The Crew Motorfest: In-Depth Preview

The Crew Motorfest: In-Depth Preview

The Crew is a franchise that has come from grand ideas, but never really reached its potential. The concept of racing all over the USA is honestly a mind-boggling one and certainly an ambitious undertaking, but the dev team never quite stuck the landing. Don’t get me wrong, the games were solid, they just felt like they were built by a committee and lacked any personality. That is looking to change with The Crew Motorfest. With the map size being drastically reduced to the size of Hawaii as opposed to the mainland USA, the team is looking to create a more curated and engaging racing experience. Not only that, but the smaller scope has allowed a lot more detail and I can confirm that the game has personality to burn. 

Thanks to Ubisoft Australia, I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and play about four hours of Motorfest at a recent press event. I got to experience the opening moments, right through to the season content and my first impressions are quite positive. There is no escaping the fact that this is Ubisoft’s take on the Forza Horizon formula. There are just too many similarities to call it a coincidence. But the devs have leaned into that and put their own spin on what makes Horizon so good, meaning that Motorsport never feels like a blatant rip-off, just a game that was inspired by what came before it and I am ok with that. 

The game starts with a quick burst through five different race types, including Japanese sports cars, off-roading, on-track Formula cars, vintage cars and a special Lamborghini-focused event. This serves as a nice lead-in to the game and while it is hardly everything you will see in the game proper it does show that there is a huge variety of very different motor vehicles coming your way. This little intro took me about 20 minutes to complete and it gave me a good feel for the driving model, which seems to sit somewhere between Forza Horizon and Need For Speed in terms of realism. It is certainly on the arcade side of things, with drifting and nitro a big part of the gameplay, but not at over-the-top levels. 

This leads to the game proper, where the whole of Hawaii is open to explore and the game’s main progression plays out. This progression is through a series of events called playlists. These playlists are a themed series of races and challenges that appear to be quite unique from each other. I mentioned curated in my introduction and that is exactly what this feels like, a curated string of motorsport events that are focused on a particular area. I played through two full playlists, the first was the Porsche 911 playlist which took me on a journey through a range of different 911’s that have popped up over the years and the second was called Hawaii Tour, where winning the race was optional and learning about and appreciating Hawaii and its culture the prime goal. I adore this concept of focused playlists that provide a whole gamut of extra info on their subject of choice. I learned about the history of the 911 while tearing up the racing track and took in some of the legends from Hawaiian mythology while cruising the sites of the stunning island. 

Outside of the playlists, there was a big island map to explore and a host of side activities to dig into while driving around.  Things like speed traps and jumps are genre staples, but there are also some more interesting things like escapes, where you have to get as far away from a chasing car as possible in a set time limit and a slalom-style event where you have to weave between markers on the road. Fun little diversions that let you unlock new car parts that can be used to give your car a little boost. Speaking of car parts, the one part of the game I am a little sketchy on is the upgrade system. Instead of simply buying upgrades and tuning the cars, you need to unlock car part upgrades for the particular class of car you are driving. It is similar to what was seen in The Crew 2 and is certainly an Arcade game concept. I worry it is a little too random though and is a shade too close to a loot box system for my tastes. I am willing to wait and see because my time with the game wasn’t enough to say for sure. 

The final part of the game I got to explore was the seasonal content. Ubisoft allowed us to explore what will happen in each season after the main game is complete. The game will continue with its focused, themed approach with monthly content drops focused on cars from particular regions of the world. Within each month it will be broken down further into weekly content. So for example, the selection I explored was built around European cars, with the weekly content focused on cars built in France. Each of these selections includes a series of events and challenges that allows players to dig into these regions and their cars in a fun way that isn’t too onerous. It seems like there is no need to be a super dedicated player to complete these and gain the associated rewards, just a quick bout of racing every week, which is something I appreciate. 

The final gameplay element that I have to mention is the fact that you can switch between car, plane and boat instantly and at will when exploring the open world. It seems like a small thing, but it adds so much to the experience that it is impossible to overstate. No more long drives across the island to a race starting point, simply switch to the plane and away you go. Of course, I immediately tried to break the game by flying as high as I could and then switching back into a car, but clearly, the devs are as childish as I am and had anticipated such a move because not only could I do it, it was smooth and glitch-free. 

In all, my four hours with The Crew Motorfest were extremely positive. It presented, initially at least, as a take on Forza Horizon, but as I spent more time with it, it was clear it has a personality of its own. The stunning island of Hawaii is the perfect setting for the game and the variety of curated playlist experiences is something I am very much looking forward to exploring in greater depth. Time will tell as to how it holds up over the length of a full game, but my gut feeling is that by shrinking the focus of The Crew to a small island instead of the whole of the USA, the development team has been able to create a much more lively and engaging racing experience. Sometimes less really is more and I feel like The Crew Motorfest will be a poster child for that old saying. 

The Crew Motorfest is coming to Xbox Series/One, PS5/4 and PC on the 11th of September. Once again thank you to Ubisoft Australia for allowing us to visit and go hands-on. 

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