We were lucky enough to be invited to an after hours party at the Ubisoft booth at Gamescom this year and in between the copious amounts of food and creepy scenes of only the Ubisoft staff dancing I was able to get some hands-on time with a few of their titles.
What I really enjoyed about this was that I could play their games with no reps hanging around letting me know what to do. However what wasn’t so great is that all the games were in German so I had a constant voice in my head screaming at me to do something that I couldn’t understand. It was during this time that I first got some hands-on time with their upcoming driving game, The Crew.
This was another title I went in to blind and so when the game loaded I literally had no idea what I was meant to do. The mini map had a red triangle on it so obviously I headed towards that only to quickly find out that The Crew is a massive open world game as I plunged off the edge of a fairly substantial cliff.
So I reloaded and did what any proper games journalist would do; I threw caution to the wind and turned the game into a downhill slalom game where the trees were the flags and I was the twit on planks. The sense of speed was seriously entertaining and the slow motion destruction when I ploughed into a tree was truly spectacular.
Then all of a sudden the game moved me to a road with a bunch of other cars and up ahead was what looked like a Hummer with a flashing triangle on top of it. Obviously I need to follow him.
So the race started and it quickly became apparent that we were in a chase scene as the Hummer broke through fences, detoured onto the beach and then tried zig-zagging through a small town. I didn’t know who everyone was but I have to admit I was having a fantastic time chasing the guy and trying to figure out why the German man in my ear kept on yelling what I can only imagine were dirty obscenities at me. (Achtung! Schnell, Schnell!)
In the end I managed to smash into the side of the black behemoth, as did some others and then we were whisked back to an opening video for the game… which I presumed meant the demo was over.
We had our BCD (Behind Closed Doors) event with Ubisoft on the Friday and while The Crew wasn’t planned for that we worked our special little magic and I was soon sitting in the booth listening to the game being explained in English which made for a nice change.
So The Crew is Ubisoft’s latest attempt at making a driving game and their special selling point for this one is the sheer size of the map. They have recreated the entire USA in-game. Well, when we say entire that’s not totally accurate as it would then take 5 days to drive from New York to LA and that wouldn’t be fun at all. But they have recreated the areas you expect to see from desert landscapes to farmlands, from beach front condo’s to Los Vegas nightlife.
And it’s not a small map, according to testing it will take a full 90 minutes to drive directly across the map and a whopping 4 hours to circumnavigate the country.
But that’s not The Crew’s only feature; in fact the main point of The Crew is that it has been made to be mainly a multiplayer game. You can compete in single player but you will be missing some of the magic that makes The Crew special. It’s also not your average multiplayer title though as you and your crew don’t have to be in the same area of the map or even competing in the same challenges but they are always there for you if you want to pull them into your challenge or join them.
What I found to be a nice touch is if you are stuck trying to come first in an offroad rally challenge and you simply can’t manage it you can invite your friend who is an excellent rally driver to join the challenge.
If he manages to come first the challenge is completed for you and you can then proceed to the next one. It’s a nice touch for the more casual gamers and people who drive like Geoff out there who get stuck in certain sections.
As you would expect in a multiplayer driving game you can earn XP, money and points for completing challenges which can then be used to upgrade your vehicles, expand your talent tree and generally improve your performance. Oh and there is a cockpit view as well in this one. One nice touch that stood out for me is that you can zoom out to the map of the country and then zoom in to see what your friends are doing and watch them compete in real time from a satellite view. You could do this just for fun or you could help them out by seeing what’s coming ahead.
If you’re really nice you could drop into the game right in front of the people chasing him and take them out.. or you could be like us and drop right in front of your friend and watch his hopes and dreams go up in smoke.
We finished up the presentation by entering a rally stage where we all raced against each other to set checkpoints. But once again they had their own special slant on this, as the first racer hits the first checkpoint it’s marked as reached for everyone and then it’s off to the next one.
Knowing where the next checkpoint is going to be would be a huge advantage as it’s an open world game so you can make your own path. This tactic (with the help of the developers knowledge) allowed me to leap up from 4th to first with one checkpoint to go… I was about to claim victory and the adoration of absolutely no-one until that stupid tree jumped in my way and my car became a smouldering wreck.
I still have fond memories of driving through the sunflower fields and ramping over the opposing racers from the side though taking them all by surprise. I loved playing The Crew, the open world experience was entertaining and I like what they’ve done with the game. Whether it stands out enough to survive against Need for Speed, Drive Club and the other simulators though needs to be seen.
The Crew is expected to land in early 2014 and will be arriving on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4
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I'm cranky, arrogant and ever so amazingly annoying but when you get to know me you will also realise I'm honest and incredibly good at describing myself... now pass me that beer