rAge 2013: Rolling With The Crew And Driving Through Back Yards
I’m behind the wheel of a car, this is a good start for The Crew since it is supposed to be a racer. That car is a Nissan Skyline GTR in electric blue. A great car in one of my favourite colours on a car? It would appear as if this demo is trying to seduce me.
While it may not be the prettiest game around, not with NFS: Rivals to beat, The Crew is no slouch and looks visually impressive with its wide open vistas. The best part is that you can actually explore the horizons of the game world as I found out after completing the introductory race.
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It was your standard sprint from point A to point B against something like seven other cars of varying makes and vehicle types. What made this a little bit different is the fact that the race took place equally on and off-road with sections of it stretching between hills and spurs. Actually I never did care much for geography but what I do know is that we were racing around the Nevada Desert just outside Las Vegas.
Despite it being stock, my Skyline handled well on the dirt and was fun to toss around although it had a tendency to oversteer. Replenishing supplies of Nitrous soon made me ignore this fact. The opposing AI is about on par with what you’ve expected from racers, nothing special really.
After the race I was very briefly given command of the open road. Over a crest and on a winding bend I could see the flat, neon mass of Las Vegas sprawling out. To one side of the road was an intriguing looking little pass between two hill thingies (I won’t even bother trying to be geographically correct) so I turned off the road and drove through it.
Yeah, you can do that in this game. The Crew is more open-world than any racer I’ve ever played. You can turn off the road and explore the environment as you please. How this works out and what limitations will be placed on you in the full game remain to be seen but I felt pretty damn free.
This true freedom is a novel concept in a racing game and one that holds plenty of promise if done right. Consider that you could have a good portion of the USA’s road networks at your fingertips.
Suddenly I was transported to Miami for a job.
My car was tricked out with a rollcage, bullbar, rugged tyres and a stronger chassis. Well this could’ve helped a lot when I was out in the desert. Oddly, these modifications were made for driving around in the city of Miami. I expect an explanation for that logic, Ubisoft.
I was set free on the road and told to meet up with my crew (hey, that’s the title of the game!). They consisted of a Ford Focus, Chevy Camaro and one other car which I didn’t take much notice of. All were customised for this mission and played by the three kids at the screens next to mine. Yes, I transitioned from singleplayer desert roaming to urban multiplayer in a the space of a single loading screen.
Our directive was to take out a Hummer because vehicular warfare is how Vin Diesel does it and that’s how big boys solve their problems. Given the type of car we were chasing down and the city we were in, I assumed it was a drug lord. This motivated me somewhat.
We chased the bastard all over until he eventually found himself on the beach with not much room for escape. Good for us but I noticed two things at this time. Rather belatedly, it dawned on me that this was a version of the demo shown at E3 earlier this year and secondly despite driving through people’s gardens, all over a promenade and along small sand dunes I scarcely discerned any difference in the way my car was handling.
Perhaps this was due to those magical customisations but in any other game there would surely be a noticeable difference in the way the car behaved. The Crew is a next-gen game, I at least expect my car to behave with the believability of a current-gen game.
This lack of any real difference does seem to make the focus on customising your ride for specific missions rather moot. I will throw the game a lifeline in assuming that the build I played was on a dumbed down difficulty to make driving easier and that the final game may yet receive plenty more polish.
That said, the game’s absolute variety in environments and locations should make for a very interesting game that shouldn’t get boring with new racing situations constantly being thrown at you. I’m picturing NFS: The Run but done well and hopefully with some slightly more believable and responsive handling.
Pretty soon I landed a sideswipe on the Hummer and felt a meaty connection though not as steel-wrenching and when I accidentally rammed my crew member from behind. Innuendo.
One thing that I noticed is some areas of the game, particularly in urban environments may be accessible like in no other racing game but they’re still designed as if they’re inaccessible like in every other racing game. Do you see the problem? It makes for some awkwardly tight and frustrating moments when attempting to stray from the road in search of short cuts or cutting your target off.
The game is due out early next year on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
My time with The Crew only lasted seven minutes and while it was a flawed experience and one that had me less than eager to get my paws on the game, it was thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a lot more that this game needs to do before I’m impressed but it’s a solid racer that’s plenty of fun and should offer a novel enough concept with enough variety to keep you entertained.