Four reasons The Crew Motorfest is a serious contender

Thomas Harrison-Lord
Having been hands-on once again with the upcoming open-world racer by Ubisoft, we’re more convinced than ever that it has what it takes to help define the genre.
Four reasons The Crew Motorfest is a serious contender

It’s big, it’s bold and it has one of the most detailed and varied open-world environments we’ve ever seen in a driving game – here are four reasons why The Crew Motorfest could turn out to be greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Insane vehicle variety

Right, let’s begin with our first reason why we think Motorfest deserves your attention – the vehicles. And not just cars, but all sorts of weird and wonderful additions.

We’ve previously been hands-on with an early version of this game, and back then, we mainly talked about car handling, which is a vast improvement on its forebearers.

Now, though, we’ve tested the latest The Crew title again for a much longer stint.

In our minds, we wanted to determine how this upcoming release differentiates itself from existing contemporary rivals such as Forza Horizon or Need for Speed Unbound. Is it just another derivative open-world driving game?


The Crew Motorfest Lamborghini

In some ways yes, but in the main elements, thankfully not. And vehicle choice is one main area where it brings a fresh perspective.

Take planes, for one. And boats. And monster trucks, and quad bikes, and side-by-sides, and motorcycles and Formula 1 cars. Old, new, petrol, electric, supercars and SUVs.

While the quantity of vehicles in a game is after seen as a barometer, and yes, Motorfest will include over 600 at launch, plus more via DLC, variety is perhaps a stronger asset.

Planes and boast have been part of The Crew series of games already, and while the on-water experience is mostly similar, we couldn’t help but notice that flying feels smoother to control at this early stage – a welcome refinement.

The Crew Motorfest Plane

The main benefit of including planes is being able to soar over the luscious environment, but more on that later…

The second advantage is breaking up the gameplay. In one curated event playlist, we went from a point-to-point car race to a circuit race, to flying a plane, to competing in a boat and back to a car again.

If this is metered out well across the final game, we hope we end up with something with more variety than one of those Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Five Guys.

Having said all of that, cars are still the main focus, despite the eye-opening sense of speed experienced by riding a Ducati bike down the streets of Honolulu.

There are several new to the series too. Take the Lamborghini Revuelto, electric GMC Hummer EV or even Toyota as a brand. Everything has a detailed cockpit to boot.

And of course, the modifications can be extensive, from performance upgrades unlocked through gameplay progressions, to chrome effect paint colours and an extensive list of visual modifications.

A bewinged Gallardo? Check. A rally-modified Dodge Challenger? Sure thing. A shortened Volkswagen Samba-Bus? So cute!

2. Curated Playlists

New for Motorfest, compared to the often bewildering career structure of The Crew 2, are the playlists.

There’s a clearly defined menu system, and from here you can browse the available curated setlists. Each has a distinct theme, so it may be simply explore Hawaii or a series of events that celebrates the Porsche 911.

Selecting one includes cinematic introductions setting the scene, which are high in production quality, followed by lines of dialogue from in-game characters. We’re not going as far as saying the game is narrative lead or is trying to have a story – let’s be real, that rarely works for a game of this ilk.

The Crew Motorfest Porsche 911 playlist

But, there is at least a sense of purpose that aligns with the vehicle or mission type you are taking part in.

When you combine the breadth of vehicle types with these organised structures, at last, there’s an alluring progression path to follow. The environment really plays into this too, but again, more on that soon…

Upon completion of a playlist, of course, there are experience points to earn, and reaching an objective also unlocks a new vehicle for your collection. But, you don’t just learn about it from an on-screen pop-up. Instead, you’re treated to more theatre, with a full-blown car reward sequence. It adds to the sense of occasion.

You’re not finished there, either, as then a suite of additional, but optional, challenges also unlock for bonus payouts. To stay flexible, you can dip in and out of different playlists, or even drive to a playlist marker, like the giant Porsche air balloon on the map, to try a fresh event.

The Crew Motorfest rally playlist

Our main reservations at present are the performance of the AI-controlled rivals and event cadence. We either beat our rivals handily or just one difficulty notch up, were thrashed just as easily. So some tweaking here wouldn’t go amiss.

Similarly, the length of events within playlists could be tweaked, sometimes going on a little too long to where momentum can be lost.

Having the vast vehicle library and environments is one thing, making sure you try them all is another – let’s hope the appeal of the playlist structure sustains over the full and final experience. For now, it’s promising.

3. Epic environment

Okay, okay, the best bit of The Crew Motorfest so far is by far and away the setting – the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu, to be specific.

Right, onwards. We were concerned heading into our gameplay session that developer Ubisoft Ivory Tower had lost its way a bit. After all, The Crew 2 tried to recreate the entirety of the United States, with a map size of 7,000 km².

In comparison, O‘ahu is diminutive.

The Crew Motorfest Map

However, It turns out, that it’s not a problem. Firstly, it’s still sizeable, make no mistake.

But it’s also detailed, significantly more than its predecessor. It’s as if attention to detail has been the primary objective, rather than simply scale. And it’s paid off.

The location is anything but sombre, with dynamic weather, bright colours and stunning sunsets. There are beaches, jungles and waterfalls. Full disclosure, we played this version using Ubisoft’s PC, so of course, an ideal testing set-up.

Breathtaking at times, though, isn’t it?

The Crew Motorfest 3D Map 02

And check out the in-game map, accessed at any time, where you can zoom in, in real-time, and fully 3D. We spent a good 20 minutes just panning around the environment, zooming in on traffic or finding hidden off-road trails.

Not only is the location filled with variety and detail, but it’s also remarkably destructible. Our Lambo took a beating as we smashed through dry stone walls, shrubbery and post boxes. Meanwhile, sand gathered on our Hummer’s tyres as the ground deformed.

The Crew Motorfest flying Hawaii

Forget the often drab, but vast, landscapes of previous Crew games. So far, we much prefer the small-scale O‘ahu, resplendent in its sun-soaked villages and volcano.

4. Collaborative gameplay

All this talk about a clear structure and enhanced environment, it would be remiss not to mention a returning feature that The Crew games do so well – playing together online.

Playing the game co-operative with friends is a given, hence the name ‘The Crew’.

The series’ ranked play also returns, in the form of Live Summits. A series of limited-time challenges that pay out rewards based on your global leaderboard position.

The Crew Motorfest Live Summits

Once you’ve run through the events, from small speed zones to longer point-to-point races, once the timer expires, you will be placed on the online leaderboard. Then, if you’re in the top 1,000 for example, you will be scored as a platinum driver, or further down, gold, silver and bronze.

If keeps you wanting to play more and enter the game on a regular basis. This time they are part of a Main Stage experience where contender’s modified cars are on display at a Custom Show and the challenges are now stylised as additional playlists. In our test, using only Italian supercars.

The Crew Motorfest summit points

An hourly 28-player Grand Race will also take place, alongside 32-player crew-based Demolition Royales – although we haven’t been able to test either at this stage.

Really, the Main Stage and Live Summits take what’s arguably the best part of The Crew 2 and place them with a beautiful environment, a large choice of vehicle types and significantly more satisfying car handling.

To be taken seriously

On paper then, and in practice so far, The Crew Motorfest is the real deal. There’s depth beneath the pretty exterior, thanks to the co-op and rank-based online place, satisfying driving dynamics and enhanced attention to detail.

How will it shape up come the 14th September release date? We’ll find out in the next couple of months and you may be able to too, with a Beta starting 21st July. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve signed up.

So far, our time on O‘ahu has been a pleasant surprise…

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