The Crew might be one of the most lavishly produced racing games ever made, but it provides and unconvincing, uneven and repetitive experience.
The Crew is a racing game with one of the most engrossing concepts in quite some time: what if you could race from coast to coast and visit some of the most iconic metropolis in the United States? But the game proves that an inviting premise isn’t enough, since The Crew is marred by problems (most of them technical) that prevent it from really taking off.
In The Crew, you play as a young man named Alex who spends his time participating in street races. One tragic night, his brother is shot and killed by a member of an opposing gang and Alex is sent to prison, but before he fully pays his debt to society, he’s offered a deal: Alex can leave prison as long as he accepts working for the FBI by infiltrating the 5-10 motor club and brings down the organization from the inside. As you probably noticed by now, the plot is an excuse for you to race again and again and if you watched any of the Fast and the Furious movies or if you played any of the Need for Speed games, you pretty much know what to expect from the simplistic story.
There might be an underlying story, but you’ll spend most of your time racing, collecting packages, crashing into opponents or getting to places before a timer runs out. Most missions involve reaching a specific location in the open-world map and participating in street races, tough there are some additional objectives. As you clear objectives, you level up which unlocks more missions, you obtain money to spend on upgrades and other cars and you get parts to improve your vehicle.
Racing in this recreation of the contiguous United States feels great and one of the best part about The Crew is visiting some of the most iconic cities and since they are all connected, you can drive from town to town without seeing a single loading time in between. As far as I know, this is the first racing game to have interconnected cities without breaks and this gives a sense of cohesion seldom seen in other games. Alas, once the novelty of traveling from place to place wears out, problems begin to emerge.
For whatever reason, The Crew requires an online connection at all times even if you have no intention of playing with or against other people. In fact, I barely touched the multiplayer modes and I still had to be connected which is cumbersome and unnecessary. Should your connection drop at any point, you’re sent back to the main menu and if you’re on a mission, you lose all the progress you’ve made on that mission. I understand that the game was designed with multiplayer in mind (you can be part of a crew and cooperate with other players,) but The Crew doesn’t explain, in an articulate manner, why you should form a crew in the first place.
Also, for a game that’s all about racing from city to city and seeing how the scenery changes, there are several interruptions that get in the way of you having fun. Opening and closing the map is slow, there are several menus to access and some of them can be confusing to navigate, there are some incredibly long loading times and you need to log into the Ubisoft servers whenever you want to play. In other words, the game’s sluggish pace and inelegant menus goes against the spirit of “go anywhere you want as fast as you can.”
It’s worth mentioning that I encountered several bugs during my playthrough and some of them were more intrusive than others: the game crashed a few times, sending me to the main menu and losing some progress, my car crashed against invisible obstacles on several occasions. Finally, microtransactions feel intrusive and incredibly annoying. For example, the game gives you a free police car, but to redeem it you need to purchase a DLC and unless you disable the tutorials, a character keeps reminding you that you have that free car waiting for you.
Ultimately, The Crew is a victim of its own ambitions. The massive open-world looks outstanding and driving from place to place is a unique experience that you can’t have in another game. But The Crew can also be a buggy mess with poorly implemented microtransactions, cumbersome user interface, more technical glitches I can remember and an always-online requirement that feels unnecessary. We should be celebrating The Crew as a technical achievement, but poor design decisions make this an unremarkable and lackluster racing game.