Upon The Crew Motorfest’s reveal at this 12 months’s (frankly weird) Ubisoft Ahead in June, I believe I had the identical dismissive response as most individuals: some variation of “we have now Forza Horizon at residence”. I’m happy to say I used to be hasty, and unsuitable, on this preliminary evaluation. To be clear, The Crew Motorfest is a superb open-world racer, and for my part is definitely higher than Microsoft’s flagship driving recreation in loads of methods, significantly by way of its construction, but additionally as a result of it at no level makes you drive by means of Edinburgh.
Positive, the Horizon inspiration is obvious and plain. All of the bits are there: the shiny Instagram-fresh presentation, the optimistic sunshine, the infinite-budget “motoring competition” that takes over a complete territory for an indefinite period of time. The boffins at Ivory Tower can forgive us for our wholesome scepticism.
Horizon? Is that you just? | Picture credit score: VG247/Ubisoft
However you might simply argue that Ivory Tower are literally reclaiming the style from Forza, given its origins because the crew behind Take a look at Drive Limitless: a seminal open-world racer which individuals beloved as a result of it was an excellent highway journey simulator with fascinating life sim components, regardless of being a little bit of a garbage racing recreation with a driving mannequin that left quite a bit to be desired. That’s an outline which, by the way, applies simply as properly to The Crew and arguably The Crew 2, video games which had been very a lot conceived as religious successors to TDU.
It’s barely disorienting that Motorfest is concurrently a throwback to the grandaddy of the style, with which it shares the island setting of O’ahu, but additionally a pivot away from what made The Crew notable and into another person’s wheelhouse completely.
Placing apart the Horizon comparisons for a second, and evaluating Motorfest as a part of Take a look at Drive Limitless’s lineage, what we have now in Motorfest is a location throwback that, for all its cribbing from trendy contemporaries, seems like a little bit of a step backwards. Curbing the map dimension again to 360-era proportions very clearly flies within the face of The Crew’s huge USP which is that it occurred on an unlimited open-world map that represented, albeit closely compressed, the whole thing of the contiguous United States.
The Crew wasn't an excellent racer, however as a highway journey simulator it was unmatched. | Picture credit score: Ubisoft
Primarily, it boils all the way down to highway journeys. The Crew (2014)’s working title was “Route 66”, which might be a way more becoming title than the one it ended up with, because it succinctly captures the sport’s complete attraction. Individuals don’t fondly recall the Quick & Livid-esque storyline, its hilariously unforgiving rubber-banding, or the truth that its driving mannequin felt barely extra subtle than its 360-era progenitor. What folks keep in mind about The Crew is doing huge drives throughout the map: making that pilgrimage from Chicago to Santa Monica, or doing the heroic coast-to-coast slog from New York Metropolis to downtown LA.
These drives didn’t by any means take so long as their real-life counterparts, however they nailed the texture: the open highway, the push of awe as the assorted biomes of America give approach to one another whereas surroundings rushes previous. From the city sprawl of the East Coast megalopolis, to blue misty mountains, to arid deserts, to the sun-kissed fields of California. At its most inviting, The Crew was a romantic portrait of America, with roads as its canvas: the anti-GTA.
In these issues, Motorfest clearly suffers by advantage of the truth that it isn’t simulating a complete continent. That’s to not say it isn’t worthy of some highway journeys: there’s loads of tarmac to be discovered on O’ahu. However that particular sense of discovery that evokes Straightforward Rider, Thelma & Louise, or, uh, Beavis & Butthead Do America, is now not part of the deal. And for a sequel to The Crew, that is one thing that will get ever extra baffling each time I give it some thought.
O'ahu island is a tried and true location for an open world racer, however it might probably't assist however look dinky when in comparison with… your complete remainder of the USA. | Picture credit score: Ubisoft
Personally, I really like when a sequence revisits a particular map or location. It’s enjoyable to match Murderer’s Creed Syndicate to Watch_Dogs Legion, for instance. Seeing how the micro-proportioned setting of Kamurocho develops over time and many years is a big a part of the attraction of the Yakuza/Like a Dragon sequence, which simply appears to be unstoppable at this level. The Crew didn’t essentially need to abandon the continental map idea to maintain going. Cities are continuously altering, in any case, and different continents can be found. I'd like to see The Crew’s idea utilized to different areas of the world than the USA.
So, in that respect, Motorfest seems like a regression. And as a direct follow-up to Take a look at Drive Limitless, it leaves a good bit to be desired as properly. There’s no sense of possession of the vehicles, no life simulation facet that features visiting auto dealerships, shopping for residences, and really having trigger to comply with the foundations of the highway every now and then moderately than simply preserving the fitting set off slammed backwards for almost all of your time within the recreation world. TDU’s model of O’ahu felt considerably tangible, and what you probably did there didn’t really feel 1,000,000 miles away from the true expertise of automotive possession. Motorfest, as compared, turns Hawaii into Disneyland for supercars. Or some bizarre afterlife for petrolheads, the place you'll be able to fulfil wild desires comparable to driving a DeLorean that isn’t a horrid, sluggish, rickety piece of shit.
If you'd like DeLoreans to carry out like this you most likely do want a time machine. | Picture credit score: Ubisoft
And that’s Motorfest’s new proposition in a nutshell. Not particularly the tricked out DeLoreans, however the concept that it’s a fantasy driving playground that borders on the religious with its want fulfilment. On regular problem, the races are pretty forgiving, offering simply sufficient problem to not really feel fully pointless however certainly not ever placing a participant in peril of dropping beneath the highest three so long as they vaguely perceive the ideas of breaking and accelerating. That is distinct from Forza Horizon, which does attempt to pay some heed to the mechanical actuality of the automobiles it simulates. Single participant races pose an actual problem, and profession development inside its occasions system can typically be a tough job consequently. In Motorfest, virtually each automotive that isn’t particularly tagged as a motorsport automobile is fitted with a nitro booster as commonplace, even the basic ones. It's, in truth, a key a part of the second-to-second gameplay: boosting out of corners and into straights is kind of the principle ability you want.
So, The Crew Motorfest is an odd beast. You possibly can hint its lineage instantly again to the unique open world racer, however at this level it has discarded virtually each fascinating facet of it aside from the placement – suppose The Elder Scrolls On-line’s model of Morrowind vs, er, Morrowind. It’s clearly impressed by Forza Horizon, however with out Forza’s hyperlink to its extra critical stablemate, there’s little incentive to floor its driving mannequin in something resembling actuality, so we find yourself with a fantasy motoring recreation the place the whole thing of the car inventory drives like a supercar.
And it’s completely thrilling, as a result of it’s designed on the expense of each different facet of driving simulation to simply really feel good it doesn't matter what. Are you driving a horrible steel-brushed shed on wheels from a movie, however you need to overtake a Porsche 911 going at a full pelt? Finished. You are able to do that. Need to nonetheless find yourself in pole place after whiffing a nook so badly that you just ended up dropping all the way down to sixth place, with solely half a lap left to go? Completely doable, on you go son.
When it inevitably hits a tenner within the gross sales, it is value selecting up only for the Hawaii Scenic Tour. | Picture credit score: Ubisoft
It’s patently absurd, and but, completely enchanting. And one of many issues it does quite a bit higher than Horizon is the way it by no means leaves you caught for issues to do. Microsoft’s recreation has an enormous “okay so, what now?” drag issue that kicks in after the preliminary rush of actions. Its headline races and signature occasions are second to none, however within the huge gulf between these issues, motivation can endure for lack of a transparent path forward. Motorfest, as compared, is structured round “playlists”: 15 teams of themed occasion races which might be very clearly signposted as you progress by means of them. They are typically themed round specific sides of automotive tradition: basic vehicles, muscle vehicles, Japanese road racing. My favorite one, and I believe the primary one everybody does, is the Hawaii Scenic Tour, a magic guided spin round O’ahu’s varied areas that showcases a lot of several types of automobile and in addition provides you a form of Lonely Planet cliff-notes abstract of native landmarks and their environment.
Ubisoft rightly takes loads of pelters for its homogenous strategy to recreation design, however one factor it does higher than everybody else is digital tourism. Actual world areas sampled all the way down to their essence and hammered into online game kind. The Hawaii Scenic Tour completely leverages this to point out off Motorfest’s riches, and it's a attractive setting to whizz round in. Motorfest definitely has a greater sense of place than any of the current Horizons. FH4’s truncated model of the UK felt so inauthentic that it actually felt alienating. Maybe that is familiarity breeding contempt, however I don’t get the sense that O’ahu is equally stricken with this incapability to distil a location all the way down to its primary vibes in the best way that Ubisoft studios have grown so masterful at doing.
In the long run, everybody’s preliminary impression of The Crew Motorfest as being kind of Ubi’s tackle Forza Horizon did kind of pan out. And it isn’t, regardless of sharing an island, any type of revival of Take a look at Drive Limitless. It’s not even something like The Crew. However the place loads of us had been unsuitable, myself included, is in assuming that each one this could work in opposition to it. After first impressions have gotten themselves blown off on the freeway, Motorfest does sufficient to differentiate itself from Horizon that it may be seen as a worthy different. And although it’s not fairly as slick, it’s far more pleasantly structured. It completely succeeds in matching velocity with its largest rival within the area, but additionally does new issues with the style that push it ahead ever so barely.
You possibly can import your vehicles from The Crew 2, however you'll be able to't import its sense of the large open highway. | Picture credit score: Ubisoft
When video games come alongside which have such a muddled identification, which isn’t a very uncommon phenomenon as this business suffers from the 2 many cooks phenomenon greater than some other, it’s prudent to surprise who this factor is definitely for. Motorfest is a good launch for Ps customers who may really feel like they would not thoughts a bash on the most recent Forza Horizon, assuming they exist. It offers one thing adjoining sufficient to the expertise to fulfill these emotions with out having to expire and purchase an Xbox (perish the thought!). For Forza Horizon followers, it gives one thing mechanically distinct, that’s much more arcadey, however in a well-recognized format and an excellent new location. And for individuals who miss Take a look at Drive Limitless, it’s an fascinating tour again to an outdated hang-out, albeit one which feels a bit of hole, just like the vaguely unsettling nostalgia of visiting a home you used to stay in. Maybe most unsettling, although, is that for individuals who beloved The Crew or The Crew 2, assuming they exist, Motorfest is an entire departure from the issues that make these video games what they're.
Who's it truly for, then? Individuals who need to drive a DeLorean up a volcano at 160mph, I suppose. That’s me, I need to do this. Motorfest is extremely daft, and overproduced, and it barely has any thought what it desires to be. However by some means, that doesn’t work in opposition to it, and the result's a particularly good time.
The Crew Motorfest is on the market now on all the things besides Nintendo Swap