The pros and cons of The Crew (Closed Beta)
I'm willing to admit that I've been waiting impatiently to finally get some prolonged hands-on time with The Crew, outside of a convention, and the Closed Beta allowed me to do just that. The last five days gave me a pretty good idea of what I should be expecting once the game launches, but also what I'm hoping gets fixed or altered.
In any case, here are some of the pros and cons I've compiled from my time with The Crew Closed Beta.
Pro: GPS Navigation
I've already applauded Ubisoft on their GPS guidance in Watch Dogs, but they really hit it out of the park in The Crew. Once you map out your route, a blue line appears above your car-- that's right, above. This floating line then dynamically shows you which way you should be driving as well as changes depending on whether you altered your route at all.
It's non intrusive, and best of all, it's easy to pay attention to while you also pay attention to the road, which is, you know, important in a racing game where you tend to drive over a 100mph.
Granted, I've only tried a few cars in the game, but the handling was certainly something I wasn't quite used to. As our very own Jake Valentine put it, the game struggles to find a balance between handling like a Sim and an Arcade racer. Normally, this should be, without a question, considered an Arcade racer. But when you're expecting an Arcade racer, you're also expecting to be able to drift through turns without relying on braking too much. Here, much like a Sim, you'll need to apply on the brakes in order to make the turn.
That's not to say drifting isn't in the game, there's still plenty of it, but I'd like to think the handling of each car could be a little more fine tuned to feel more like an Arcade car, rather than a more realistic Sim one.
There will undoubtedly be polarizing opinions on this, as there are players who prefer smaller, more linear experiences, and then there are those that enjoy massive worlds with tons to do. The Crew is certainly on the far edge of the latter.
The first thing I was curious to see was how long would it take to drive from one city on the East Coast to one on the West Coast. It took me roughly 39 minutes, which blew my mind, especially considering I was going 150mph on average.
Once youve been to a location, any location, doesn't have to be a city, you can automatically jump there, meaning you won't always have to drive from one city to the next. But there is something quite exhilirating in mapping out your route cross country and then actually driving it, realizing that it's not just a five minute affair.
Con: Disconnects a plenty
This could be a beta issue, so I might be willing to forgive this, however, it does worry me in the context of the game requiring everyone to play online.
Since The Crew is partly MMO, it's not surprising that it requires users to be online, but with the amount of disconnects I got through my experience, I'm worried that this could be an issue for those wanting to play The Crew like a standard, open world racing game.
God forbid the servers ever go down and the game becomes unplayable, that's the stuff of SimCity nightmares, and I'm sure Ubisoft doesn't want that on their hands. I'd certainly hope that they would somehow allow Solo progression without the need to play online.
Pro: Mini challenges
When driving around, short mini-challenges can be found scattered all around. When you drive through these, you'll be tasked with a skille challenge like drive through a slalom course as fast as possible, or drive through gates. Depending on your overall score before time runs out, you'll be awarded with a bronze, silver or gold medal, as well as an upgrade part for your car. Pretty awesome.
Con: Text vomit
This con is directly related to the one above. After finishing a challenge, you're bombarded with 'results' text on the top half of the screen, that also tend to block your vision of the road ahead, forcing you to stop to get out of this menu. What's more, they require your input, whether to decide to equip the part right away, or in case you can't, send it to your HQ. This isn't very user friendly.
Since I drove through all six major cities in the game, I was able to see the diversity between each and every one. And while I can't say I ever visited cities like Detroit or Chicago in real life, I did visit Miami, Las Vegas and LA, and can certainly say that each location does feel different from one another, and had the game not told me which city I was in, I would most likely be able to tell which city it is.
In an age where shooters don't need single player campaigns, it's odd that developers feel the need to include one in racing games. Seriously, it makes no sense to me. I'd much rather have a full campaign in Titanfall that tells me a little more lore about the world, instead of a story in The Crew.
Granted, I've only gotten a taste since it is only the Closed Beta, but I couldn't care less about who my character was, why I was needed at a race at a particular time or why I was delivering a guys car, when he could clearly drive it himself.
Forza Horizon was a pretty great example of a minimalist story, and letting me coast around the state of Colorado.
I did fall in love with the game's constant rewards of parts. It almost felt like collecting loot in an RPG. After each race or challenge, you'll be awarded with tiered and higher level parts. You can then choose to equip them right away (assuming you're a high enough level) and reap the benefits immediately. Would I call it the Diablo of racing games? Maybe not quite that, but it's pretty damn close.