The Crew has always held an interesting space in the world of driving games. The original pitch of The Crew 1 was all about driving across the continental United States. The Crew 2 took the idea of a larger map and chose to expand on that by adding air and sea vehicles. It’s been over five years since the last game in this series came out, and now Ubisoft is back with The Crew Motorfest, letting racing enthusiasts explore car culture by shoving over 600 real-life vehicles onto the islands of Hawaii.
Building a playlist
The Crew Motorfest opens with a sampling platter of most of the racing disciplines in the game. You quickly bounce around from drifting Japanese import cars, fight through off-road courses in Jeeps, and even run part of an open-wheel race with its own tire wear mechanic. This was what I knew I had to play first after seeing that the reward for finishing that series of races—called a playlist—was the F1 Championship car, the RB 18 from Red Bull Racing. The only ‘problem’ with that plan is that the singular open-wheel car that kicks off the Motorsports Playlist costs 800,000 credits. And so I knew I had my goal.
To get those 800,000 credits, I had to dig into the other playlists included in The Crew Motorfest. It’s here that the true bright spots of the game are uncovered. Playlists in the Crew Motorfest are the closest thing to story content the game has. Not only do they have specific mechanics, like in the Porsche playlist, where you are given a credit boost for clean driving because the sponsor would like you not to dirty up the cars, but it’s an interesting way for all these different playlists to feel distinct. Although, iIt’s also slightly distracting to come out of these events and not have all of these modifiers feed back into the rest of the game.
Once you finish a playlist, you unlock a specific car and a set of challenges with not only the car you just got but other rides in that category. This list of challenges can range from ‘absolutely will do’ (drive a certain distance) to ‘ok, yeah, sure, I’ll do that later’ (find 12 of these collectibles). These challenges give you a fairly basic guide if you’re someone who’s overwhelmed by the 600 different vehicles in the game. While I usually go out of my way to avoid talking about music in games, the scripted selection of music is something that hits really well. Hearing a Run the Jewels track as you race a Charger on monster truck wheels is peak videogame to me.
Always on the Clock
When you aren’t racing in specific events, The Crew Motorfest is your fairly standard open-world racing game. The map is not only littered with events to finish but also side activities like getting the high score in a speed trap or going through a series of slaloms that will appear when you pass through a ring. It’s here that you begin to discover that The Crew Motorfest is an always-online game with a persistently running clock. While I was ecstatic to read that Ubisoft published a full accessibility guide on their own website prior to release that includes dozens of options, critically, the race rewind feature doesn’t allow you to stop the clock, meaning that any time you play an event or an activity where the clock is against you, you’re actually hurting yourself more by using the rewind feature.
It’s in the open world that you also discover that this game has two very common things in modern Ubisoft games: the lack of a pause in the open world and an inactivity timer that I’m sure is important to keep the server going but is frustrating, especially because you have to complete 10 full playlists before you can unlock fast travel. This means that you could end up in a situation where you’re driving 12 miles out of the way of any fast travel, have to deal with some real-world emergency for about eight minutes, and then be forced to do that same drive over again because you’ve been timed out for sitting in the open world. While it is wonderful that players of The Crew 2 can import their vehicle collection if they want it to come over, I’d rather this world just be offline until you decide to play multiplayer.
Multiplayer is where The Crew Motorfest feels most ambitious. It uses the world’s always-on clock to rotate in and out of different fantastical races, like the Grand Race, where each of the 28 players must choose three different vehicles to act as legs in a relay race. It’s a fun and dynamic way to get you chasing different types of cars, but it can be daunting, especially if you forget that this game is also an RPG and that you should be upgrading your vehicle parts to do better in events. While this sounds intimidating, it’s actually a very generous system that gives every part a type and a power number. The game constantly feeds you drops, and some parts have simple perks like XP or credit gain. It ends up being generally superfluous, which begs the question: why bother including gear at all?
Did I mention that all of this XP feeds into a battle pass? Each one lasts a month, and all of the XP earned in Playlists, Multiplayer, and what the game calls Exploring all have separate XP paths. These paths then all feed into the Legend path, which is the main pass. The thing is, you can only earn XP towards it once you reach level five in a specific path, but if you aren’t level five in that specific branch, you either need to level up that branch or hyper-focus your XP gain on a specific category. All of this could be made so much simpler if it just chose to stick with one thing instead of trying to invent reasons to give you stuff.
The Crew Motorfest is a driving game for people who enjoy those types of games more than anything else in life. With over 600 real-world vehicles, there really is something for everyone, but that’s the problem. There’s something for everyone, but it may only be one thing. Also exacerbated by a packed and yet cumbersome live service system, this game is harder to recommend than I want it to be.
|+ Visually and sonically impressive.|
|+ Massive 600 car collection & the ability to carry your existing collection over.|
|– Always online nature sours the experience.|
|– Struggles to maintain the highs of early, authored content.|