If there is one genre that has become a known quanitity - unlikely to produce many genuinely shocking innovations - it's the arcade racing game. Despite that fact, or perhaps partly because of it, we were genuinely surprised by The Crew once we finally got the opportunity to play it for ourselves. The open world racing title from Ivory Tower and Ubisoft doesn't seek to reinvent the wheel, merely blend classic action racing with customization sim fans would expect, and giving the entire treatment an RPG slant.
Alright, that may sound like a complicated endeavor; but in practice, it's a combination that shows promise of balancing both old and new tastes in arcade racers. As the new trailer shows, a single vehicle in a player's garage can be modified to fulfill one of several 'Specs' - be they suited for street racing, the track, off-roading, or a simple cruise. Some designs are more outrageous than others, but fans of next-gen racing have shown they cherish any chance to show off their creativity on their body panels, as well as the track itself.
As clear competitors like Forza Horizon 2 take a similar goal - dropping players into an expansive open world and allowing them to stick to the road, or depart from it as they wish - an emphasis on fundamentally changing the same car for different modes is interesting. Other games may fill players' garages with an endless selection of supercars, modified racers, or off-road titans, but Ivory Tower seems to think that allowing players to modify, strengthen, lighten, or upgrade any car in their keeping is a worthwhile venture as well.
The added ownership was only glimpsed during our hands-on time with the game, but there's no question that driving into one of the many garages scattered across the game's massive world, refitting a car for a new challenge, and driving back out is a sensation not found when simply swapping out one car for another. And, the desire to show off a new paint job or custom body kit to your online friends can't be undervalued either.
Since a true sense of the depth of customization and scale of The Crew's game world will only be grasped when the game is released, it's hard to know how it might stack up against the competition, but with DriveClub suffering serious setbacks, and months between Forza Horizon 2 and its launch, The Crew may be able to carve out some space of its own. The developers chose to delay the game to guarantee it launches as the finished product they're aiming for, so one would hope that's the case.
In the meantime, the marketing is certainly doing its job. After one of the best cinematic announcement trailers at E3 proclaimed the game's existence, that attitude is alive and well. Just how many gamers it draws in remains to be seen. Will you be picking up a copy?
The Crew will be released December 2, 2014 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PC.
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