Pack up your bags, you’re going on a cross country road trip with crazy driving uncle Alex. The Crew is less of a racing game and more of a story with open world driving with a few diverse missions. The game spans several the United States through major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and New York.You have the ability to drive between them. With the story about a fresh out of prison Alex, illegal street racing and open world driving it feels like Grand Theft Auto with none of the action, guns or even leaving your vehicle unless its in a cut scene.
You play as a hipster with a beard, thick glasses and fauxhawk named Alex. You pick up your brother, he does something shady and gets shot and killed for whatever it was he was doing. Then the feds show up, arrest you and then you take the fall for murdering your own brother who is a thug that looks nothing like you.
Then you get sprung from prison by your helper character who puts you back out on the street after you agree to a deal with the feds. They want a dirty agent, you want freedom or your brother’s killer. Either way you’ll spend the game driving from point to point to gain the trust and street credit you need to get better upgrades, dollars and whatever else. Oh but only if you come in first. There’s no room for losers here.
You’re working for the feds and crew readers. Its tough to call these missions races since it seems like an eclectic bunch of challenges. Ramming a raid vehicle as you tear through a rough sandy beach. Jump into a dirt rally car and drive off-road in an open circuit race. Slip in a sponsored car to race across country, because when you’re illegal street racing in broad daylight, sponsors want to get on board! Think of all that valuable news coverage! Hop in a monster truck, driving through a giant skate park and collect point icons. Driving in drag races where your goal is to hit the accelerator at the correct moment like a mini game.
It would be nice to spend a race game racing, rather than playing a big budget version of Cruisin’ USA. Even the races that they do have are over in a minute or two and marred by forcing you to replay until you get first place or halting the action so they can show you a cut scene of your crash. Its just so much table dressing at Thanksgiving with no meal and the turkey was forgotten.
Vehicles all feel different which is good. Even though you can buy your own vehicles at shops across the country, you still get put into different vehicles for specific missions. This helps speed the game along a bit rather than forcing you to purchase your own truck for a race. You can buy vehicles with “bucks,” spend crew credits for real world money or just flat out buy them with real world money since these are licensed vehicles. Its a bit odd that you can buy crew credits and just pay for some things with real money, but whatever. I will admit that $3 for a single Corvette seems like a steal for my enjoyment, but you need to be in love with a flashy car to spend real money on it.
The Crew is one of the rare racing games that requires you to use a brake and there’s a good chance of losing control of your car if you go too fast. Ramming into an object at full force does nothing to your vehicle other than slow you down. If its a stationary object like a home or small pine tree, you need to slow your wheels and then reverse them rather than only reversing. That’s realism, yet I can still do a 720 with a monster truck in mid air. I’ve never managed to flip a car end over end. I even crashed straight into a cement barricade going 150 and the car stood on its nose until I respawned.
As you drive, your nitro meter will fill up. You can use it at any time, but its best to let the gauge fill up. It fills up quick to keep you boosting. It makes all the difference even if it never feels like you go that much faster. Your opponents are always using it in short bursts and you’ll see the blue flame followed by a red flame from their exhaust.
There is body damage, but it never seems to do much to hinder you. A lot of the time I feel my vehicle pull toward other vehicles on the road. I would say that’s drafting, but even with cars headed toward me i seem to just veer toward them.
Every race but the test drive track is an open circuit race that put you behind the wheel after the race has started. Why waste all of that countdown time when you can just have an introductory cut scene? Perhaps the races just start because its illegal street racing and the cars just join the fray rather than having an official start. Although with other races an entire crew consumes the street in some giant block party.
You can find a few challenges as you drive. Things like an imaginary slalom will just appear on the road or a checkpoint challenge to stay on the road as long as you can before time runs out. These are fun little diversions during long rides between missions. Once they’re over you get a rank, and you can have the option to try again, but why bother with something so frivolous as smashing computer generated imaginary barricades?
To find your way around you can look at your map, set a way point or just fast travel there if you’ve discovered the mission. The way point is setup nice with an overhead line guiding you. The only problem is that in a race, there is no giant blue line, so you’ll need to follow your mini map or rely on arrow billboards to point the way. Getting to the mission is half the fun and thrice the pain. A mile seems to take a minute and sometimes a race is twenty miles away.
If you need to get from one city to the next in a hurry, just visit an airport. They’ll take you and your car to your destination, which makes me believe that your vehicle is in the overhead. Once you see the landmarks and airport of a city, they start to feel the same. Even the outer limits of each city does little to feel different. Sure there are deserts, forests and farmlands, but once you’re in the desert you can count the amount of similar hotels or gas stations that were copied and pasted.
Completing missions, challenges and visiting landmarks will earn you experience. It makes me sad to participate and lose in the same event for an hour yet never gain experience. One of the ways the game wastes my time. Leveling up Alex lets you unlock perks at your headquarters. Different bosses allow for different perks. Your selection of starter perks such as 1% better braking, a 2% chance of getting 2 perks instead of one which means you’re gambling, 3% off the cost of all street parts when you can get parts for free by winning races, 2% more experience from missions, and an increased cooperative bonus.
You can also buy a perk point with more money than you need to buy a car or crew credits. This makes the game a bit of pay-to-win since its an online multiplayer racing game (without racing) and you can buy things with real money that give you that edge over other players. Maybe one day I’ll stick around in this baron game long enough to earn the in game currency to buy those perks, but then a new game will just come along. Perhaps a sequel.
There’s a car level system that increases as you buy and or equip better parts. Some parts that you win your character needs to be a certain level to equip them which seems odd since they go on the car instead of the man. The game will let you play mandatory missions with a lesser vehicle, but it will warn you that you need to be at least this level or the game will be very hard, which means impossible.
After completing the missions I was allowed to before I had to grind for experience to improve my car I just drove soaking in this big budget extravaganza with no content. I flew to Los Angeles, drove to Detroit, then Maine and finally the west keys of Florida. After that experience, I can recommend never drive at night. Why? Its dull and there’s nothing to see. Of course driving from Maine to Florida was nothing but concrete gray barriers. It was just boring, but there were no missions. One of the problems of driving cross country before the game deems you ready is the side challenges will be locked until your car is a specific level. That just means I wasted my time seeing America.
I felt like I spent my time in this game doing a whole lot of nothing and trying to have fun. I ended up fast traveling to missions, but the missions go by quick assuming you come in first place. The Crew has a lot of content, but the content I want it just has few and far between. Driving twenty minutes to the next mission and staving off boredom is a tough task when all I want to do is race.
The songs on the radio get old fast. I feel like there are only two songs I’ve heard on radio outside of the video game. I’m sure these garage rock bands are all great and have their fans, but listening to them all back-to-back they blend in together. There’s no disc jockey to break up the music or to keep me entertained on dull drives. In fact there’s nothing keeping me entertained in the game beyond the graphics and knowing my computer can pull off ultra graphics!
The its always online so people can just be in your game and you’re in theirs. That means only one thing. You either drive them off the road, or they drive you off the road. I was able to see intense police chases with other players. One passed up driving as I was 200 down a freeway only to have that car turn around, double back and then still outrace me just to prove he could. He did this all with the police behind him, which made for a gauntlet of cars.
For a game about illegal street racing, the police only seem to chase you when driving between missions. To be fair, the police do show up on side streets during races and act more like spectators for the most part. They offer no sense of urgency or drama. They’re just there. Other missions start out with you being chased by the cops, but for reasons other than illegal racing. To get away from the cops, just leave their sight radius for long enough where your wanted level begins to drop. Its an easy task with no real threat.
Because this is such an online game, you’re encouraged to join crews. Well so you can make your own crew while working undercover for a real crew. Your friends will be what keeps you in game. I have a feeling the real reason to join crews is to stay in game, sell more copies of the game, more micro transactions and more downloadable content. Something had to pay for this game beyond all the sponsors in there.
Its just a tough game to get into even after spending hours in it. I’m sure there’s a lot here for someone willing to wade through it all, but for me it falls short of both a racing game and an open world game.