The Crew Review

Dan Webb

Ambition and Ubisoft go hand in hand. If there’s a game developer and publisher unit out there that likes to try and push the envelope, it’s Ubisoft. Ambition and success are two different things though, and like we’ve seen over the years, ambition doesn’t necessarily equate to a polished and impressive final product. Case in point, Ubisoft and Ivory Tower's incredibly ambitious The Crew, an open-world racing game set across the entirety of the United States; a racer that despite its flaws saves itself from adversity on the home straight.

The Crew throws players into the shoes of Alex Turner, the bastard offspring of Gordon Freeman and Walter White, who gets caught up in the antics of racing syndicate – and crime family – the 5-10. Yes, it’s a racing game with a story, and while the story is a load of predictable and nonsensical fluff, and for the most part full of phoned-in acting, it’s the spine that brings the game together. What I mean by that is simple: it gives you an excuse to race, explore and climb through the ranks in what is one of the most impressive game worlds that racing games have seen.

The best bit about The Crew: racing with friends, enjoying the sights.

That’s right, rather predictably, The Crew’s major draw is the incredible and frankly stunningly ambitious depiction of America, fresh with metropolitan mega cities like New York, small towns in the middle of nowhere, landmarks galore, vast open-spaces and an incredible diversity not found in most games. If exploration is your passion, The Crew is a game that just keeps on giving. Quite why the game doesn’t have a photo mode (though there are plans to patch one in) or a free camera mode is beyond us though.

It’s a game with a staggering amount of content and in terms of variety, Ivory Tower does a fine job in mixing things up throughout. With raids, off-road races, takedown missions, collection missions, circuit races, cross-country endurance races and more, you’re never lamenting any specific race type when it shows up. Ivory Tower also does a fantastic job keeping players entertained from point A to B as well, with slalom, speed, accuracy, jump challenges and more, which are one of the main ways the game enables you to level up not just your character, but your cars. Sure, you can fast travel to locations you’ve already visited, but first time around, you’re going to have to just hit the road and get your drive on.

The expansive and diverse game world is as far as the game’s monstrous ambition is realised though, because at its core, The Crew is a mostly competent yet hugely flawed racer… for the most part. Why for the most part? Simple, because the early stages of the game, judged in their entirety, are enough to award the game a fair 60%; the latter stages of the game clearly reach the game’s potential and could have easily scored in the 80s. It’s a question of balance and progression.

Get out of here! It's the rozzers!

Early on, The Crew gives players cars that convey no sense of speed and handle like boats, but in the latter stages, you really get that sense of speed and control you expect in a racing game. That’s if you can get that far though, due to the game’s massive difficulty spikes at times. Sure, that’s progression, you say… if progression is me playing for 30 hours and it only getting decent then, well, that kind of progression can sit on my middle finger and swivel.

It’s not perfect when you get past the 30 hour mark though. You’ll still encounter the aggressive and ridiculous AI (both racers and everyday traffic), the often dumbfounding rubber-banding, unforgivable nature of it all and the often horrific-at-times physics. At times The Crew can be as frustrating as watching your 3-year old niece try and stick that cylindrical object into the square hole. No, just no. Then there’s the ridiculous hovering GPS-nav line, which is a bizarre design choice in a game where so much is going on at once, whether it’s traffic on the roads, aggressive racers or wildlife running across the road.

The unforgivable nature of the races, that require you to actually win every single one (pretty much) to move on – which is fairly ludicrous in terms of accessibility – almost encourages players to race in a ‘crew’ – it is the name of the game after all – and that is where the game can shine. Emphasis on 'can'. If you team up with mates to explore the expansive and often jaw-dropping sights and sounds of America, it can be a delight. Whether you’re taking on challenges together, racing in a group or just pissing around, it can be a joy. Play with randoms though, and it can be a frustrating affair – despite you all supposedly being in it as a team. Quite why Ubisoft included an option for the host to restart races mid-race means that if you unluckily get paired up with a sore loser you could find yourself restarting a lot… even if you’re out in the lead every time. Seriously.

Then there’s a ton of other niggles along the way that hold the game back from being the game that it should and can be, like that annoyingly slow transition from reverse to drive, the fact that the car’s wing and rear view mirrors don’t render the world – which sucks for cockpit view – and the fact that the game is far too stingy with money, meaning even after 30 hours, and having only purchased five cars, I still only had 25% of the required credits to buy one of the most expensive cars in the game. The cynic in me says that this is to encourage the use of micro-transactions. The reviewer in me says that this is ridiculous, regardless of the situation.

The one thing that Ivory Tower has effectively nailed is the achievement list. It’s one of the best we’ve seen in some time. There’s breadcrumbs galore in there, a bit of a challenge, plenty of creativity, oodles of thought and innovation and while it might not be an easy 1000G, it’s certainly an interesting one that will reward you for not just your skills, but your togetherness. Plus, anyone who does that four and a half hour endurance race deserves an achievement! Kudos, Ivory Tower. Kudos indeed!

In essence, The Crew is a game that is often frustrating, needlessly unforgiving, chock-full of some weird physics, but when it gets it right, it gets it right… even if that takes it a good 20-plus hours to do so. If you’re a bit of an exploration freak like myself, then there is a lot to like about The Crew’s stunningly ambitious and frankly head-spinning – in a good way – open-world America. If you’re after a pure racing experience though, be prepared to put the hours in to get the most out of The Crew. It’s almost worth it though. Almost.

The Crew

If you'd have asked me after hour five what The Crew was, I would have said a solid 50% score. Hour ten? 60%. Thankfully though, the home straight is what saves The Crew from being just another average racer and with its incredibly game world, it’s worth dipping your toe in. Just don’t expect it to get decent for a long time, but when it does, it’s almost worth the wait.

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The in-game music is forgettable, as is the voice acting – except Troy Baker of course – but at least the cars make a nice little purr.


Not the prettiest new-gen game you’ll see, but easily the most ambitious in terms of open-worlds, with most of the US landmarks faithfully recreated.


It’s most definitely a Jekyll and Hyde game. Early on, cars handle like boats and don’t convey any sense of speed whatsoever. Come the end though, the potential is finally realised.


A guff story in a pretty fab game world. The only fear is that if you’ve not got the patience of a saint, chances are you you won’t make it that far to see what the game has to offer.


As far as lists go, The Crew’s list is great. It’s not an easy 1000G, but there’s some great variety, plenty of innovation and creativity, and more importantly, loads of thought has been put into them.

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