From Detroit to Miami: My Time With The Crew

Always fast. Not always furious.

"What is The Crew?" Julian Gerighty, the game's creative director, asked at a recent hands-on event for the game, before proceeding to answer his own question. "This may surprise you, but The Crew is actually an MMORPG." I later spent about an hour playing the game, and while I'm not sure I'm convinced that the designation of massively multiplayer online role-playing game applies here, I was surprised by the way in which elements we might typically associate with role-playing games are being incorporated into this open-world racing game.

Your time in The Crew begins in Detroit. In my garage here, I saw how you apply equipment to cars. Similar to loot in action role-playing games, each piece of equipment, like your car's exhaust, gearbox, fuel injection system, and so on, has a level and a color-coded indication of its quality. Slotting in better gear improves your car's performance. There's also a perk system that affects your abilities as a driver, and I used it to put points into improving my braking and handling. I started out driving a Mustang, and found the car felt heftier and less responsive than I would have liked. But this may just be a matter of tuning and customization, rather than a reflection of the game's driving model. Cars can be customized to fit a number of different specs: a street spec (all-around performance and handling), a dirt spec (great for off-road races and exploration), a circuit spec (designed for racing, with a more technical handling model), and a perf spec (good for highway battles, sacrificing some handling for speed).

Before leaving Michigan, I took part in a takedown mission, cooperating with my fellow players to do enough damage to an AI-controlled vehicle to disable it, while competing with them to be the one who did the most damage and therefore reaped the biggest rewards in terms of money, parts, and experience points. This was an off-road mission that took me over the rolling dunes along the shore of one of Michigan's Great Lakes, which felt about a million miles from the industrial streets of Detroit.

My time with The Crew left me with some idea of how varied its locales will be. I participated in an illegal street race that took me through New York's Central Park, and stopped briefly in the pleasant burg of Norfolk while cruising down to Miami. Each city and region I saw had a distinct personality communicated through the architecture of its buildings or the nature of its terrain, though while there's plenty of beauty to the wide-open America of The Crew, the game does appear to be sacrificing detail for scope. Cruising down a Miami street, I noticed that I passed the same convenience store twice within a few blocks.

"...we've found that people really just like discovering the country together. It isn't an aggressive atmosphere at all. This is a very pleasant discovery of the country."

The drive from New York to Miami took maybe 10 or 12 minutes, leaving me with the feeling that the highways that connect the game's cities are meant to give you the feeling of traveling from one place to another, without making you wait for too long to reach your destination. There's also a detailed map that you can open at any time to fast-travel to places you've been (or to use trains or planes to travel to places you haven't been, for a cost).

There's a story here that's meant to give the game structure and provide you with an excuse for progressing from one region of the country to the next. Taking some cues from the Fast and the Furious films, it has you going undercover to infiltrate and undermine a gang that dominates the illegal street racing scene. What little I saw of the story struck me as thoroughly generic, but thankfully, The Crew doesn't need a compelling narrative to be an interesting game.

In my time with The Crew, it was the prospect of just hitting the open road and cruising around that appealed to me the most. Gerighty said, "Something quite unique to this game is that we have an almost Zen driving experience, where you're just going around the country. There is no competition here. There's a lot of collectibles, and we've found that people really just like discovering the country together. It isn't an aggressive atmosphere at all. This is a very pleasant discovery of the country." I was kept on a tight leash while playing, so I didn't have the chance to indulge my wanderlust, but since one of my favorite things to do in any Grand Theft Auto game is just turn on the radio and cruise around aimlessly, I'm already excited at the thought of seeing where the roads of The Crew can take me. It's a big, big world. Gerighty showed a slide that depicted the worlds of Forza Horizon, Far Cry 3, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto V, and Need for Speed: Rivals all fitting comfortably within the United States of The Crew.

If The Crew is an MMORPG, then your characters are cars. (It's not an MMORPG.)

"It's huge," Gerighty said, "but I don't really like to focus on the size of it. What's really impressive and what we've spent a lot of time doing is creating a lot of variety in terms of areas. So not only do you have natural parks--Yosemite, Black Hills [National Forest], the Rocky Mountains, snow-covered hills--you've got cities, you've got highways, you've got everything in between. And that's really crucial, because we've found that people get a little bit tired of racing games after the eight- or nine-hour mark when they realize that basically they're just going in circles."

In Miami, I purchased a Lamborghini Miura from a dealership, outfitted it with a few parts I'd earned doing missions, and then leapt into a street race against the seven other journalists who were at the event. I won. So if you want to join my crew, look for me on the highways of America. There's a good chance I'll be cruising somewhere in the Midwest with the top down and the radio on when The Crew comes out for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this fall.

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Discussion

76 comments
ExtremeYogiBear
ExtremeYogiBear

The only thing making me suspicious of this game is what type of physics engine they have running the cars. The 'arcade' style handling of burnout stopped me from ever buying that game. If the crew can get close to a Forza level of realism, even a Forza Horizon level, then this might be the game that gets me to go next-gen.

gannon27
gannon27

This game may alleviate the disappointment I felt after buying Forza 5. It certainly looks decent.

fredyellowone
fredyellowone

What is the Crew?  Well, it's simple, The crew is one of the few games I'm looking to for next gen.



dnak08
dnak08

Really looking forward to this game, but I wonder what Forza Horizon has up its sleeve

strothers101
strothers101

hmmmm, im interested , not as interested as I am in the next Forza Horizon, but interested.

btroof
btroof

now this is my type racer

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

The RPG elements could either encourage you to push for more upgrades in an addictive manner, or could be a dreadful annoyance like early Gran Turismo games where you had to lose many races before you could earn just enough money to be competitive before advancing to the next class and having the same thing happen again.  They need to hit a sweet spot where upgrades give noticeable help but don't practically win races for you.

ThePlantain
ThePlantain

this driving game seems a tad misogynistic...

coolguyhero
coolguyhero

The concept is good, but the graphics look like last Gen. car game needs good graphics to play.

BelaidKL
BelaidKL

The issue with driving games is that you don't need to see much to make up an opinion on them... Right now I'm not hyped for this... It looks brilliant and the scope fantastic, along with what Carloyn has written I think this may be a fun game.. But after the promise of scope from GT V's online mode and being swamped with repetitive missions and awful social play, I don't think I can muster up the money towards this... I kinda got bored of Forza Horizon rather quickly and Test Drive Unlimited too.. There's something about vast open world driving games that just leaves a bland taste in my mouth after 6 or so hours.. Just got my fingers crossed enough of my mates buy this game for me to justify getting it... Cause right now that's its only selling point for me

Razor10000
Razor10000

i realy like ubisoft new ip´s. the crew, watch dogs and the division realy look like awesome games. there is still not enough games to justify buying a nextgen console now, but i will probably buy a ps4 in end of this year and i will definitely buy the crew and watch dogs.

CharlesBurns
CharlesBurns

"...I passed the same convenience store twice within a few blocks..." 


Duh! It's obviously a franchise.

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

"There's a story here that's meant to give the game structure and provide you with an excuse for progressing from one region of the country to the next."

That's the problem with some games today. The story is just an excuse.

bmart970
bmart970

This is a reason to buy next gen. The sheer size of this game is incredible.

starjay009
starjay009

Yet another reason why I am not pumped about next gen gaming - crappy online racers. GOD DAMMIT ! When will we get decent single player games including racing titles for next gen ??? I have had enough with all the socializing and chatting and bullshitting around.  

rodrigo632
rodrigo632

I don't like this dude... Just because it's a driving game means it doesn't fit the mmorpg category? GTFO. MMORPG - Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, you're role-playing as a driver that gets upgrades to his vehicle as he progresses in the game (or completely new vehicles) with your friends against other players or A.I. ... Yeah definitely not an mmorpg.

poksmote
poksmote

my childhood dreams are finally a reality. I always hoped a game where you could travel from city to city like this would come out

Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

I wonder if this will turn out to be something along the lines of Burnout Paradise, but just on a larger, more realistic scope. Thanks for the article Carolyn!

scambush
scambush

10-12 minutes can get you all the way around GTA 5's map... so that's definitely a good sign.

stillstillstill
stillstillstill

grid2 has just about discarded all of the fucks i give about racing games. it's a beautiful game though.

Tao_and_Zen
Tao_and_Zen

I hope this plays better than NFS. I always hated how in that series if you're doing poorly, then the AI drives poorly -- I've seen AI cars practically stopped in the middle of the road to wait for me -- but if you're driving well then the AI defies physics and the specs of the car to get ahead of you.

M3o5nster
M3o5nster

Rather see a new NFS Underground or Midnight Club... Or better yet, Tokyo Xtreme Racer!

I miss my Dreamcast. :(

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

Great preview. Looks like mad fun, can't wait to play. The part where it portrays a coast near the Great Lakes, great stuff. Wondering if there's seasonal changes like snow & blizzards, thunderstorms, dust storms, etc.? Also..will there be bikini car washes too?  

hoyholyhoy
hoyholyhoy

Why would you want to go to Detroit?

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

I'm looking forward to this and Driveclub, DC was pretty much the only reason i got a PS+ sub at first, hopefully it was really improved in general and not just some cosmetics. But this already looks fun and it would be nice to have a true next gen racer, because no matter now nice it looks NFS just feels old.

Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

Hence the "rpg" elements. The more you play the better you become. I'm sure there will be some form of check and balances though.

I'm looking forward to it.

motopramaus
motopramaus

@tableofjapan 


"Carolyn"


Show some respect.

shinta125
shinta125

@youre_a_sheep  It has microtransactions, so I imagine there will be a push for those upgrades and performance parts (which you have to pay for with real money).

hystavito
hystavito

@rodrigo632  You make a valid point, but maybe you're being to strict, like a textbook definition of the words :).  If you go that route, almost anything could be an RPG, right?


I think you have to cut her some slack because there's the words Role Playing Game, and then there's the common way that the term RPG is used which comes with certain expectations.  Even some games that fit that common RPG mould fairly well still get criticized for being too "light" on the RPG aspects, and people say they shouldn't really be called an RPG.

hystavito
hystavito

@Infinite_Access  Remember how cool that game was back then?  I'm assuming you're old enough to have been hanging out in arcades when it was new :).

hystavito
hystavito

@poksmote  It is a pretty cool idea.  Imagine this as a PC game with a good modding community, with people working together to add new locations and routes between them.  People contributing little details to areas that they know well.  That would be really cool.

rodrigo632
rodrigo632

@soulfulDAGGER  Bikini car washes... If only TDU2 accomplished its potential. But yeah that would be nice, and would make a nice easter egg.

ruaan1
ruaan1

@DIGN Shut up troll My i7 3770 pc with 8gb ram and a GTX 770 will beat your stupid Wii u

atahanbozkurt
atahanbozkurt

@DIGN Me and mine GTX 770 laughing to you. Also I am buying video games with multiplayer features. Also I bought nearly 60 games since 2 years. Do not categorize all PC users. B**tch :3.

orbit991
orbit991

@hoyholyhoy Downtown has a few cool grungy clubs, otherwise except near Woodward everything else is just dead. Still the Detroit suburbs are one of the wealthiest areas in the US. Lot's of Car and Motown money. Detroit itself only goes out 8 miles in most directions, after that the subs go on for another 16 or so.

Slammer612
Slammer612

@hoyholyhoy What? you mean you don't want to have to dodge all the pot holes, and car jacking in a simulated environment with a bunch of abandoned buildings everywhere.  Seriously though, having lived here for my whole life, I would love to see how much of it looks like Detroit.

M3o5nster
M3o5nster

Yuh, I hope they get Drive Club right eventually

Busta
Busta

@hystavito @rodrigo632   It's not so much carolyn. It's the whole industry right now taking on "MMORPG" to every game that lets you play online with more than 5 people.   The feel using the acronym gives it some sort of grander "scope". 


It's just multiplayer.  I've always had to upgrade my car with mods and sometimes "perks".  If anything, she makes it sound like an FPS load out.  And I wouldn't call FPS MMORPGS because they have this feature.  

beathat
beathat

Part about pirate isn't trolling at least xD

stillstillstill
stillstillstill

@Slammer612 @hoyholyhoy i used to visit my grandparents there. it blew my mind the amount of bulletproof glass and burglar bars that city uses... oh and the potholes, they better be in the game