The Crew Motorfest Impressions - Bringing car culture to Hawaii
We've been hands-on with Ivory Tower's upcoming racing game to see how it is looking to improve on its take on the arcade racing sub-genre.
Forza Horizon really did a number on the arcade racing sub-genre. Ever since Playground released its hip take on motorsport, something that seems (and still seems for that matter) like the necessary next step from the arcade racing styles that Need for Speed was once king of, we've seen a bunch of other developers attempt to offer something similar. Ubisoft waited around four years before looking to put its own spin on Playground's version of fresh and firm feeling racing physics combined with heaps and heaps of racing culture in The Crew, and now, in a few months' time that very series will be making its return.
Ubisoft and developer Ivory Tower has slapped a date on The Crew Motorfest, the next major instalment into the racing series, even if it is leaving behind the numbered naming convention of the prior two titles. Set to debut on PC and consoles on September 14, as part of its presence in Los Angeles during this "not E3" period, Ubisoft let me spend some time with The Crew Motorfest and to see how the title is shaping up.
First and foremost, the game still features the same arcade racing physics that have coined the franchise. I've yet to experience what the driving feels like with a wheel and additional peripherals, but on a controller the vehicles feel heavy and a bit difficult to manage and often lack that level of response that you get in the Horizon games. That's not to say every vehicle feels and acts this way however, as Motorfest has such a wide array of available cars and other forms of transport that you get a varied experience. Shockingly, a Formula 1-inspired track vehicle is far easier to handle and drive compared to a 1960s Shelby Cobra.
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As for how the gameplay works beyond the racing suite, Motorfest is mostly split into different, unique, smaller campaigns that tell stories about specific parts of the world of motorsport. You can channel your inner Tokyo Drift and choose the Made in Japan campaign to drive a collection of imported and modified Japanese vehicles that are perfect for drifting, or instead look to take to an actual track for the Motorsport campaign instead. Each campaign isn't just defined by its style of cars and the narrative it is looking to convey either, as there is a core gameplay mechanic present as well that sets them apart.
For Motorsport you have to watch your tyre wear and then pit when the wear becomes too low else you will significantly lose grip and find it increasingly challenging to control the car. Made in Japan, as you would guess, is about drifting and using nitrous to beat your opponents. Vintage Garage is about racing at its most fundamental, all while using older and generally speaking iconic cars. Lamborghini is a partnered campaign that looks to explore the history of the iconic Italian supercar brand, by putting the player behind the wheels of famous vehicles from the Miura all the way to the newly announced Revuelto. And then there's also a fifth campaign set to be available at launch, which will revolve around electric cars and will task players with hitting specific parts of a track in order to top up and recharge their car's battery, but as for how this campaign plays eludes me, as it was not present as part of the hands-on session.
Each campaign will feature unique race styles and objectives to boot, including some tasks asking you to outright win, some requiring you to get into the top three, and others being more skill-based and asking players to sprint to a point without hitting obstructions and markers dotted over the road. Needless to say, there's a lot of ways to enjoy driving your favourite cars.
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The preview session was mostly about testing these campaigns and getting a feel for the gameplay, meaning I can't yet comment on how the open world of Hawaii feels to explore, the sorts of activities it will offer, or likewise how the different styles of vehicles feel to drive. From what I have seen of the world as part of the races I tested, it's clear that there are plenty of unique biomes to explore, and if anything, it reminds me of Forza Horizon 5's Mexico with its variety. Similarly, the progression and currency and how that is worked into purchasing cars and building out your garage wasn't touched on, even if Ubisoft did affirm that there will be no limits on players being able to transfer their The Crew 2 garage to Motorfest - meaning series veterans will have a massive jump on those new to The Crew in this title.
Looking to the future, Ubisoft did briefly touch on how it will be continuing to support The Crew Motorfest. It was mentioned that there will be seasons that bring additional entire new campaigns, each with their own theme, gameplay mechanics, and cars to earn and collect. This will all be kicking off with an American-themed season, exploring muscle cars and other iconic parts of American automobile history.
With The Crew Motorfest set to debut in September, racing fans will have a lot to look forward in the coming months. But will this game be able to stand up against the arcade racing titan that is the Forza Horizon series? Only time will tell, but from what I played, it's clear that it has nailed the culture and ambience that Horizon has been so excellent at serving up this past decade.