My personal quest to play All The Games eventually led me to Burnout Paradise, probably the greatest arcade-style car-driving simulator that’s been released. It had an open world, plenty of stuff to do and enjoyed several content-expanding updates after release. It was pretty nice. This is not that game. This is The Crew, a new multiplayer racing extravaganza from Ubisoft, makers of such fine software as “that game about the French guy where the dude’s skin was invisible and he fell through the ground.” How does it shape up? Well, at least people’s skin tends to stay on, so there’s that.
The Crew’s plot, as you’d probably expect, is basically nonsense used to give a flimsy reason for driving around like a maniac. Your white, male, hipster-looking hero’s brother is killed; he’s framed and sent to jail for the crime; he’s then broken out for a secret mission to take down the rogue drivers that did the deed. There’s a love interest involved, I guess. Who cares? It’s dumb, dumb, dumb. Like, “bad even for a video game” dumb.
The real heroes are the cars. The fact that people have to be in there driving them is less vital. You do have to get plot races out of the way to unlock more of the free-roam map, irritatingly enough. It smacks of Ubisoft knowing that people might not be into the story and thus making it a requirement for progress. You know what game didn’t have a plot and was otherwise extremely similar to The Crew? Burnout Paradise. Let that sink in. That’s wasted potential you’re feeling in your gut.
Anyway, cars: there’s tons of them, they’re actual licensed vehicles and they’re all customizable. You can stick parts on them, remove parts stuck on them, make them purdy, make them less purdy, it’s great. My preference was a red 2012 Dodge Challenger; sure, it was one of the first cars you get and there’s better options later, but it felt about as nice to drive in the game as it does in reality. The physics trend toward the extremely forgiving arcade style of things, so if Forza was a little too hardcore for your taste you’ve still got a good chance of enjoying this one. Races and daily login rewards earn you cash which you can use to buy more sweet car bits. I’ve read people say that they felt the game was a little grindy as a result, but I didn’t have much of an issue with being encouraged to do what I would be doing anyway.
You’ll take your cars on a variety of races, both plot-based and otherwise, and chances are you’ll run into a bunch of other people while you’re doing it because this game is an MMO. Yes, an MMO racing game. No, it probably wasn’t a great idea. Yes, it does mostly work. You’ll see plenty of other folks driving around, which helps give the world a bit more of a “complete” feeling. Impromptu races between mission locations abound. They’re also useful for helping you clear missions, assuming you’ve got some friends who are also into the car-driving lifestyle. Swarming the cops with vehicular roadblocks does a lot to keep them off your back, for instance. It’s pretty fun.
“Enjoying a game?!” cries the man at Ubisoft, brandishing his MBA. “That’s…that’s UNTHINKABLE. Quick, Marketing Drones! Implement a microtransaction model!” And so they did. Crew Credits are bought with real money. You spend them on digital content in this game you already paid $60 for. It’s dumb.
It’s even more dumb because The Crew’s always-online requirement means that eventually these servers are going down and you’ll be stuck with a $60 piece of plastic that you’ve also bought pretend money in. So basically forget the whole Crew Credits thing. And probably forget about playing The Crew in a couple years. Just warning you. Also worth a warning is the game’s tendency to crap itself and die if your Internet connection chokes, so it’s probably best to not try and play this over Starbucks WiFi or whatever.
Still, for the (almost assuredly limited) time it’s around, The Crew isn’t a bad choice. Probably not a $60 choice, especially since Ubisoft would also really like you to pay for Crew Credits, but $40 would be a lot more reasonable. And if you got the game for $0 as an apology after the whole situation with the skinless French guy and the floor-falling, well, nothing beats free, right?