The Crew Motorfest

The Crew Motorfest Preview: Four Hours in Hawaii

We've returned to the island of O'ahu to test out a chunk more of Ivory Tower's upcoming racing game.

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It was only around a month ago that Ubisoft first gave me a chance to go hands-on with The Crew Motorfest. During my time in Los Angeles for Summer Game Fest, I had the opportunity to experience around 30 minutes of the upcoming racing title, on top of learning when it would be debuting on PC and consoles. With launch set for mid-September, Ubisoft has once again let me loose on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii, this time in a near-unchained preview event that spanned a whopping four hours.

Following getting a taste of The Crew Motorfest previously, I was excited to see a less linear and controlled version of the game. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed what I got to experience in LA, but it was a very ostentatious display where I got a highly refined glimpse at the world and the Playlist activities. This time around was anything but that. From the start-up onboarding that resembled a flashy Forza Horizon opening, giving you a snippet of the world and the sorts of cars you can race, all the way to being able to then work through a choice of a few different Playlist campaigns, while having complete freedom to explore the island of O'ahu as I saw fit in between, this felt like a The Crew game through and through.


While I'll get to the Playlists and the open world and the sorts of activities available there in a moment, let me take a moment to talk about the actual gameplay. I wasn't hugely impressed by what I saw in LA when it came to the driving mechanics, but after more time with the game, I've come to really enjoy the more arcade, high-speed and thrilling style to it. This isn't a game where cars act even marginally like you would expect them to, and it never tries to fool you into thinking they do either. On this front, the gameplay and driving feel really suits the tone and theme of The Crew Motorfest, which ultimately feels like a combination of Forza Horizon's festival vibe, Gran Turismo's culture and car history elements, and Riders Republic's gnarly stunting and vehicle variety. Yet, with this being said, I'm not a fan of the powersliding mechanic that is baked in, which sees your car automatically lean into a drift when turning too aggressively into a corner. For lightweight yet powerful cars, this feature means you'll be sliding around every corner - and no, it doesn't make you look as cool as the Drift King.

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On the topic of drifting, since I already got a good taste of Motorsports, Vintage Garage, and Automobili Lamborghini Playlists in LA, I figured this time around it'd be best to check out the Made in Japan Playlist first. This one was all about Japanese cars, or imports as Fast and Furious' Brian O'Conner would say, and sees you racing them through urban circuits decorated with Japanese decals like Torii gates and enormous dragons. Occasionally, you'll even head out into the wilderness to practice your drifting down a mountainous slalom sprint, which truly reminded me of the similar scenes from Tokyo Drift. All things considered, this Playlist didn't really feel that special and didn't have the hook that some of the others had, but the theme and the cars you get to drive are all thrilling enough that you quickly lose track of time while chipping away at the approximately hour-long set of objectives.

The point of the Playlists isn't to just try new cars and learn some automotive history, no, this is where The Crew Motorfest's progression comes into effect, as by completing races and objectives, you'll earn money that can be used to purchase cars to unlock other Playlists, while working towards opening the Main Stage for new challenges and social features, and netting a few modifications to boot. These are ways to improve any car you own, by slotting slightly higher rated tires or engine parts onto the car, and if anything, it reminded me of Riders Republic's rarity and loot system - i.e. something that doesn't really do a whole lot to actually better the game but does provide ways to further customise your experience.

The Crew Motorfest

With Made in Japan in the bag, I turned my attention to a second Playlist that was all about exploration. Here, the result of races didn't matter, as the Playlist served more as a way to test quirky cars suited for Hawaii and to travel to all the wonderful vistas and locations dotted around the island of O'ahu. This Playlist seemed like the perfect one to kickstart a player's The Crew Motorfest journey.

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Following this, I decided to test the Main Stage feature, where it became clear that this served similarly to Forza Horizon's seasons system, where for a predetermined amount of time, players could complete challenges and earn experience to unlock rewards. It was in the Main Stage that the live game modes could be found as well, with these including the 32-player demolition derby-like Demolition Royale, and even a mega 28-player race. Again, this gave off shades of Riders Republic.

Before deciding to take on one last Playlist and to explore the open world for a while, I took a glimpse at the garage to see just what types of vehicles you can look to unlock. Between classics to motorbikes, to speedboats and biplanes, to official Formula 1 cars and enough Ferraris and Lamborghinis to make any billionaire jealous, the list just kept going on and on, and Ubisoft promised this wasn't even the complete selection of cars available at launch to boot.

After a quick shopping spree, I decided to go free roaming and discovered that the island of O'ahu is packed with all manner of small activities similar to a Forza Horizon game. From speed cameras and slalom objectives on the roads and in the jungles, to aerial activities way up in the clouds, and even a few goodies dotted around in the surrounding ocean, there are plenty of ways to kill time and net a bit more experience between races and Playlists. Oh, and if you've never played a The Crew game before, you may be wondering how you switch between car, boat, and plane, right? With the simple click of an analogue stick, you can change between the three modes of transport whenever in the open world.

The Crew MotorfestThe Crew Motorfest
The Crew Motorfest

With time running out, I wanted a taste of the future and decided to see what all the fuss is about with electric cars. So, I started the Electric Odyssey Playlist. As how Motorsport is all about managing tire wear, and Vintage Garage is about not damaging your classic car, Electric Odyssey brings a new gameplay feature to the table. While usually cars regenerate boost overtime, electric cars in The Crew Motorfest don't when in a race, and instead, you have to travel between glowing pink fences whenever they are available. Essentially, while electric cars will torch combustion engine cars when it comes to acceleration, you have to be a little wiser with how you deploy boost, as electric cars don't have the same level of freedom as regular cars here. With this in mind, and with how unique electric cars feel and look and the fact that all the events in this Playlist take place in the middle of a thunderstorm with pink lightning bolts striking all around, this all made Electric Odyssey one of the more unique Playlists and proved once again that these mini-campaigns can bring a lot to the table when creatively offered up like this.

As we find ourselves well into a period between Forza Horizon games, there's really no better time for The Crew Motorfest. Don't get me wrong, this game doesn't seem to be competing with Playground's title when it comes to its presentation and graphics, and lacks some of the finesse of that title as well, but as far as an open world racing game goes, there's a lot to love in this instalment into the series. Regardless of what kind of cars you tend to lean towards, The Crew Motorfest has it all, and to me, this is still set to be one of September's most anticipated titles.

The Crew Motorfest launches on September 14, 2023 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

We've landed on the island of Oahu and put peddle to the metal in the latest open world racer from Ubisoft's Ivory Tower.

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