It might be time to add another R to the old acronym, because Ubisoft is building what might be the first major AAA MMORPG built entirely around racing and building an arsenal of cars. With the entirety of the continental United States at your disposal, The Crew (due to launch later in 2014) is a fully-fledged MMO based entirely on racing both AI and your human counterparts. There will be missions, a full overworld to explore, levels to gain, gear to collect and outfit your cars with, and players to meet and compete against. On top of the usual MMO staples, it’ll also be one of the first next gen console MMOs, alongside a PC release when it launches. We went hands on with the game at PAX East and came away highly impressed. The foundation is solid, and if the MMO-ness of a massive world filled with other drivers can be pulled off convincingly, we’re all in for a treat when the rubber hits the road.
We only had a brief fifteen minute demo and interview with the dev team (both going on at once) to get a feel for the driving and general overview of the game. Watch it below, as it’s far better at describing what the action will be like than anything I could write. It’s a racing game, after all. There are 3rd person and first person driver’s seat views, and there’s a good chance that Oculus Rift and Sony’s own VR will be supported down the line. Racing games, along with FPS titles, are ideal for that kind of headgear, in my eyes.
Anyway, the game’s storyline has you joining part of an underground organization and working your way through the ranks, and it’s estimated that the main campaign at launch will be about 20 hours of gameplay. The story missions aren’t the main draw though, as The Crew is all about the big open world and racing alongside and against other players. It’s more an arcade racing game than a simulator, and as Ubisoft puts it: they want to position themselves as a role-playing game with large scale multiplayer aspects. It won’t be able to be played offline, but it is “Buy to Play” meaning once you own the game there’s no further subscription fee required. Though it is likely DLC will be added to enhance the missions and cars available as time goes on. Oh, and there will also be an iOS app to alter and build cars when you’re away from the PC or console version.
You can outfit your rides in a multitude of different ways, from the outward looks to the nitty gritty details of its “gear”. Think MMORPG here, as each car can be decked out to fit different needs based on the mission or race you’re on. From full-stock basic outfits to dirt racing setups to raid setups used to take out enemy cars, you’ll be able to tune your rides to fit any need. There are at least seven different kinds of missions you’ll unlock and play across the US: from straight up races to takedowns where you’re playing the role of a bounty hunter and impairing an enemy car by straight up ramming it off the road. There are also nine different sorts of skill tests, from trying to climb as high as you can up a mountain before time runs out, to doing a series of different jumps and seeing how much hangtime you can grab. For a game that takes place entirely in cars, when combined with the wide open expanse of the US map The Crew has an exciting level of depth in terms of content. You won’t just be racing in this racer.
I had an immensely fun time playing the Crew at PAX, and it’s quickly jumped high up on my radar. I never really considered the possibility of a racing MMORPG before now, but once you get your hands on The Crew chances are you’ll see why I’m not looking forward to the game’s launch later this year. It’s going to fit perfectly on the new consoles, and I’m happy to see that Ubisoft is doing a full PC version with PC controls and UI as well. The above demo video is a perfect example of the tense coop and single-player racing you can take part in. I was so incredibly amped playing that Takedown mission at the end with Garrett. It was the kind of feeling you get from the best fights in other MMORPGs. Ubisoft see the potential, possibly more than other AAA studios, of what developers can do within the MMO space that doesn’t involve swords and elves. Between The Crew and The Division, Ubisoft’s showing just how we can expand the reach of the MMO industry. Look for this racing MMO to land before the year’s out.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.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.