In real life I drive a 2010 Nissan Sentra. In The Crew I drive a carefully customized, shiny red sports car that has so much detail it almost feels realer than my actual ride. After building my dream car in The Crew’s companion app – just a taste of what we’ll be able to do with the second screen, but the developers aren’t saying more about that yet – I’m sent from the app into my desired city. It’s a hundred thousand dollar car I could never own in my wildest dreams, and right now I am tearing down the streets of New York in it, shouting at pedestrians to kindly get out of my way.
I hit two challenges in my journey through the Big Apple. The first is a street race through downtown, with neon arrows showing my route. The Crew’s magical “Back On Track” function saves me countless times, repairing the damage to the body of my car and setting me back on the correct path. The second challenge I encounter sets up checkpoints in the middle of the street and gives me a time limit to hit each one. It’s a straight road, so it should be easy, but markers are placed dead-center between two lanes, requiring me to deftly slip between the oncoming traffic.
With that small taste of urban driving, I move on to the multiplayer portion of my demo. Together with three other crewmembers I’m transported to the sunny streets of Miami. It’s at this point we are told to pick a more off-road-capable vehicle. That’s because a drug smuggler is moving through the area and my partners and I have been called upon to take him down. We tail him down the roads and onto the beach, taking turns ramming him and slowly whittling away his armored SUV’s health. Though this is a co-op mission and everyone wins together, there’s still a good-natured but crackling sense of competition amongst my crew and I. Whoever deals the final blow gets the most rewards, which translates into more and better gear. We finally take the target down and – despite my apparent love for crashing into things – I am not the one to finish the job. I still get rewarded for the mission, and we all rejoice after the thrilling victory.
The Crew takes place in an entirely open United States of America. It is possible, if one so desires, to literally drive from one coast to the other without any load times. (Fast-traveling is also an option for those who may not want to take a cross-country roadtrip.) With all types of racing, challenges and activities available on a wide variety of terrains, it’s easy to see how one could get lost in the scope of the game. Driving down a winding country road, I could see a mountain in the distance, but it’s not just a backdrop; if I decide to pop over and check it out, I can drive to it and start exploring. An hour later I could easily find myself deep in off-road territory taking on all kinds side missions.
The Crew also has a main story, but the team is keeping those details quiet for now. Suffice to say that it involves, well, crews who are often at odds with each other, and the game will have you travel from region to region trying to stop a criminal organization. In each major city you recruit an NPC who will help you establish your crew and provide local assistance. While The Crew is optimized for seamless multiplayer, you can still play it 100% solo – but you’d be missing out on the rich experience of interacting with other humans. It is called The Crew, after all.
With stunning next-gen graphics and an innovative approach to seamless multiplayer – along with tight controls and a tantalizing app experience – The Crew is the perfect escape from my real-life commuter car. No offense to my Sentra, of course, but I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of my virtual rides when The Crew releases in early 2014.
ESRB Rating: RATING PENDING