Ambitious. If there was only one word to describe Ubisoft’s upcoming MMO Racer The Crew (developed by Ivory Tower with Asobo Studios helping out on the 360 version), it would be exactly that. Originally developed exclusively for current-gen consoles and high-end PCs (and then later announced for the Xbox 360 as well), The Crew is set to take you and your friends on a ride around a massive, connected, open-world space of the United States with missions and challenges around each corner. Attempting to be one of the definitive racing experiences of this generation, The Crew could very well re-define action based driving games, if they can pull it all off.
One of the more impressive things Ivory Tower & Ubisoft have been able to pull off for The Crew is that driving from one end of the country to the other is completely seamless and devoid of loading screens. The game map is approximately 1900 square miles divided into 5 regions: West Coast, Mountain States, MidWest, The South, and East Coast. Around E3 2014, Ubisoft floated out a video driving from California to New York, all without loading screens. The cross-country drive is said to take about a two hours. Luckily, those who won’t have that kind of time in between missions will only have to do it once because once a location is on your map, you can fast-travel to anywhere you’ve already visited.
Practically anything that can be seen can be driven on, giving a true sense of open world as roads, train tracks, dirt paths, mountains, deserts and even cornfields are explored Exploring brings rewards, as levels increase by viewing landmarks around the country and uncovering parts for secret hidden cars. There are also “skill challenges” scattered throughout the land for jumps, slalom events, escaping enemies, and even just staying on the road as long as possible down a winding stretch.
While free-driving all around the countryside is fun in itself, there is a story here, with the goal to join an illegal street racing gang known as the 510’s. This is accomplished by gaining “rep” on the underground racing scene, city-by-city, across the country spanning 12 major American cities from Miami to New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. Perhaps over time other cities and stories will be added to the map as well, only time will tell what Ubisoft has planned for expanding the game later on down the line, but to call this an MMO racer means we should expect additions at some point.
Starting with a low-level car, every completed mission and skill challenge gives a the chance at unlocking better car parts, allowing leveling up along the way. This is crucial for some challenges to avoid being left in the dust. Some missions are simple street races, others involve taking down a member of the competition by ramming them off the road, and since you are in the midst of infiltrating an illegal street gang, you can be sure to expect plenty of police chases along the way.
Ubisoft has been clear in putting the slogan of “Never Drive Alone” out there, and with good cause, because players from all over the world will be encountered whether they be potential allies to crew up with or heated rivals to compete against. Once in a crew (a team of up to four players), missions together can be tackled together or you can “PVP” against other Crews in 8-player races. Even when there’s no one around to crew about with, friends’ ghost cars can be challenged in an attempt to knock them off the skill challenge leaderboards, setting new records for your friends to then have to log on and re-claim later on.
The connected world even comes with you when you’re not playing, as Ubisoft has shown an iOS and Android tablet app that allows cars to be modified with a multitude of performance and cosmetic based parts. You’ll also be able to keep track of your friends’ performances and send your crew on “Jobs on the go” to gain more XP and parts while you’re away from the game.
One thing is for sure: when The Crew launches on December 2, whether you’re into Forza, Gran Turismo, Burnout, Need For Speed, San Francisco Rush, Cruisin’ World or even RC Pro-Am, you’re going to want to check out The Crew to see if Ubisoft can deliver on its the potential.