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The Crew review: Stellar virtual tourism hidden behind not-so-great racing

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 9, 2014
The Crew is a fantastic tribute to American car culture, but not a fantastic racing game.

And it's all drivable right from the beginning, though you won't unlock activities in certain regions until later in the game. The first thing I did after the tutorial? I flew to San Francisco and drove around and went "Yeah, it's San Francisco." Smaller, less detailed, and a bit geographically mixed, sure--but it feels like that city. So does Los Angeles. So does New York. So do the Utah deserts, the mountains of Vermont, and the sandy shores of Cape Cod.

I've also driven the entire width of the country without experiencing a single hiccup, which is impressive. There are some texture and object pop-in issues, especially once you hit the Rockies and you've started driving 200+ mile per hour supercars, but the game runs surprisingly smoothly for the amount of content included.

My major complaint as far as exploration is that the radio system is underutilized. For a game this enormous the soundtrack is pretty underwhelming, and there isn't even DJ commentary peppered into the broadcasts. I would've also loved to see some region-specific radio stations--a country station in the South and the heartland, maybe.

Overall it's fantastic though. Just not a racing game.

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike

"Not a racing game" because the racing aspects are uniformly mediocre.

The biggest problem with The Crew is the rubberband AI. I understand the reasons--if you're on a three hour race, you don't want the AI to fall so far behind that the player doesn't feel challenged. The Crew overcompensates though. The AI will blatantly cheat in order to hold onto first for large stretches of each race, with even low-spec cars outpacing your perfectly-tuned vehicle for no other reason than the game thinks you need "a challenge."

This makes those epic-scale, multi-hour races so frustrating I don't even want to play them, which is a huge shame because they seem so damn cool. Four hour race? Sure, it's absolute insanity, but it's an insanity I'd be tempted to try.

Except you can never feel like you've gotten good at The Crew. One missed turn, one screwy physics moment, and there's a car waiting to zoom into first place. It's way less forgiving than probably any other racing game I've played. I've never experienced more soul-crushing pain from a game than when I lost control of my car in the last minute of a thirty-minute race and realized I'd just wasted all that time.

It doesn't help that the handling is overly loose. The Crew is an arcade racer through and through, with handling I'd place somewhere between Need for Speed and Burnout: Paradise. While I love both those series, however, The Crew feels like it needs another pass. It's so arcadey that cars in the same class (Raid, Performance, Street, Circuit, Dirt) feel almost identical, regardless of actual specs, and most vehicles sort of drift and bounce around the world like they're on a pinball table.

 

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