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Hands on: The Crew Closed Beta
The Crew is an open world race game with RPG elements. You and your crew ride around in hot cars through the US and upgrade your vehicles by leveling up, purchasing better car parts or by winning them in all kinds of events. Be aware, this is a review of the closed beta and not the full game.
There is a story
It won’t win the Pulitzer price but The Crew has a story. When you start the game, you (Alex Taylor) have to chase off the police while a friendly voice tells you not to get into trouble this soon before a race. Not much later you are told that your brother wants to see you. When you go and see him, he needs you to drive him to a location and there you witness his murder. A dirty FBI agent called Coburn frames you for the murder and you go to jail.
5 years later a good cop walks in and needs your help to frame Coburn. You agree to do so, also because this gives you a chance to get to Shiv, the 5-10 gang leader that killed your sibling. Zoe, the helpful agent, sets you up in a garage, gives you money to buy your first car, and off you go. Your goal is to get yourself in the 5-10 gang by impressing smaller bosses first and work your way up.
Open world driving
From this point on, you can ignore the story missions completely if you want. You have a car and the entire USA to play around with. You start this part of The Crew in Detroit, where all missions will be waiting for you. You can just decide to leave town and drive off. The radio has 120 songs divided by 7 radio stations, and they all seem to be great road trip songs, or at least very relaxing. Even after a couple of hours, you won’t get annoyed by the music. And if you do happen to get bored, you upload your own tracks. So, just step on it and hit the road!
The world you can drive in is beautiful and big. It takes about 37 minutes to drive from New York airport to L.A. airport. And according to the map, you cover a distance of 73 miles (118 km) crossing the entire country. New York itself is huge, it feels as big as Liberty City in GTA 4. Besides highways, there are tons of smaller roads and dirt roads. If you have an off road car, there’s even more to explore. Driving cross country you’ll notice how seamlessly you go from one area into the other. Going from L.A. to Vegas for example, you’re driving on a mountain road surrounded by sequoia trees only to take one corner and you’re in Death Valley.
Driving game or RPG?
There’s a couple of ways you can play The Crew. If you want, you play the story mode, progress, get better cars and so on, all by yourself. You can also completely ignore the story and just do non story related missions which you’ll find all over the place, and again, progress, get better cars, and so on. Still all by yourself. Or, and this is how The Crew is promoted, you form a crew with 3 other players and do all of the above mentioned with your 3 mates. It doesn’t matter if you want to do story missions or not, you can always do them with your crew. It’s important to know that your crew does not always contain the same people. This is very useful for when you decide to play the story missions. This way, you can just team up with random strangers that happen to be interested in playing that part of the game too.
After completing missions, you get XP and might win some interesting car parts. The more you level up, the better your cars get. You start with a full stock car that you fit with street specs. Once you hit level 10, you can buy dirt specs and you can start off road adventures. Every 10 levels you can buy a new spec, ending with the circuit spec at level 40.
Arcade like driving
The controls of the game are well worked out. Driving your car feels very arcade like, it’s a lot of fun throwing your car through tight bends and accelerating way too early for that dramatic effect. It resembles Driver: San Francisco, a bit too much even. While driving you can’t lose that feeling that you’re playing a polished version of Driver. Then it makes you realize, what does The Crew have that Driver hasn’t? And the only thing that comes to mind, besides the better graphics, are the coop missions. And with The Crew you are stuck in the same car for much longer than you are in Driver: San Francisco. Sure, you get to drive some other cars while doing story missions, but the free ride is mostly in your first car, until you level up enough to buy other cars and upgrade them with different specs. Also the police chases, (speed) missions you just randomly run into….it all feels very much like Driver: San Francisco.
Is it a must-have?
The Crew looks nice, and the open world is impressive. The RPG aspect of the game is interesting, but it might force people to play with the same car for too long. Racing games are usually fast paced. While the driving in The Crew is fast paced, the way to progress feels more like slaying boar over and over again, just to level up. It’s nice that you win a level 7 exaust in one of your first races, it is frustrating that you can’t use it for the next 6 hours or so. Getting to play in a crew is only enjoyable for certain missions. Having to drop a car off from A to B can be done by yourself, right? You don’t need anyone for that.
If you enjoyed Driver: San Francisco and you feel you need something new, but not too different, then The Crew is your game. The driving is intuitive, you’ll experience a lot of near misses and find crazy jumps, just like in Driver. If you like Final Fantasy, but think chocobo’s are too slow as a means of transport, then The Crew is an option for you too. For everyone else, the game doesn’t offer that much new gameplay. The leveling system might scare people off as well. It does offer a cheaper opportunity for a US road trip though.
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