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William Murphy Posted:
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Ubisoft’s The Crew might be a good overall indication of what we can expect from MMOs in the next several years. How you look at that statement could be a good or a bad thing. I spent the better part of last night and this morning delving into the live service of Ivory Tower’s racing MMO. Though I don’t think we’ll need the usual 4-5 weeks to come to a conclusion about The Crew’s performance, it’s not so much because the game’s not good but rather because there are only so many different things you can do behind the confines of a car.

There are some details about the game that bug my MMO-loving sensibilities right off the bat. For starts, no matter who you are, we’ll all be playing the same main throwaway character in The Crew’s narrative. That’s probably more than enough for many of you to disregard The Crew, but if you’re a fan of open world racing games with an arcade slant you might want to stick around. Though the plot of The Crew is basically “Fast and the Furious 1-5”, the cutscenes are well done, and well-acted. It just would have been nice if players could have at least customized the main character’s looks. Though as Garrett told me last night, he’s basically a skinny more emo version of yours truly. So I’m not sure I could have done better reimagining my own likeness, but something tells me that women and people who aren’t white might have wished for more diversity in the game’s lead.

So, as it were, I wouldn’t call The Crew an MMORPG in a sense, though I suppose you are playing the role of… crap, who knows what his name is? Let’s call him Dude McGuy. It’s more of an MMORG… a Massively Multiplayer Online Racing Game.  It’s not the first of its kind, and many of you might remember Test Drive Unlimited fondly as an online open world driving game. And that would be kind of the point, as the folks from Ivory Tower worked on both games and The Crew is in many ways the successor to that game’s lineage.

As Ivory Tower once said to us in a press interview, the characters of the game are truly meant to be your cars. Yes, you’ll play through a main plotline, which is there to help give purpose and slowly peel back the layers of the game’s replica USA map, but the overall Player Character is going to be the collection of cars you own and how you tweak their innards and visuals.  You’re given a choice of 5 distinct but popular modern cars after the tutorial stages: from Nizzan Z to Challenger to Mustang, and a couple others. All have greatly improved handling in the early stages compared to The Crew’s PC and PS4 betas (of which I partook).

You’ll pick one, but can later spend in-game currency or RMT currency to purchase the others. In-game cash isn’t hard to come by though by completing missions and skill challenges, so a little patience can save you from the RMT monsters.  There is even loot in The Crew, which come in three tiers of car upgrades for several different slots on your car. Bronze, Silver, and Gold upgrades of varying levels push the overall “Car Level” of your ride up, making the driving experience better and enabling you to take on tougher challenges and missions. Pretty much everything in The Crew is based around the Bronze-Silver-Gold medal theme. Your performance on missions and in challenges nets you one of the three, and that determines how good of a reward you get. Getting a bronze on a challenge might not get you an upgrade to your car, but a Gold might so there’s incentive to come back and replay content for better rewards (or if you’re just a perfectionist).

In terms of visuals, there are a whole lot of ways to Pimp Thine Whip in The Crew, from basic colors to metallic, iridescent, decals, rims, bumpers, skirts, hoods, mirrors, and even the interior. All of which costs in-game money, with the fancier paint jobs being the most cosmetic. Unless I’m not seeing it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to upload your own decals which would have been fantastic. I know what kind of nastiness it could bring, but hey… that’s the danger of the Internet, right? 

The main thing that’s probably an intentional design decision but still annoying to me is that to really get a look at how a part upgrades my car I need to head back to a tuner or my HQ. On the road, you just get the general “you’ll gain or lose this many Car Levels” comparison. It makes sense to always take the part that improves your car, but the info-freak in me wants to know how something tunes my car to the next level. A “more detail” comparison would be nice.

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William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.