The Creed Of Speed: The Crew’s Closed Beta

By Adam Smith on July 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

I’m not cruising around inside The Crew’s closed beta so I’m going to analyse the content based entirely on the video below. It’s the video that has finally pulled back the curtain for me, revealing the man yanking the levers that create the illusion of ‘open world driving’. What I’ve learned is that The Crew is very much in the Ubisoft open world mould, which means lots of icons scattered across a map, a thousand different tasks jostling for attention, and what looks like just enough connective tissue to tie focal points together. But is it a grander take on Burnout Paradise or something more akin to Assetto’s Creed?

Admitting up front that I’m holding the initial promise to impossible standards, I find the map disappointing. It looks less like an open world United States and more like a Far Cry island, Watch_Dogs Chicago or Assassin’s Creed city. The scale has increased, but the fast travel options and clusters of activities suggest that the places in between won’t be quite as interesting or expansive as I’d hoped. This isn’t to say that I’m not still hungry for The Crew – I’m simply retuning my expectations. I didn’t expect the Ubi open world formula to fit quite so neatly onto a racing game so I expected the mould to mutate even if it didn’t break entirely. Perhaps the formula can fit any kind of experience though – I await an open world Dance Dance Revolution reboot.

One other thing – ‘RPG’. The man narrating The Crew beta video keeps using the term but I do not think it means what he thinks it means. Language is an ever-changing beast, sure, but are we really going to ignore the ‘role’ part of the equation entirely? As the ubiquitous Ubi design seems to understand the term, ‘RPG’ simply refers to levelling up, and unlocking loot and missions. Increasingly, with the busy UI and map screens, the only role we’re playing is that of a collectible-obsessed gamer with the attention span of an inebriated chicken.

Anyone pootling about in the beta? Release date is November 11th, which is sooner than I thought. I tend to assume that everything shown at E3 won’t be out for at least a year.

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44 Comments »

  1. Tei says:

    I am going to talk in keywords from now on!

    Red Pill | Google Maps 3D | 30 FPS | Ubisoft | “Beta” | _BETA_

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      DarkLiberator says:

      Actually figured out a way around the 30 FPS lock, its in the config. UserDocumentsThe Crew had a file called PCScalability, open it and change FPS from 30 to 60. Fixed it for me.

      First impressions. It runs great at around 60 FPS with my 770 with everything Ultra and the scale is insane. Took me roughly an hour to drive from New York to west coast, though too bad its not real life, but still, the amount of detail and scale is pretty impressive. Driving is a mixed bag. Feels like bricks on oil sometimes.

      Rendering distance needs work too, objects just pop in and out randomly, quite annoying.

      • Tei says:

        I have heard that the change you comment affect some cutscenes. But is Ok, I suppose that raw eyecandy is important in this type of game, so 60fps is like the deal if you have a 770.

        • -Spooky- says:

          60 FPS are fine on my old 660TI. Chicago – Seattle in 1h with the Z370 untuned. “TDU3″ here i come.

          PS: Screw dem clueless haters.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          The optimization is also pretty strong, a 780ti can max it ( everything put on max, 4x TXAA, HBAO+, soft shadows and 1440p ) far better than, say, Watch Dogs, while it also looks a LOT better both from an artistic standpoint and a technical one aswell. And this is still closed beta.

          Really, don’t laugh, but WD is quite a good piece when it comes to what’s under the hood ( and the locked off potential, *cough* ), the only reason it doesn’t “sing” it’s because there is little taste put into it. The Crew tops that easily and runs a lot better.

          Since everyone is pissing on the NDA then i guess i’ll go ahead: bugs and network issues aside ( which are “ok” in this early state, i guess ), there’s really a solid game in there. Exploration is actually great and far better than what you’d expect from Ubi’s open world games, at least when it comes to diversity.

          To answer Adam’s concern: don’t worry about boxes on the map and apparently useless middle roads, even if you just keep taking optimal routes, skipping the “lesser” roads, most races are planned good enough that you’ll see all of it, especially the raid ones in which you really start cutting through everything to get in some seriously magic places.

          Also, 80+ % of the whole continent is currently devoid of anything to do and you’re locked to lv 10, you have some serious amount of stuff to explore without ANY single distraction as of now and i still was compelled to do it.

          And that brings me to my last point: 2500 miles of road to drive might be a misleading number and not something that happens to you in the real world, sure, but they don’t mention how good it is to just cut through everything, even though it’ll be better appreciated with the proper vehicles. So yeah, while marketing numbers are usually optimistic, this time they failed to account for a lot of extra value.

          The driving: i’m a sim guy, so eh. Yeah… No. But i still appreciate some arcade games and i’d dare say that both due to the good use of customization and the easily-drifty-yet-quirky style on “hardcore” driving settings, it’s a nice sweet spot for arcade driving.

  2. AshRolls says:

    On the subject of driving, any news on the ‘Wot I Think’ for Grid: Autosport?

    Personally I have my vroom vroom hopes pinned on Project Cars which looks like it’s really shaping up nicely. Like Adam I am a sucker for simulation / emergent behaviour etc and so pCars ‘simulated’ world for career mode, akin to a Football Manager game, sounds juicy. Fingers crossed!

  3. GameCat says:

    Assaspeed Creed

    The map really looks small. :x

  4. SominiTheCommenter says:

    The map is definitively big, took me about 15min to drive from Chicago to St Louis

  5. JamesTrab says:

    This looks so boring..
    I’m playing Far Cry 3 right now and, though the gameplay is pretty solid, i’m already exhausted with these huge and aimless open worlds Ubisoft is delivering.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      If you’re exhausted with them, why are you playing Far Cry 3?

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    Thirith says:

    As much as I’d like more actual roleplaying in games, including in RPGs, Adam’s bit about the term strikes me as Quixotic at best, reactionary at worst. In computer games, the prevalent RPG element has always been levelling up and upgrading attributes and skills. Computer game genres are primarily labelled by their gameplay mechanisms, so using the term RPG to describe such mechanisms makes sense – even if it rankles when what it originally stood for is pretty much lost in the process. Don’t be King Canute, Adam, trying to stem the tide of language change with your sheer convictions. That way lies madness, and letters to The Times’ editor.

    • Adam Smith says:

      DEAR SIR,

      I WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS MY SEVERE DISPLEASURE AT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN COMPUTER GAME GENRE CONVENTIONS &c &c

      COLONEL CANUTE
      BIBBLESBY MANOR
      GENTRYSHIRE

  7. trjp says:

    I’d probably use the beta key I had if there was any danger of UPlay downloading the game without

    a – completely spannering my Internet connection whilst doing so
    b – repeatedly losing connection and retrying large parts of said download
    c – generally being FUCKING HOPELESS

    As a ‘client’ it’s shit – as a downloader it’s even shitter – it’s like they package their games in shit and then try to sell that as a feature.

    “The Crew – with EXTRA SHIT”

    They should add achievements into UPlay such as “managed to download a game without losing hope” – they could add one to their support system for “complete a ticket” but no-one would ever do that (for the record, I have an open ticket which is 2 years old now!!”

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Actually, you only need to download 3GB from a total of 15 so start playing right away.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        Never had a single problem downloading it, personally, and it ran fine at the “Playable” mark (though I just tested it at that point so I can’t say how far it would have let me get). Still, it’s been fairly well-established trjp sure does hate him some Uplay.

      • trjp says:

        If I left it downloading it would cripple my PC to the point it would be unplayable anyway – it’s a common fault (UBI boards are crammed with people with the same issue)

        They offer a download ‘choke’ – 1Mb/sec or 2Mb/sec – so I can either ‘cripple’ or ‘half it’ – nice option!

        Steam manages to download at full speed without troubling anything else on my PC – how is it that UBISoft can’t do that?

        Oh yes, it’s because they DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THEIR CUSTOMERS – that’s it.

      • flaep says:

        @SominiTheCommenter

        7 minutes Chicago to St Louis. your turn.

    • Kollega says:

      You know… I don’t really care about UPlay and its technical hangups, or about the forced multiplayer (because let’s face it, the game is not only about roadtrips, and other players would add some life to the huge map), but what makes me hesitant about buying this game is that it has all the traditional Ubigame features – a stupid amount of collectibles, slow levelling progression… yeah, that doesn’t particularly warm my heart to it. And it’s a pretty big thing, considering my constant yearning for on-your-bike-go-wherever-you-like breed of open-world games where you’re given a realistically-huge, fully explorable, and instantly open map to mess around on.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        It’s mostly a coincidence, TDU matched on some levels this description aswell, but it came from a different team and publisher, well before Ubi’s tropes, and it didn’t work like FC3 or AssFlag.

        The team is more or less the same now and the game is pretty comparable, it’s just that before going to Ubisoft the notion that these two realities could actually be compared ( only on a superficial level ) didn’t occur to most and now it’s more obvious.

        But it’s still different. As of now, the only thing they seem to get from Ubisoft compared to the first TDU is the extra polish, especially from a graphical standpoint.

    • Blackrook says:

      Got to admit Uplay downloader is horrible. Steals all the bandwidth if its running,
      can’t even get the google webpage up with it running – 7 hours to download this
      in full while I couldn’t use the internet for other stuff.

      Saying all that I have enjoyed the beta. The driving model is definitely arcade rather than sim,
      but there is a lot of enjoyment to be had weaving in and out of the npc cars etc just driving from
      one point to another is relaxing. I wish the scale was not so scaled down as much though as what you
      think is a long drive doesn’t take that much time really, might be a good thing to keep content closer though.

      The story missions sort of suck and are predictable but okay,
      and the challenges are fun enough. The pvp hasn’t been working yet for me although I do
      see some other real people (rather than the pretend npcs) in game, will be a bit disappointed
      if they don’t get this sorted before the end of the beta to try out.
      Over all graphics are okay (maxed out on my pc) but they don’t have a wow factor.
      Apart from long loading when their servers went crazy, no other bugs for me in the 4 hours I spent playing.

  8. PopeRatzo says:

    DJ Atomika or GTFO.

    Seriously, I will play the hell out of this game. I hope it’s a combination of Assassin’s Creed IV, Far Cry 3 and Burnout Paradise. Three of my favorite games. The only people who don’t like those are indie developers and sniffing hipsters who like to post slags about the “mainstream” from their iPhone 5′s.

    • trjp says:

      Some people like good food – artisan cheeses and breads, fresh seafood, game, fine sauces and condiments etc. – and they know which things go with which

      Some people like fast food – processed shit like Pop Tarts and Squirty Cheese – they consider a ‘sophisticated meal’ to be some sort of asian takeaway or perhaps a kebab/gyros/shwarma (see, I can adjust for continent!).

      UBISoft are the fast-food of gaming – some people just prefer something which isn’t 80% sweetener…

      • Zorlan says:

        Well, those “some” people aren’t getting a lot of breadcrumbs since major developers don’t really care about the small folk. It’s all about getting dat sweet $$$!

        • PopeRatzo says:

          Whereas all the early access kickstarter hucksters are doing it purely for the love of gaming. right? It takes money to do big things.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        UBISoft are the fast-food of gaming

        In what way? Assassin’s Creed Black Flag has stayed with me a lot longer than Hotline:Miami. Certainly Far Cry 3 created more memorable characters and story than, um, let’s see, what was on last year’s Advent calendar…oh look! there’s Far Cry 3. Are you saying that the tastes of the RPS editors arebougeoir and de trop?

        You want to put down big, successful games that are popular, and to do so, instead of making some argument about those games, you compare them to “fast food” instead of the artisanal cheeses you claim to prefer. It’s a cheap way to say you don’t like something and prefer something else. You try to assert the superiority of the supposed “fine sauces and condiments” because it’s not enough that you like what you like, you feel bound to express that everything else is crap and anyone who likes those things is just…common. Elitism in its most pure form..

        Ubisoft Montreal and Criterion are superb production houses. They consistently put out interesting, engaging games that are actually worth their full price. First-rate production values, excellent concepts and interesting stories where appropriate. Fun gameplay. Just because they’re not artistic masterpieces like whichever 8-bit indie stealth platformer you happen to be playing, doesn’t mean they’re “fast food”.

        So, indie game dev or hipster? Which is it, lad?

        • trjp says:

          There are many ways you can compare what UBI (and other AAA publishers) do – to processed/fast-food.

          They spend a lot of time trying to please everybody – all the ingredients are in there whether they work or not – they aim to capture entire markets – they’ve done the science and they know the value of moreishness (in food science it even has a name ‘palatability’ – just as in gaming it’s “addictiveness”) – their output is forced-on people with bright adverts using lots of buzzwords – you cannot avoid it.

          Of course what appeals to everyone, is really great for almost no-one. Loads of people eat McDonalds but if anyone said McDs was “the best burger they’d ever tasted” it would say much of their lack of experience with food and nothing at all about McDs ;0

          No AAA studio will ever make a truly brililant game, because they’re aiming wide and low.

          They will always be the Feasters Burger and I really prefer the local butcher/baker’s offerings (or if I have time – my own concotions!)

          • PopeRatzo says:

            Those properties that you attribute to fast food could also be attributed to Whole Foods, who sell the kind of artisanal cheeses and sauces that you claim to love.

            When you list those attributes, you leave out all of the worst properties of fast food, in order to try to support your point. You’re stretching, I think.

  9. Eight Rooks says:

    From what little I’ve played – just tried it today – I’d say it does feel like a Ubigame (TM) with cars. Not necessarily in a bad way, mind you – I got definite hints of Burnout Paradise too. I only tried it for a little over half an hour – enough to do the first few story missions – but if we’re allowed to comment on it…? then despite the potentially silly plot I’m pretty damned impressed so far. Runs great and looks fantastic maxed out (almost – I’m on FXAA and SSAO, but apart from that…) and as far as arcade racers go it controls really well on first impressions, like a more forgiving version of Driver San Francisco’s cartoon handling. For a beta, it seemed in solid shape, too – I just got a couple of glitches, nothing more. The worst error I had was when I’d finished jazzing up my car, chose “Leave the tuner” and only the wheels, axles etc. drove out the door, leaving the body behind. O_o (It was back to normal once it handed me control.)

    • PopeRatzo says:

      I got definite hints of Burnout Paradise too

      Thank you, Jesus. Maybe my prayers have finally been answered.

  10. Zorlan says:

    Ah, those buzzwords, humming all over that video.

    Really not interested in seeing this, I wish Ubisoft would pour their money into something else, perhaps a good Prince of Persia or a proper Settlers/Heroes of Might & Magic/Might and Magic: Dark Messiah 2 (please – with an editor for the public) or, you know, hell, buy the rights to AoE and make something that can live up to AoE2. It’s a shame Zenimax is so big otherwise they could’ve probably bought the rights to ES and scrapped the shit studio that BGS is and made a proper ES game for once.

    I feel like the big games/AAA titles we get these days suck major ass and are nothing but poor attempts at getting the peasants’ monies. I need to win the goddamn lottery and make some good games! Auurggh!!

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      Philopoemen says:

      Curt Schilling, is that you?

      • Zorlan says:

        Heh, no. Just a bored Swede. But think of the possibilities! I’m sure that with enough dough we could make something truly special. You and I, my friend, you and I.

        And some 2000 other people.

        With enough dough.

  11. Citizen Graves says:

    So, that presentation had me totally hooked at “Open World Racing” but completely lost me at “UPlay.”

    I know, that may be very petty of me and to be honest, I would very much enjoy some serious competition for Valve’s STEAM service. But UPlay??

    C’mon Ubisoft, be f**king serious!

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    Martel says:

    “The scale has increased, but the fast travel options and clusters of activities suggest that the places in between won’t be quite as interesting or expansive as I’d hoped.”

    I love driving around the US, but this comment really does apply to a lot of the real US, so maybe they’re being realistic without knowing? :)

  13. Phasma Felis says:

    Okay, do Brits or…whatever that guy’s accent is…actually pronounce the word “beta” as “beeter”? Because if so, that is hilarious. Do they? I HAVE TO KNOW.

    • Mashakosha says:

      It varies from person to person. Even the same person might say it both ways in the same breath. But I personally say baytah.

    • Asurmen says:

      He is a Brit and I would say most of us say ‘beeter’

    • Lucid Spleen says:

      Never heard a fellow Brit pronounce it ‘bayta’ apart from TotalBiscuit. It sounds pretty weird when he says it but I guess he’s pandering to his audience.

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      deadfolk says:

      Well I’m a semi-brit and myself and everyone I know says bayta.

  14. Simon_Scott says:

    Playing it, loving it. A few concerns not so much with the fact that there are bugs, but where those bugs are. A lot of people have found conflicts with the HID controller. This is bad news considering the limited length of time the closed beta is running for – hard to capture player data if the player can’t play. There *is* a workaround, but this has, as far as I’ve been able to tell, been discovered by other players. Not seen any Ubi staff explain or acknowledge the issue.

    The 30fps framecap seems a bit weird, too – looks like it’s only there to keep the cut-scenes in check. Also, default control set up is arrow keys for breaking, accelerating and steering. WASD for changing the camera angle of the car. Which is just wrong, isn’t it?

    So, yeah, all a bit console-led, really.

    But I genuinely am loving it!

  15. Laurentius says:

    I like Test Drive Unlimited far better then Burnout Paradise so I would like it to be something like TDU but on the other hand I find last Ubisoft open world games :FarCry3, AC4 and Watch_Dogs to be between overwhelmingly medicore to plain terrible.

  16. jennifer1 says:

    Robot Unicorn Attack

    http://robotunicornattack.us

    Upon loading up the game and probably startling Google Chrome itself with the absurdness of what I was playing, the word disappointment temporarily fell out of my vocabulary because after even 30 seconds of playing my head was filled with rainbows, amazement, and awe at how simultaneously simple and entertaining the experience was. Aside from the frightening array of colours that would distress even the hardiest of retinas, everything about this game is unbelievably simple and easy to grasp. Taking the fact that you are a mechanical unicorn as given, you are thrown into a bubblegum world of fantasy and sparkle which, upon witnessing it with your own eyes, will make you understand what those Skittles talk about when they bang on about “tasting the rainbow”. As a robot unicorn, your job is to simply run endlessly across terrain, jumping intermittently when the ground beneath you ends and landing on the next platform. The jumps become increasingly difficult as you progress, with terrain and giant star-shaped obstacles getting in your way.

  17. GrosData says:

    Got into the beta too. It really started being cool when I got rid of the UI, turned off voice coms, ignored every mission and started driving randomly with cockpit view. The cars feel a bit too heavy atm, but there’s a lot of tweaking options. Enjoying it quite a lot.

  18. 2late2die says:

    “It looks less like an open world United States and more like a Far Cry island,”
    I’m not sure I understand, and from how I understand it, I completely disagree. First of, obviously this wasn’t going to be a completely open world free roam map of the entire US – that would be impossible given current tech. With those limitations in mind that looked pretty damn open world and detailed.

    It looks like a collection of hubs with many activities and interest points, connected with more sparse, somewhat less interesting, connecting areas. That’s fine. It both allows them to create this world within tech limitations, and create a better gameplay experience.

    In any case, the game looks very interesting concept wise, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading reviews and impressions. Personally for me though, I’m not a big racing fan, nor a gear-head, so there’s not much for me here. Still, like I said, I think the ideas here are very interesting and I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

    (And yes I wish Ubiplay would die already, but unfortunately it looks like it’s here to stay, since they’re clearly starting to integrate it more deeply into games.)