The Crew series tried to find its unique voice over the first two iterations but then comes The Crew Motorfest and I’m not sure if it’s innovating or trying to copy the competition or it’s doing something else entirely. While the third game showcases the open roads and broad countryside of the Hawaiian island of Oahu you can’t help but feel like you’re playing another franchise. Is Ubisoft openly and without reservation resorting to mimicry? Or are they using the same mechanics we’ve seen in other Ubisoft sporting games like Riders Republic and Steep? Whatever the case, the thing that made The Crew franchise original feels less present in The Crew Motorfest.
After the simplified USA from the first two Crews, Motorfest takes place on Oahu, the largest island of the Hawaiian archipelago. Its map is objectively much smaller than the one from previous Crews but saturated with activities and shenanigans to the point of breaking. Oahu was probably chosen because of its diverse topography which includes most standard biomes save the frozen wilderness. One minute you’ll drive along the golden sandy beaches, the other you’ll meander around the ashen snake road around volcano. The path might continue up a lush jungle that leads down into suburbia and, eventually, the capital, Honolulu.
The terrain in TCM generally doesn’t have the same level of fidelity and detail as Horizon, for example. Sometimes, the game feels like a cartoon version of it, mostly because oversized balloons and other monstrous advertisements pollute the landscape. Even the speed traps and other event markers are too much, towering over the landscape with their bright colors. There’s hardly any relaxing, such as aimlessly driving for miles into the wild. Sooner rather than later, the game will throw something shiny in your face, demanding attention.
The mighty playlists
The main part of the TCM experience is the playlists, and events with wildly varying themes, mostly related to vehicles they are about. Some of those are tightly related to specific brands, such as the Porsche playlist that explores the greatest hits from the famous German car manufacturer. There’s a playlist designed around hypercars, concept vehicles meant to demonstrate the design concepts of the future. Some other playlists deal with dirt racing, allowing you to drive SUVs and bikes through mud and jungle. When you get bored of that, the game will tempt you with a list that is all about Japanese-style illegal street racing. Or drift racing. Or boats and planes.
The divergence of vehicles is TCM’s chief selling point. Other open world racing franchises are all about the cars, but The Crew Motorfest goes way above and beyond that. You can even switch in real time between automobiles, motorcycles, ATVs, boats, and planes, which is useful for traversing the distances between playlists and other events. Need to travel 17 km to the other side of the Island? Jump into the Vought F4U Corsair and transform back into the BMW near the event marker, easy! Right now, the playlists involving cars are much more numerous than everything else, but I suppose the future DLCs will remedy that, based on the player stats. TCM is an always-online title, and you can be sure that Ubisoft will use collected data to create content people would want to play.
The controversial upgrade system
Back to the lists. Completing the events earns you upgrade parts and cash, and finishing the entire playlist awards you with a unique vehicle. Some playlists have entry requirements, requiring the purchase of a specific vehicle to proceed. Instead of grinding the lists for cash, you can always opt for purchasing the currency bundles using real money. Beside the collecting, the game also has a tuning aspect, but the system is rudimentary. There’s almost no balancing, no hard decisions between parts that drastically alter the performance. You’ll just install the better-rated part in place of the default and be at peace with the universe. Similar system to what we’ve seen in the previous games in the franchise.
The playlists are fun but canned and designed to ignore the entire upgrade system. This is the major paradox and frankly the biggest problem with The Crew Motorfest. Aside from the rare instances where you can choose between two models, the vehicles you’ll be driving are predetermined. You can’t use your own modified vehicles in those events, which negates the entire system of upgrades for the single player. Sure, there are challenges, unlocked after completing each playlist, but that content is filler. Upgrades are cool if you are into multiplayer, but what if you are not?
Vocal scripts and personalities you’ll have to deal with in playlists all the time are also very divisive. As many times before, Ubisoft loves using faux-excited PR people, hyping the moto brands and firing the corporate propaganda on all cylinders. I like listening to these anonymous voices as much as I like listening to Vogon poetry. Also, for me personally, the personalities Ubisoft hired to host some events are even worse than those anonymous voices. Donut Media or Supercar Blondie are famous motorsport Youtuber idols and, as much as I can understand and support that to many they are a wonderful addition to the game, they just make me miss Top Gear that much more. Luckily, you can skip their introductory videos, but racing voiceovers you must endure. To many this will not be a problem at all though.
The Crew 2.5
Veterans of the previous games in the Crew franchise will notice that the driving model is slightly changed. It still keeps the fundamental feel of the previous games but in deciding whether to go for a full arcade or more realistic driving model developers seem to have given us a jumbled mess that can behave erratically at times. This particularly becomes noticeable when flying airplanes. Introduction of side winds, I suppose for reality’s sake, makes every airplane race anxiety inducing and therefore unpleasant. So much so that once beloved activity is now something you want to put behind you as soon as possible.
Luckily, the developers listened to the most devoted Crew fans, and they’ve included every vehicle requested in previous games. This, somewhat, compensates for the reduction in size of the map to less than a third of the previous games in the franchise.
The Crew Motorfest is an okay game and its biggest sin is that it didn’t wow me. Between trying to keep players of the previous games happy, introducing changes to the driving model to keep things fresh and looking at what the competition is doing and trying to keep up, The Crew Motorfest feels all over the place at times. Some of the introduced changes do not sit well with the veterans of the series, while others are not as good as the competing titles from other open world racing franchises. It feels that the title was produced to see what will sit well with the players so that The Crew 3 will be perfectly tailored. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have fun with The Crew Motorfest. It just means it’s not a brand-new holy grail in racing.
- Not just cars, but also bikes, ATVs, boats and planes.
- Playlists are fun.
- Well captured atmosphere of Hawaii.
- The upgrade system is mostly pointless for the single player.
- Relatively constricted and not particularly good-looking environment.
- Smaller map and driving changes that are not necessarily an improvement.