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Review: The Crew - cracks show in road racing game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 1:03pm

The Crew

Ubisoft

On paper, it's a good concept: an online-based car game in which you're part of a street-car crew, speeding through the US while completing races, heists and causing general mayhem. But put simply, The Crew is a game where you race cars, rather than a car-racing game.

Like an initially inspired mishmash of Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed, with nods to The Fast & Furious film series, you're a one-time felon looking to re-establish yourself on the street-racing/car heist circuit. Players are thrown into what may well be the largest world ever created for a game, a massive map that spreads across the whole of the continental US.

The 60-plus missions of the main story have you ganging up to control the five main regions of the country. But it's the little details that truly add to the game's character - helping out a highway stranger with cop problems say, or joining a late-night street race along a secluded beach, or even just playing bandit by stopping a massive cargo train.

The possibilities feel endless for the first few hours - but then the cracks begin to show. Available for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, the graphics are noticeably last generation, but that sacrifice is to be expected considering what you're given in gameplay scale. Then there are the driving dynamics, the peak performance of any car game: they're limited, with the general handling feeling simplistic compared to modern genre releases.

There are other issues, too. The course designs feel uninspired, cops are seemingly omnipresent, crashes come often, building a crew and joining co-op missions take forever, and most importantly, there are the server issues. Hong Kong has always been given the short end of the bandwidth-stick by gaming companies, and for an online-only game such as The Crew, that translates to constant frustration. During our review, we attempted at least a dozen connections each time, before finally logging on for a few short hours of play.

When you can jump onto its server and free-roam missions through the mammoth map, The Crew hints at greatness - a game that almost recreates the life of Vin Diesel at his city-hopping, muscle-car outlaw best. More often than not, though, the game is plagued by minor shortcomings. That doesn't mean it's a bad game - just that the potential outweighs the final product. Here's hoping the sequel pulls together a stronger crew.