Impressions: The Crew – Wild Run

The Crew has always underwhelmed. Promising a ‘best of’ of the United States, it delivered a game world that didn’t feel much bigger than rivals like Fuel. Promising an always-online world of competitive and collaborative racing, in random and bespoke crews, it delivered a broken buggy mess in which on release we never managed to see a single other player in the game world with us. On top of that, its driving was plain, never exciting, never involving.

But now The Wild Run DLC [official site] is out, with a promised graphical overhaul and a bunch of new content to flesh out its echoey maps. Is it making a better second impression? I’ve mucked about in it for a few short hours.

Checking out the new Stunt mode (woo, stunts!) straight away, I have only been mystified as to what’s going on. Holding down the right d-pad, it offers this mode, and thrilling stunt challenges like, “Drive for 1.8 miles without crashing.” Fuuuuccccccking heeeelllllll! Are you sure? Is this even safe?!

Or even more thrilling, “Near miss 20 cars.” Not hit them, no no, miss them. Actively avoid something stunt-like from occurring. “Drive on the right side of the road for X miles.” WAIT WHAT NOW?! Drive on the CORRECT side of the road?! And they let children play this?

Except, I’ve yet to complete a “stunt”, because each time I get about three quarters of the way through one, it announces to me that I cancelled Stunt Mode. No, no I didn’t.

The Crew doesn’t like my internet connection. It calls it “Moderate”. I’m not sure 73.9Mbps is moderate (I live immediately next to the exchange). It says I should enable UPnP on my router. It’s enabled. That I should give it port 3001 – it has port 3001. It says my “NAT Type” is “Strict”. I’ve set my router to the less secure “Game Mode” that lets all games work through the NAT.

It turns out, the settings The Crew automatically assigned to my router, along with all the ports it opened, are wrong. After forcibly removing it and manually creating my own, it seems to let me join up with the incredibly few other people playing. (It still said the ports were closed when I clicked “check”, but a restart seemed to fix that.) Sometimes. If it can find three of us wanting to do the same thing.

A stunt run with a crew is the same as the self-destructive solo version, but your efforts are shared. So now, on completely different parts of the map with no interaction, you can contribute toward driving for 18 seconds at over 75mph, or on the left side of the road for 800 yards, or whatever weedy non-stunt it demands. Every now and then for no given reason it teleports you somewhere else, then carries on giving you stunts, until eventually the game seems to get bored. At one point it teleported us into a barren desert, and then asked us to near-miss 20 cars. There were no cars. At that, it just seemed to give up offering us nothing to do, until my impromptu crew dissipated.

Stunts with bikes or monster trucks are a bit more (but not much more) interesting, but so often impossible. “Jump for 15 seconds” it says, while you’re on the flattest land imaginable. The same doesn’t help for “Go downhill for 800 yards”, which is also perhaps not the most thrilling of stunts.

So I tried one of the other new features – the Freedrive Challenge. Well, when I say “tried”, I mean I tried to try that feature. After opening the map screen and showing me an unexplained countdown clock of about 30 seconds, it then tried to assign me to a crew. After a minute or so it found me one, and then promptly lost it and started searching again. It still is. I’ve no idea what the Freedrive Challenge is.

However, other new content is a bit more obvious. There are drag races, monster trucks, and drift challenges. Drift is the game noticing when you’re skidding, but as a seasoned Mario Kart drifter, I found this bizarrely un-fun. Skids are incredibly difficult to control at the best of times in this most floaty of driving games, and attempting to maintain any drift doesn’t feel cool and exciting, but rather fiddly and frustrating. Perhaps I’ll eventually master it, but it’s not an appealing prospect.

Drag races are precisely that, but then how could they not be a drag? It’s about driving a car in a straight line for a bit. The method to make it gamey is surprisingly poor, rendering it a game of computer golf more than anything else: Before you move forward you must accelerate such that you don’t exceed a green line on a graphic. Then when the lights are green you must accelerate until a dial hits a small green block and change gear. Get the gear changes in the green sections and you win. It doesn’t explain any of that, I should say – but once I’d worked out what it wanted from me, I got a “Perfect” straight away, and that seemed to be that. You don’t even get to deploy the parachute yourself.

But obviously monster trucks was the addition with the most potential. And pleasingly, they’ve built huge, daft monster truck assault courses, allowing The Crew to borrow from the last driving game it hadn’t nicked something out of yet – Trackmania. These are silly, lumbering cars that you attempt to leap about and loop-the-loop, collecting tokens as you go to create your score. And while not particularly special, it’s fun enough. Monster trucks are inherently entertaining simply by being a thing human beings have ensured exists – bumbling about in one is a pleasing diversion from the bland nothing-driving that forms most of this game.

There are Summits you can take part in, that require you to complete qualifying events, and then you can enter monthly competitions against other drivers. I’m impressed with anyone who commits to a game like this for such a thing – clearly there will be an audience, but it’s an audience that surprises me.

I’m absolutely stumped as to what’s supposed to look better. Admittedly, it’s been a year since I last looked at the game, but I don’t remember its being particularly ugly back then, and it’s not strikingly gorgeous now. At full whack it’s still scratchy in places, blandly textured in most. (Although I’m delighted to note that Chicago’s L tracks are still stood on columns that stick out the middle of lanes in the road.)

A year ago I called it Test Burnout Need For Paradise Shift Unlimited, and the same remains true. It’s a mishmash of every other game, most of all Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Test Drive Unlimited, confused about what it wants to be at every turn. However, it’s still horribly poorly presented, the bewildering screens of tasks and numbers difficult to close, let alone figure out what they’re supposed to be telling you.

I love the ambition of The Crew – this MMO-like online world of car gangs. But I just don’t feel it, even now with the addition of monster trucks and bikes. There’s a whole bunch of stuff to do, but none of it feels interesting. They’ve accidentally made themselves a very straight driving game – it feels more like something that should have bold italicised white words reading, “DRIVING ABOUT SIMULATOR” and the instructions in German. It doesn’t thrill, races don’t feel amazing, exploration is unrewarding with every city feeling flat and dreary. Adding more probably felt like the right thing to do, but it’s more of a fundamentally humdrum game. One thing it absolutely never feels is wild.

23 Comments

  1. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I think he likes it, guys.

    • gu3rilla77 says:

      yea me too…i´ll add a longer comment to this article …

  2. trjp says:

    I played a fair bit of the original game – it’s absolutely and completely bland and does nothing special in any way whatsoever.

    It just has SO MUCH stuff to do that you can, if you wish, ignore it’s mundanity and actually enjoy yourself anyway because there’s always something else going-on.

    Not sure they could do anything but ‘add more stuff’ – to make a more exciting or interesting game would require they throw pretty-much everything away and that wasn’t going to happen.

    Certainly I’d play this before visible tripe like NFS: Rivals tho

    • trjp says:

      So I threw an hour into the ‘improved’ version of the game and – erm – I’m actually quite impressed.

      Handling is better – esp offroad. It’s not amazing, it’s definately better.

      Graphics are MUCH better, the game now looks like a game from the 201xs and not 2006 – and it doesn’t seem to be at any performance penalty either, which is a bonus (the title was demanding before and still is but I’m seeing the same fps now as before in a MUCH MUCH better looking game)

      Do I need bikes, drag, drift and monster trucks? Probably not yet, I’m only Level 18 – plenty to do before I spend money but it does kinda nag you a bit – the extras are there (it’s not NFS:MW remake levels of DLC pisstaking but it’s there)

      Overall tho – it’s a better game than before and that’s a good thing. It’s still got a TONNE of stuff to do, it still does online well (I don’t have the connection issues it seems – I see tonnes of people to play with – maybe too many at times!!)

      Worthwhile update – oh yeah.

  3. Banks says:

    Congratulations Ubisoft, you made monstertrucks boring.

    • trjp says:

      In fairness there have been MANY shitty Monster Truck games – this is far from the first – or the worst!

  4. PopeRatzo says:

    I’m surprised John wasn’t able to find other players. I’m sure it has to do with his connection. A year ago I had a similar problem that fixed itself after I forwarded a port. Now, I get other players all the time. The PvP is really pretty good and varied and I don’t find crewing up with other players to be a problem at all.

    Yesterday, I was driving around trying to get used to the new drift spec cars when some other player in a monster truck came climbing over the highway embankment and rolled over my car, knocking me into tomorrow. It’s that kind of random encounter that I find most endearing about The Crew. I really like the game, but you have to tweak it to your preferences. For me, it mostly means turning the in-game music off and playing my Spotify racing game playlist in the background. It’s like a 5000-song Burnout Paradise songlist only with music I really like a lot.

    Now that it’s on sale, I would recommend anyone who’s sitting on the fence about this game to give it a try.

  5. Blackcompany says:

    The game is pretty much crap.

    Terrible car handling. Tachometers dont function properly or mean anything. Mirrors dont work. The writing is absolutely dreadful. Mandatory story missions are some of the worst I have seen, even in a Ubi game, and it has all the Ubi game gimmicks like unlocking parts of the map, etc, by finding radar dishes.

    About the only fun to be had here is driving around. And I can do that in ETS2.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Henke says:

    “Promising a ‘best of’ of the United States, it delivered a game world that didn’t feel much bigger than rivals like Fuel.”

    That’s like the opposite of damning with faint praise. Fuel was HUGE.

    • grundus says:

      Praising with faint damnation?

      I tried the beta way back, it seemed alright but nothing too special. Even though the game was objectively fucking awful in most respects I still somehow enjoyed cruising around in TDU2, The Crew HAS to be better than that but I don’t think it’s worth what they’re asking to find out.

      And yeah, Fuel had one of the biggest and most featureless maps I’ve ever seen in a game, I’d be interested to know how The Crew compares to ETS2 or Just “Why Are You Driving Stop Driving Immediately” Cause 2.

      • trjp says:

        Fuel was a terrible game – the map was enormous, true, it took HOURS to get anywhere tho.

        There is a market for ‘just drive around and have fun’ games but few games cater for it. The Crew does do this – there’s lots to see and you can just drive around and see it. There are challenges along the way to stop you getting bored etc. but you can just drive around and explore.

        It’s in another sport from TDU and TDU2 which were weird titles I could never really love.

        It’s problem – if it has one – is that it has no stand-out feature. It really is an MMO, you get a car and you slog through the world gradulally improving it, occasionally replacing it and generally working towards ‘nothing’ – yup, it’s an MMO

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I gave up TDU2 because the servers were down more than they were up. The Crew is just an acceptable substitute, nothing more.

  7. Blackrook says:

    I’ve played a few hours on the update and it can be fun.
    But mainly that is messing about with friends rather than solo or randoms crew.

    It could be better yes but I’ve spent money on far worse,
    and I hope they do an improved crew2.

  8. gu3rilla77 says:

    Okay, maybe RPS shouldnt let people comment on games who cant even properly play it…

    1st: I NEVER had any connection issues of any kind, except maybe 2 or 3 disconnects in over a year… The world is pretty full with players, especially since Wild Run released…

    2nd: Stunts… They seem boring a bit, but at least its something you can do while – what i do alot – you drive across the ((another one of the blablas above)) country just like that… The game world btw is nice, bigger than any free roam racing game i ever got to play and not half as empty , lets just say, NFS World… I bet NFS 2015 will not be any better in that regard and 10X smaller if thats enough… Also the stunts get more and more challenging the further you progress and earn you a good ammount of money while just cruising around… That was actually a nice addition, even if not an award winning game design concept…

    3rd: Drag Races…They are great fun, and i HONESTLY don´t know how the author of this “critic” would have done it, other than “make a perfekt burnout” and “shift at the right time”, because thats – aside from the set up – thats ALL drag races are about…shifting at the right time… plus: congrats, you managed to figure out how it works… did you try beating your best times? there´s a little more to it than just hitting the green spot…

    4th: Monster Trucks: Well, see above…how would you have done it? I think the stunting is a more interesting way than jumping over a pile of broken cars over and over again…

    Grafics are way better now, handling is far better and it´s not even finished for some cars yet… and i´d take The Crew´s handling over NFS´s stiff gluey railway handling any day…

    and the game world, as mentioned, is large and NOT empty…there´s so much lovely detail in it…of course if you constantly use auto-travel and just run highspeed on highways with a tunnel view, you´ll never see that… i mean seriously…name ONE open world driving game with a more living world… GTA doesnt count…

    • gu3rilla77 says:

      oh i forgot to mention the self created races… pretty nice addition to the free roam as well, if you have any friends… if not, you can random search for some, and -other than the author claims- it´s not a problem to find some… you can earn money and loot with them, not as much as in “real” races, but that´s okay, would be too easy to exploit otherwise…

    • gu3rilla77 says:

      not a word about the Summit events, well…you seem to have tested the hell out of it…for 10 minutes before your connection died…

      Summit is a most interesting thing with several disciplines in several “qualifier events” before the big thing starts… you fight for a higher rank in any or all of those disciplines, and PvP is only one of them… really looking forward to the Summit main event starting on monday, i already earned my silver medals…

      • gu3rilla77 says:

        last words: one thing the author has right is this:… the crew shines the most if you play with friends, because there is SO much to do and have fun with, and you can fill the world with life yourself… its a multiplayer game, and me and my friends still can laugh our bottoms off and enjoy the game, even more so thanks to Wild Run… 30 bucks i´ll not regret…

  9. KenTWOu says:

    The Crew doesn’t like my internet connection. It calls it “Moderate”… It says my “NAT Type” is “Strict”…

    Sounds like typical p2p issue, John. I mean, typical issue for the most of the recent Ubisoft games which don’t use client-server based multiplayer. You’re sitting behind ISP’s NAT, so you don’t have external ‘white’ IP-address. That’s why the game said that your NAT type is strict or moderate. That’s why you have connection issues and disconnects with players who have stricter internet connections. If nothing else helps, there is only one way to fix that: buy external IP-address.

    • Elliot Lannigan says:

      what the actual frack. companies making always-online games should always invest in dedicated servers for said games. not doing so SCREAMS “we don’t really care we’re just putting out this game to fill a whole in our catalog”. and in no case is it reasonable to expect a customer to change their internet just to be able to play a game. there is nothing unusual about John’s internet situation, there is something unusual about a game being that sucky with a standard internet connection in 2015.

      but then I’m probably responding to a Ubi-contracted marketing comment so what’s the point….

      • KenTWOu says:

        Look, I tried to be as neutral as possible. I didn’t say Ubisoft is absolutely right here. I did say it’s a typical issue for p2p based games. John had troubles with the game not because The Crew has issues, but because p2p protocol has cons. It does have pros too. So there is a chance that The Crew will work as intended if your internet connection is good enough for that kind of games. I have a feeling that John doesn’t completely understand this, otherwise he didn’t mention his 73.9Mbps bandwidth, because there is no point to do it. And I was talking about John, he is a reviewer, he needs to sort this thing out. Cause I want to be able to make an informed decision based on RPS articles, I’m sure other readers want that too.

        • iainl says:

          And yet, mysteriously, John doesn’t raise this every other time he reviews a game that doesn’t use dedicated servers. It’s an Ubisoft problem, not a P2P problem.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Because we’re talking about p2p games. If the game says to you that your “NAT type” is “strict” and there are not enough players with better connections around you your experience will suck. So the more popular the game, the less issues you have. The difference is The Crew clearly says to you that your connection sucks, while some other p2p games don’t say anything at all. They have simplified match making menus and that’s it. So you’ll be able to find other players’ sessions, but won’t be able to invite a friend or find players creating your own session, because you won’t be able to initiate p2p communications because of NAT traversal issues at your end.