The Crew Motorfest Review - Chasing The Leader
Forza Horizon has undoubtedly left a mark on racing games for the general gaming public. It took the excellent foundation of the more sim-minded Forza Motorsport Series and merged it with a welcoming open world that caters not only to dedicated car lovers but anyone who likes the sensation of going fast. It has been the dominant series of car games for quite some time now and even after five entries, it seems it isn’t slowing down. So it is somewhat strange that no other developer has taken a crack at such a successful formula. Why has Forza Horizon stood on the podium by itself for so long? Well, that is about to change, Ubisoft has stepped up to the challenge and is taking a serious run at the title. The Crew Motorfest is here and from the opening moments you can tell, it has Forza set in its sights.
For those that missed my preview, The Crew Motorfest does away with the ambitious but empty USA map of the first two games and instead focuses solely on the main island of Hawaii. This is obviously a much smaller scope than the previous games but frankly, it was a smart move by the developers. This smaller map is much more detailed and engaging than the previous games and is littered with some great collectables, challenges and scenery that players can engage with while driving around. Motorfest also keeps the ability to switch between land, sea and air on the fly allowing players to traverse the open world in an assortment of planes and speed boats as well as a huge collection of cars and motorbikes. Another big bonus is that for anyone who played The Crew 2, your entire car collection can be transferred across, so all those cars you put so much love into can continue their journey with you on Hawaii. Sadly the map isn’t quite as memorable as say Mexico or North England from the Forza series, it is missing a little bit of the variety in scenery and locations that those maps had in spades, but it is still an enjoyable setting to cruise around.
Where The Crew Motorfest doesn’t lack variety is in race types, something which it does better than Horizon across the board. There are a huge number of different event types such as drag racing, drift events, lane races, speed challenges, point-scoring focuses and even simple cruising events where the goal is to not win, but just to enjoy the drive. Within each of these event types, there are modifiers that constantly pop up and add little wrinkles to the established formulas, creating something fresh in the process. Sure most of your events will be a variation on a traditional 8 car race, but all these different types pop up at the perfect time to give you a break and let you refresh your palate so to speak. To top it all off there are Air Plane races and point challenges along with speed boat races to offer even more variety. Motorfest really has a lock on giving players a tonne of different things to do. This is all backed up by a great racing engine that sits more on the arcade side of things, so just about anyone should be able to pick it up and play, while still offering enough challenge for seasoned racing vets.
This all ties into the loose career mode that focuses on curated playlists. These playlists all have a theme, from discovering Hawaii to showcasing a particular brand, to engaging in a particular section of car culture. This really forces players to engage with a huge variety of different cars in the process, showcasing everything the game has to offer. Completing these playlists (each of which takes about 45mins) earns players new parts and some of the cars that were featured in the events. Each of these playlists has its own commentator, that joins you for the ride and provides feedback on how you are doing. These commentators can be rocks or diamonds however, with some, like the Hawaiian Tour Guide being thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, while others (I am looking at you Donut Challenge Guy) made me grind my teeth. In fact, I think the whole game is too “talky.” There is so much chatter that it gets distracting at times. I get what Ubisoft were trying to do by adding these different personalities but I think they could have taken a more subtle approach as opposed to the sledgehammer to the face (or ears as the case may be) that they went with.
Once the playlists have been conquered, there is still a lot to do. Additional challenges open up upon completing a playlist and once players have completed three playlists, the game’s Main Stage opens up. This is where seasonal events and activities are hosted. Monthly themes, along with weekly sub-themes are the order of the day here with races, events and rewards built around these core concepts refreshing on a regular basis. For example, currently the monthly theme is American cars, with each week focusing on a different type of American car like muscle cars, racing cars or classics. The events are seemingly well thought out and don’t take up a massive amount of time so it doesn’t feel like players need to commit to a huge undertaking to keep up-to-date with seasonal content. How this holds up over time is something that is yet to be determined, but as of now, it seems like a promising way to keep players engaged.
One thing that certainly rubs me the wrong way however is the overwhelming presence of microtransactions. Granted, there is no pay-to-win and these purchases can be happily ignored, but there is no escaping the fact that they are there. Events can be skipped, rewards can be bought and challenges can be circumvented with real-world money and that is just something I can’t stand. This also ties into a car upgrade system that has a strong odour of loot box about it. Instead of just using in-game currency to purchase and install car part upgrades, upgrades are won as prizes in races or discovered around the world and are random in nature. It means that if you want to max out a car you will essentially have to grind to find the parts you need or splash some cash for upgrade packs. It really is a frustrating and off-putting part of the game that I hope Ubisoft reconsiders in the future.
The other thing that was a little annoying was the PC build of the game. It is missing a few things that modern PC gamers are used to, things that Ubisoft usually includes in their PC games. For starters, there are no DLSS or Fidelity options to help players get the best out of the game. This is something that in this day and age seems like a huge oversight. Getting a stable framerate is a must in a racing game and these technologies are something that can allow a range of systems to do just that. Secondly, for some strange reason, it seems the game is capped at 60fps. Now this is a minor thing because 60fps is perfectly fine, but whenever you have a beasty rig and can’t let its full power lose on a game, well it is always a little disappointing. The good thing is both of these issues are perfectly patchable, so hopefully, Ubisoft will fix them in the near future.
The Crew Motorfest is, overall, a wonderfully entertaining racing experience. There are a huge amount of different events to take part in, Hawaii is a much more personality-filled map when compared to previous games in the franchise and there are some wonderfully engaging driving mechanics. The biggest issues like the money-grubbing nature of the micro-transactions and a lack of PC graphics options don’t get in the way of the gameplay so they can be ignored pretty easily. However, despite this being a very good racing experience, one that will undoubtedly entertain, it just isn’t at the same level as Forza Horizon, at least not yet. Considering this is Ubisoft’s first attempt at that formula, they have given it a red hot go, but there is no escaping the fact that Horizon is a more complete and polished package. That said, if you are on a Sony system or you have played a million hours in Horizon and need something new, you will be well served by The Crew Motorfest. I hope Ubisoft sticks with this formula for future entries because given time they could really push the genre forward and keep the Forza team on their toes. After all, the rising tide raises all powerboats… or something like that.
The Crew Motorfest was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by Ubisoft Australia