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Written by Dustin Murphy
When starting The Crew’s November Closed Beta, there was only one thing to be expected – close to launch gameplay. That is something that was heavily delivered upon by Ivory Tower’s development in coordination with Ubisoft. When first loading in on Thursday (Nov. 6th), I was expecting to see constant disconnects and errors popping up left and right. Much to my surprise there was not a whole lot of this. Instead I was given what felt like a retail release title that had a few quirks here and there that still needed slightly kinked out (mostly white outlining on terrain and vehicles when going fast enough that the nitrous boost was blurring the screen). Though some of the quirks never receded over gameplay time, but they didn’t take away from the games depth or the enjoyment that was offered by Ubisoft.
In short, The Crew is an MMO-esque game that seemingly took some of the best aspects from games like Need For Speed Underground, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Forza (not tuning like Forza, but definitely appearance), and Midnight Club. These aspects variate between graphics, handling, music, open world, design, and even control schemes. Something that is done well enough I could easily have forgotten any of the games I mentioned before had even existed on the previous generation or even this generation of consoles. Though one thing is for certain; their story elements are seemingly almost the same. Within the opening minutes of the game I am introduced to a cop chase that lead me speeding across the countryside and offroad. Cops billowing their orders and communications chatter through the radio seemed bothersome at first, but gave a delightful bit of glee when hearing the A.I’s frustration with my character come to fruition.
Once the chase was done, I was given a view of my character Alex. He’s a scruffy man, who dons a Paul Bunyan beard as if he had stolen it from him without any form of regret. His appearance also gave me the feel that Ubisoft as well as Ivory Tower came to the idea that they wanted Alex to be a character I could easily relate to since he also had the large black framed glasses and the racer meets nerd look down to a perfect match. Something well done. The tropes to other games or media within the genre couldn’t be ignored when my character pulled up in front of what appeared to be a late 60’s Camaro that had all the literal muscle one could handle. That was the moment I couldn’t help but notice the figurative pun towards The Fast and the Furious’ infamous Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his passion towards muscle cars. Granted his car was a charger, the pun was loud and clear.
Within the opening hour or so of the game there was already something bad that happened. Our character witnesses his brother’s death, players quickly get to realize how closely the game resembles a Fast and Furious based story gone wrong. With his characters death, Alex is sent to prison where he is approached by the FBI for his assistance. After agreeing to bring down the street gang, he’s quickly back on the roads, but this time he has a custom car. This is where players really get a feel for what they want to do. For me it was picking out the Nissan 370z. I did have options of picking from other cars, but ultimately the Nissan 370z is what spoke to me the loudest. The truth is? The car handles about as good as a go kart on ice. Why is this? It’s realistic. The car itself has very little weight, poor steering, and poor handling, but all this can be upgraded by taking on challenges and upgrading the vehicle.
After spending a bit driving around the streets, it was time to grit my teeth, prepare to look around and race. During this time I was able to take on challenges such as the slalom, speed, jumping, and more. All of these which allowed for me to gain new parts such as ECU, tires, brakes, and much much more. The game took me for even more of a spin when it came down to finally taking my level 69 (having stopped there) and customizing it. I was capable of changing the color of the interior, type of hood, spoiler, bumper for both front as well as back, and even the rims. Let alone the fact this game is in the beta state, I was shocked to not see things such as the game allowing for underlights, headlight customizations or even tail light customizations, but what I got was let alone more than was expected in the beta.
Once done spending time with the Nissan it was time to meet up with Zoe (the FBI agent) and time to head over to her HQ she’s set up for Alex and herself. There I was given the chance to look through the characters perk chart that she offers as well as any cars owned. Here I was also capable of going through my profile without having to worry about being slammed into by A.I. or player traffic, but I was also capable of going through my previous car parts as well as adding or removing parts based on my needs for my cars performance. This also was a place where I was capable of forming a Crew to race with and did so. Preparing for our cross country drive, we got our cars set for speed. Doing this allowed for us to go across the country from Detroit to California. The time we monitored for the drive took us roughly almost two hours. The time it took for us though was surprising as we didn’t stop for races, challenges or even try to take on personal races. This was a pure cruise across the nation. This gave us a glimpse at just how massive the world was. Once to the San Francisco region we decided it was time to turn around. This time? Our Destination was Chicago, IL. We took note of our drive through Kansas City, Saint Louis, and even taking a few minutes to park beneath the Saint Louis Arch.
However, performance wise we noticed only a few things when it came to graphics, graphic tearing along borders when we were just cruising through heavily populated areas with a lot of textures. This mostly being in downtown zones areas and even during races within those events. Even with that, what I walked away with wasn’t a bad taste or a disappointment since the game is still in a pre-release beta form and what I may have experienced was not final product on the scale of completion and release. Instead this was merely a stress test upon the servers as well as the hardware to ensure that it could run at its finest. Even with those few kinks that have come to light, there is not a doubt in my mind that Ubisoft and Ivory Tower are seeking to release a game that could easily contest the scales of any racing MMO we’ve ever seen. We can only hope that the launch is as smooth as this and has even higher scale animations as well as graphics since the game never once dipped below sixty frames a second at 1080p.
Writers Note: Our chances of being in the closed beta are thanks to the teams over at Ubisoft allowing us to get our hands on this pre-release chance so that we have a feel for the game. The game experience we based it upon is in the current beta release phase. All images we’ve used will show the beta state on the PS4 version of the beta.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.