When Ubisoft announced The Crew at E3, I remember everybody in the Twinfinite office was excited to give it a try. The concept of an open world cooperative multiplayer game was something fresh and the type of ambitious that can result in the next great game. As Terrence, Andi, Keith, and myself were wrapping up a preview of another game, we walked by the booth for The Crew and since it was relatively open, we decided to stop and give it a try.
Before we got to play it on consoles, the exhibitor had us jump on the Smartglass companion app to customize our respective cars. Since it was only a demo, we only had access to limited visual customizations. After a quick scan of the slim pickings and a few new coats of paint, we were taken to the console section and told that we would be given four minutes to get familiar with the game before we were brought together to complete a co-op mission.
The free roam was interesting since for the most part we all picked different regions to go drive around in. New York was as busy as its real world counterpart and I was surprised at the amount of detail crammed in. Drive into a pack of pedestrians and they all have different animations as they try to get out of the way. The controls are reminiscent of the Burnout series but aren’t an exact replica. After four frustrating minutes trying to get used to having the A button be the boost and the X button control the handbrake, the excitement of trying the game wore out. The cars felt extremely floaty and difficult to control. Trying to drift around a corner will either have you smash into an oncoming car or slide along the ground like it was covered in a giant layer of ice before hitting a tree and coming to a dead stop. Then came the “co-op”.
I expected the co-op to be the redeeming aspect of the game but as soon as the mission started (we had to take down a car within a set time limit by ramming it), we all came to find that while we were all doing the same mission, it was running in parallel, meaning we couldn’t help each other out. To make matters worse, the mission took place on South Beach in Miami and featured a lot of off-road driving which combined with the already shaky controls, led to some of the most frustrating driving I think I have ever experienced. The physics of the game got even more strange since I could drive right through lamp posts and lifeguard towers, but crashing if I even looked at a palm tree wrong. We all finished the mission at different times and just looked at each other with disappointment.
The BBC car show called Top Gear has a recurring line, “Ambitious but rubbish” which perfectly encapsulates The Crew. I would love to have this game offer true co-op and just control better. Luckily, Ubisoft and co-developer Ivory Tower have until Q1 of 2014 to polish the game and getting it running as advertised. A game with this much promise should be given every opportunity to succeed instead of being put out in the state I played it in. The Crew releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One early next year.