If the history of a racing game series carries any weight, then the likes of Forza Motorsport 5, Need For Speed Rivals and Gran Turismo hold a monopoly over excitement at E3 2013; so why is it that Ubisoft’s surprise announcement — an arcade racer dubbed The Crew — has the most of our attention?
After news of The Crew dropped prior to the publisher’s E3 2013 conference, gamers were led to believe that the game would follow in the tradition of Driver: San Francisco, and would also be developed by Ubisoft Reflection. Although that studio will aiding Ivory Tower (possessing serious talent themselves), the announcement trailer and onstage demo prove that The Crew will be using every ounce of the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
When word of an arcade racer from Ubisoft first appeared, we were skeptical to say the least — not a year goes by that multiple arcade racers all enter the fight trying to scratch an itch that others fail to, and most fall victim to underwhelming presentation or flawed mechanics. But when the announcement trailer for The Crew was rolled out, it was difficult to ignore the fact that the car action and high-speed car combat left us impressed.
A well-made cinematic trailer doesn’t mean a well-made game, but Ubisoft demonstrated how The Crew would not be an imitator, but an innovator in online connectivity during the live press event. Encompassing both off-road and performance supercars in its less-sim, more action style, The Crew gave a brief look at four entirely different players, driving four entirely different cars, in four entirely different environments in the continental US.
After showing off a 4×4 attempting a short challenge in rugged mountain terrain, a sleek street racer making his way through a lap race, and a third supercar trying to outrace the ghost of his friend’s lap (requiring they keep to the road while their off-road friend wasn’t similarly constrained).
Those differences in play types and vehicles aren’t groundbreaking on its own — the true innovation comes from the “persistent online world” in which players exist. The developers decided early on to do away with lobbies completely, and incorporate all matchmaking and invites in-game. The fourth player simply accepted the challenge of taking down a Miami crimelord, invited the three other drivers to help him achieve the task, and they were soon prepping for their attack.
Upgrading standard street cars into reinforced, supercharged hot rods in a customizable garage, the widely varied ‘crew’ of four drivers teamed up to ram the enemy off the road, earning XP along the way for both personal damage inflicted and for completing the challenge – aided or not by an additional player offering support via a tablet.
Seeing the mission in real-time gets the point across, so take a look:
We’ll reserve judgement until we can play the game ourselves, but from the early showing, our interest is certainly piqued. The closing moments of the trailer also confirmed that there would be plenty of other players existing just beyond the fringes of any given mission, so as was the case with Watch_Dogs and The Division, far-reaching multiplayer isn’t just an experiment for Ubisoft; it’s what the game is built on.
We’ll keep you updated on more news concerning The Crew as it’s released. It is expected to launch in early 2014 for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.