choice, but I’m hoping for 100+ out of this game and for them to bring out more and more as time goes on. There looks to be about 40 or so cars at launch, which doesn’t sound like enough to me.
The game takes place in the continental US and within the constructs of the road system that has been set up, the entire country is open for driving. While the world itself is incredibly huge the game implements a fast travel system where you can fast travel to an event or building as long as you have been there before. The world is very different based on where in the US you are and it is a visually stunning setting. Ubisoft tends to make visually appealing games and The Crew is no different.
Like most MMO’s this game incorporates a leveling system. The leveling is split into two different sections. You the player have an overall level with which you can chose perks as you level that increase things such as how many credits you earn for a mission and many other helpful upgrades. Your level increases with experience points that you earn while racing. The cars that you own also have their own levels which increase with parts. As you earn or purchase new parts that have a level higher than what you currently have on your car the level will increase by the difference between levels of those two parts. There are many missions and side events that are gated based on your car’s level which keeps the story linear. This gives the impression that they are holding your hand through the early part of the game which is fine as long as they abandon this linearity further along in the game or at least give you different branches to follow.
The last aspect of the game I want to talk about is the parts and tuning system. I understand that this is a beta build but I was underwhelmed by the way that they have implemented the parts system. I’m sure that there is a tight rope to walk in terms of how this is implemented. The gaming landscape as a whole has grown into an on the fly/“I need it now” dichotomy. For one reason or another, I don’t like this in my racing game. When you perform a mission you have the ability to win new parts based on your performance. There are bronze, silver, and gold marks to hit with their own level of rewards. Once the mission is over if you win a reward that would be an upgrade you can just press a button to have it auto equipped… this is where I have an issue. Again, this may not be the final implementation, so my thoughts could change in a few months when the game releases. One place I like to spend a lot of time in a racing game is in the garage tuning my car part by part. While there is a garage and tuning store in the game to allow this to happen, you are rarely ever forced there as you can auto-equip newly acquired gear on the fly. When the game is released I hope that they give you more incentive to go back to the garage to tweak your car, maybe with a system like enhancements to parts that you could better a given part much like enchantments to armor or weapon in another MMO. I think the possibilities could be endless in this space, I just hope that the developers of this game are up to it. Maybe I am alone in being someone who would like to spend time tweaking my car and making it “my own” as opposed to spending all of my game time driving.
I have only spent a short time in the beta but I am hopeful that this will be a game that I will play for quite a long time. There are things that I think are necessary to improve or build upon to make this game great but I think they are on the right path. I will be following the development of The Crew closely in the months ahead as the game nears release. The Crew will be released on November 11, 2014. It seems like a game worth playing, I will try to report back shortly after the game’s release.
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