Zoe: Hello Alex, my name is Zoe. I think we can help each other. You know these guys right? Of course you do. One killed your brother, the other framed you for his murder. Here’s the deal, I want this guy. Special Agent Coburn - He’s dirty, all I need is proof. And you want this guy. Dennis Jefferson a.k.a. ‘Shiv’ - Leader of the 5-10 motor club.
Alex: I’m in.
The Crew is a sandbox racing game where you can choose either to spend your time on the main campaign, or on multiplayer matches and skill challenges, or more likely a mixture of everything. The main campaign is a revenge story, putting you on a quest to complete missions of various types. These can be street races, countdown missions where you need to reach checkpoints within the time limit, hitman missions where you try to hit your target into submission, escape missions where you need to get out of range of any pursuers, and collection missions where you need to collect a certain amount of boxes within a time limit.
You start with a standard car, but soon start earning money and build up your vehicle collection. Each car can also be tuned into one or more specs, from street-tuned to circuit racing. There is an RPG element central to the game advancement. With each mission or challenge you earn experience points as well as different car parts that serve to improve your car’s performance. In this way, failed missions can be retried again perhaps after obtaining better parts by driving around the map looking for challenges.
Speaking about the map, The Crew’s playable world is a miniature version of the United States. It’s a road-trip from the east coast to the west, and the diversity in the terrain is impressive. Driving from one place to another in varying weather conditions is a very relaxing experience indeed!
The car handling in The Crew leans more on the arcade style of gameplay, rather than realistic. This means that the game is more accessible for everyone. That doesn’t mean that it does not provide a challenge, especially against multiplayer opponents. I also rather like the way that the navigation path to your destination is shown in the main view above the streets. This helps you to keep your eyes on the road at all times rather than looking at the GPS.
There are also some nice tunes playing on the radio, no big names, but adequate for this game’s style. I did feel a little bothered at first with the same songs being repeated over and over, but then I discovered that you can pick up songs from any of the in-game radio stations and also edit your personal playlist from the available tracks.
The Crew does not try to force you down a linear path. When you first start the game, your next activity is all up to you. This may feel a little intimidating initially with so much to do and no obvious easy pickings, but after a couple of days you quickly start feeling yourself at home. That’s when you realise that any mission you choose to attempt next is totally dependent on your mood.
This game requires a constant connection to the server. Players can instantly see what other online players are up to, form crews of up to four people, challenge each other in any of the single player game modes as well as some specific multiplayer ones. On the other hand, I did encounter some times when the server went AWOL and I simply had to find something else to do. The more serious issue, however, is that the server permanently keeps track of your progress and you cannot decide to restart the game from the beginning, for example once you’ve finished it (although you can replay any of the missions you like). Nor can you have multiple profiles for other users to keep track of their own progress.
All in all, The Crew is a good racing game which primarily tries to let you build your own experience. It’s more about the journey rather than the destination. There’s a man you want to eliminate and thus avenge your brother’s death, but that’s only part of what’s on offer. You can also skip from solo to multiplayer and back seamlessly or just spend your time in the garage customising your ride.