Ever since the release of the original Driver on PlayStation 1, Ubisoft Reflections has had its heart set on racing. Over the years, it's perfected the art of hitting the road and causing all kinds of trouble, capping off with the impressive Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 release Driver: San Francisco.
For the next-generation of consoles, Reflections goes to the next level with The Crew, an entertaining romp where all bets are off and you do whatever it takes to complete missions, whether it's running rampant through debris, knocking over target cars, or beating rivals at their own game. Better still, you don't have to work alone. In fact, The Crew works better with, well, a crew.
The game takes place in the entirety of the United States – not just a particular city. This virtual recreation is huge, and will take approximately a good hour or two just to get from sea to shining sea. That's not an exact world replica, but it gives you and your buddies plenty of room to run in your custom rides.
Throughout The Crew, you'll get the opportunity to tackle a handful of missions. Some of them are general race events, where you'll do whatever it takes to get the checkered flag – even if that means wrecking a few rivals in the process. Other times, you'll have missions where a target car is highlighted on the screen, and you'll have to do whatever it takes to bring them down.
What's interesting here is how your tactics can change with the involvement of other drivers. On your own, the general mission would call upon you to wreck someone. With others, though, you can set up an elaborate trap, having someone speed ahead to ambush the target car from another direction, or maybe even going as far as to box someone in and force them into an accident. It helps to have your entire team on the same page, and not loose cannons that try to follow their own path. Remember, a well-laid plan is the best kind of plan.
Ubisoft Reflections' racer will offer a streaming online experience that's second to none. Once the game loads up, you won't have to worry about pauses or having to visit a secondary lobby to get the next event going. Rather, it'll all be displayed in real-time, so you can see which competitors have entered the area on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, then fast-warp to them using a map interface and challenging them to see who rules the road. When you don't have any online competition, you can still turn to the variety of missions available, so you always have something to do.
As you complete events in The Crew, you'll unlock experience points, which you can turn around to purchase new vehicles and parts, as well as other goodies. The more damage you do during an event, the more you earn, so it helps to be a bit aggressive. It's divided amongst individual drivers, which adds a slight competitive edge to each member of The Crew, though the general takedown remains satisfying for all.
The Crew also has very few limits in terms of where you can go. Sure, you may not be able to drive through certain buildings or structures, but there are plenty of opportune shortcuts through parks, streets and other spots that will help you catch up to your objective. With the huge scope of each area you're driving through, there's no shortage of paths you can take to get to the finish line or catch up to your chase target.
In addition to driving however you wish, The Crew also provides the chance to design your car in the same manner. Using a separate iOS and Android-supported app that will be free to download, users can put together whatever design they're in the mood for – paint job, accessories, you name it – then apply it to their car for the next run-through. We've tried this out during a recent demo, and it's a very impressive app.
Sometimes these changes work for the better as well, since some terrain is rougher than others. For instance, some city areas will require you to go off-road, and your general street tires may not get the job done as far as maintaining a good speed. With a simple switch-out to more rugged tires, you'll get better performance out of your car. Other parts can be modified and improved as well, so you can constantly make your vehicle run better, no matter what the situation.
It'll be awhile before we see The Crew pull into garages, as it's currently slated for a mid-to-late 2014 release for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Rest assured, when it finally pulls up to the starting line, it'll be worth the wait – especially if you have a worthy set of drivers ready to back you up. You could always hold try-outs in the meantime, you know.