Best Coast: Our Road Trip Across The US In The Crew

The Crew is free this month from Ubisoft, just two years on from its release. Back then it received mixed reviews. But free is free, and the size of the game’s open world – a huge recreation of the United States – is intriguing enough to entice Adam and Brendan to revisit the racer with a challenge in mind. Who can get from East coast to the West coast the fastest? Ready, set, go.


Cape Cod is a nice place, once you turn off your entire HUD. I’ve been driving around in a cheap Ford Mustang enjoying the night-time seaside as much as possible and it is only when I go into the options and disable all the notifications, alerts, driver markers, quest blips and mission arrows that I feel like I can go on this road trip. A clear screen is a clear head.

Originally, Adam and I were supposed to go on our journey together but technical bumps and time differences meant we would have to go our separate ways. He would be travelling to the West coast through the dry southern states. Meanwhile, I would be taking the northern route through the mountains. Whoever reached Los Angeles in the shortest time would be crowned the King of Cars That Travel Quickly. I had read on Wikipedia that going from coast to coast takes only 45 minutes in this game. That’s how long it will probably take, I told Adam. Wikipedia is a good source.

At Cape Cod I rev up, begin my stopwatch and speed off through the night, heading inland. The handling of the cars themselves has improved since I last had my hands on this. But that may have something to do with the driving styles I’ve cycled through in the settings – there’s normal (computer assisted) and hardcore (non-assisted) and something called ‘street’ which I guess is in-between. I use this middle ground option and it makes the driving a lot smoother than I remember. Still not great, but better. As I pass Chicago, I turn the in-game music off. I go to YouTube and turn on a Johnny Cash playlist instead. It’s a big improvement.

It’s a straight highway past the city but eventually I hit the badlands of the midwest, which give way to the mountains of the north. Snow appears around me, pine trees. The road quickly becomes much slippier. There’s two routes through Yellowstone – a highway and a more scenic road – and I decide to take the snaking countryside road. This is a mistake.

There are a bunch of different ‘specs’ for your cars. Cross country specs can drive on dirt, sand and snow much easier than amped-up street-racing specs, for example. I only have the latter kind of vehicle and it is very difficult to handle on these frozen roads. I’m slipping all over the place. Every turn becomes a drift. One crash into a van causes the police to make a brief call about me. “Dangerous driver spotted,” they say. But I won’t have a problem with the cops until later. They quickly forget about me and I keep on slaloming through the mountain park. I crash multiple times.

You can hold ‘B’ to get teleported back onto the track but I have always disliked this mechanic and decide that it isn’t in the spirit of the journey. This isn’t a direct race – just a time trial against a ghostly, off-screen Adam. It doesn’t feel like an urgent necessity to hammer this ‘back on track’, like it might in the game’s story mode or PvP multiplayer. Each time I crash, I slowly reverse and get back on the road.

I’m already 40 minutes into the drive when I reach the halfway mark, near Salt Lake City. Johnny Cash is blaring ‘One Piece At A Time’, which is apt and distracting. A wild bear runs out in front of the car.

After calmly taking the above photograph using the photo mode, I swerve to miss the bear, which is a weird reaction because a previous encounter with what I think were foxes taught me you can’t actually hurt things in this racer. They just clip around your car, as if you gave them a rude nudge. This is one of those inconsistencies that irks me. The game sets up such a wonderful environment – snow, music, speed, the countryside, wildlife – and then that atmosphere is snatched away the minute you melt through an elk or “phase” through a fence. Anyway, the idiot bear survived.

As I’m going past Salt Lake the snow starts to disappear. A light raincloud soaks everything and things become green.

This lasts for about 60 seconds before the desert appears.

Las Vegas is looming in the distance and that means I’m close to my destination. For the first time in 25 minutes I can use my nitro boost without spinning out of control. But now I have a decision to make – south takes me to LA much faster. But north has better sights. One hour into the trip, I decide to add some more time to the clock. I go north. Why not?

But I also want to spice things up. I decide the best way to do this is to ram a police car as I leave Las Vegas. The policeman shudders off the road and hollers over the radio, blue and red lights flash, an angry prompt appears – I am the “most wanted”. This means police cars will come to get me.

Except they won’t. Just as I’m relishing the prospect of an epic chase across the salt flats (“Ha ha, I bet Adam isn’t going to have a cool chase sequence”) a timer appears overhead and counts down. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and then the cops give up. I’m disappointed. I concede this is a racer – not GTA – but what’s the point of a cop if he doesn’t chase you down? I would later learn that you need to raise your wanted level to get longer chases with added police. I was only a 1-star scumbag. Not even worth a spike strip.

Nevertheless, I belt through the salt flats – a train runs parallel to me. Hello, train!

When I reach the lush green of the famous redwood forests in northern California, I try again to provoke the cops by bashing into random NPC cars in a policed area. But again the single policeman assigned to patrol this area soon gives up the chase. Everyone is always saying the police in America are shooting everybody, but I honestly don’t see how. They’re rubbish.

Winding through the redwoods I catch my first glimpse of the coast. I’ve made it. I check my stopwatch. It’s been 1 hour 25 minutes since I left Cape Cod. I pull up to the seaside to take a well-deserved photograph and immediately crash into some rocks.

I put myself into reverse and spend the next 5 minutes extricating myself from this position. I refuse to hold down ‘B’.

Finally, I get out and achieve the photo I wanted.

I’ll say this for The Crew: as a racer it is wonky and bloated. But as an environment, it’s lovely. The photo mode which I’ve been using to take all these images clearly understands that the player might take more pleasure in the destination than the journey – a bizarre inversion of the true road trip. I probably still couldn’t recommended this to anyone at full price – there are many better racing games – but for free? Absolutely, take it for a spin. If only to see the vistas, the geography, the invincible bears that run in front of your car.

But I still had to get to LA. I sped off again. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to ride the winding coastal roads, and I had to take a shortcut through a surburban neighbourhood to even get on the right road for the Golden Gate bridge. I blurred through San Francisco, barely stopping to ram the city’s policeman.

As I reach the palm trees of Santa Barbara, LA comes over the horizon. At this stage I’m ramming almost every car I see. It’s only when you don’t bother to steer that you really see what an odd experience driving in The Crew can be, bouncing off everything, sliding across obstacles. I hit several cars full-whack, only to be shunted to one side – teleported, more like. During my race across the US I only crashed in true, Burnout slow-mo fashion once. I also ran over several pedestrians. None of them are hospitalised.

I enter LA as night falls. It has taken a single in-game day to drive the length of the country and more. I park up on the beach, next to the Pacific Park fairground and stop my timer – 1 hour and 46 minutes. I looked out at the sea, glowing in the moonlight, casting a blanket of fairground lights across the waves.

Wikipedia, I reflected, is a fucking liar.

I wonder how Adam did?

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  1. Warp15 says:

    A Great idea and tips. Is the Crew available for the PS4? Thanks for posting the link on twitter.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    The Crew has the best looking post-apocalyptic portrayal of North America that I’ve ever experienced.

    • Premium User Badge

      HothMonster says:

      It’s certainly the best map of the US. All the endlessly long and impossibly flat states wiped out by the ever expanding Rocky mountains.

      • Plake says:

        Driving from Chicago to LA is a great digital reliving of the route 66 road trip i did 2 years ago. This is the best open world map any racer ever had!

  3. Llewyn says:

    Excellent read, chaps. Think I’ll have to give this a go, the road trip experience is something I enjoy a lot.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Just a friendly tip to anyone who might visit New Orleans in the future: feel free to skip Bourbon St. It’s mostly composed of strip clubs and overpriced bars and reeks of vomit. But anything east of Esplanade Ave. is golden, lots of good food and live music.

  5. Someoldguy says:

    Looks fun for a few hours cruising the highways. Unfortunately this means I completely missed the previous posts about free Ubi games and I’ve missed Rayman, dammit.

    • Llewyn says:

      In that case I guess you’ve missed these in the Ubi Humble Bundle (I think twice now) as well – it looks to me like the games they’re giving away are the ones they included in the bundle.

      But I’m not posting this to be a “Ha ha, you could have had all these ages ago for a donation to your favourite charity” ass. Given the way some bundles repeat, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Ubi & Humble run that one again at the end of their giveaway year, so it might be worth looking out for.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    The obligatory free game that came with my GTX 970 was a choice between this, Assassins Creed Unity (i.e. the broken one), and Far Cry 4. The Right Choice was an absolute no-brainer, but I am at least a little interested to try this now that it’s free. Racing coast-to-coast was a real cool idea for an article, too. Nice one guys. I only wish the map wasn’t quite so truncated as it may have been fun hearing tales of fraying minds as you travel through the bleak, endless nothingness that spans so much of this country, sadist that I am. I once took a road trip to Austin, TX, from Minneapolis, MN. It was only one road the whole way down and still took a full 24 hours, non-stop (except for fuel and peeing — we had a rotation of 10 drivers across two cars).

  7. Neurotic says:

    21.5 Gb downloading now, Captain.

  8. TheDreamlord says:

    Excellent read and really good idea to make use of this free offer (as I found the game to be severely lacking, the hour or two I spent with it last week).

  9. Paul says:

    The Crew Wild Run is actually amazing. Once you set the “hardcore” preset with manual transmission, disable all HUD elements except maybe the map, use incar cockpit view and preferably use wheel (Thrustmasters are supported flawlessly right down to button labels), there really is nothing like it for pure joy of cruising. Except EuroTruck, but, you know..trucks. Here I can take cross country road trip in a Ferarri 458 Speciale or Nissan Skyline or some glorious 70s muscle cars or in Corvette or McLaren F1.
    There are tons of landmarks to enjoy, photo mode is great, ingame soundtrack radio is actually really good and varied (the ambient one is the best, although the one with Glitch Mob is great too). And on PC it looks beautiful and runs in glorious 60fps to boot.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      That actually makes it sound worth the download, however the idea that you can compress down the vistas, exploration and experience of a 40+ hour journey into less then 2 is a real hammer to the head of someone who is *all* about the journey, period, not the racing or whatever passes for a plot in this game.

  10. poliovaccine says:

    As an American who frequently gets a kick out of little Briticisms I never knew, or which I simply delight to see in earnest use, seeing you folks regard America with fresh eyes, even if only thru the lens of The Crew, is a nice treat haha. Not that you’ve made any egregious cultural gaffes or anything, I just get a kick out of it.

    Btw, the scale kinda surprises me, if it really took a whole ingame day. I happen to know you can get from east to west coast in 48 hours, less in fact, in meatworld/real life – provided you don’t sleep (or have a co-pilot and sleep in shifts) and do most of your consumption in the car (you can still stop and get out for excretion..), and it may depend on the fact that the car was an Aston Martin, and that the co-pilots were both twisted on good old fashioned American Stimulants(tm) – which, while maybe a little unusual, is probably a closer approximation of you guys’ experience in The Crew – or at least the *car’s* experience… haha

  11. TheSplund says:

    An interesting ‘pair’ of articles – and pretty well the only reason I’d play The Crew after trying the demo.
    It’s a shame that when I went to tryout my newly installed freebie that the game servers were down preventing all, including SP, play unavailable. Oh Ubisoft!

  12. hanshanshans says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We need a truck simulator game in the Crew’s game world.

  13. trashbat says:

    I have the freebie but I have a question. Does it include the Wild Run DLC? I can’t figure this out.

    The splash screen and so on have the Wild Run graphics, so I assume it does, but then it keeps prompting me to buy the DLC, so I don’t know.

    • Paul says:

      It is confusing. Free Crew includes the graphics and weather update that was part of Wild Run release, so the game is branded with it. But the actual expansion content (bikes, monster trucks, drags, Summit) is not included and must be purchased separately if one wants it.

  14. Windows98 says:

    Just downloaded after reading this article, and it’s impossible to get past the splash screen because the servers are down.

    • Windows98 says:

      To be fair it looks like it’s planned maintenance:

      “We will be performing a maintenance, Wednesday, September 21st, from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM CEST (Paris Time) on PS4, PC and Xbox One.”

  15. Wilco1985 says:

    I’ve been playing with a couple of friends for a few days now and this game still has a lot of bugs for a game that came out 2 years ago.

    Including: constant crashes on startup, random crashes during the game, falling through the geometry of the terrain, inability to join friends (ubisoft support makes you forward ports on the router which is odd for a mmo type game), races dissapearing while executing them (leaving you with no reward). And I could go on for a while.

    Messing with the settings on all of our routers helped to some extent, but on average we still need 15 minutes of retrying and tinkering to get four players in a crew.

    The game is fun when it works but if I paid any money for it, I would ask for a refund. If you are looking for a single player experience or want to play with randoms it is allright though.

    • Paul says:

      That’s weird. Do all your friends experience these bugs? Tried verifying install cache ? I am asking because I have over 140 hours played since january and I have had zero crashes, falls through geometry or races disappearing on me. I do play solo so I never tried joining with other people though.

    • Blackrook says:

      I agree syncing with Friends can be a pain the butt.
      But overall I’ve had little problem with the game.
      Its nice just to cruise about and play silly buggers.

      Also been enjoying the wildrun expansion as the summit gives a little focus to encourage people to complete the skills and get better scores. And the bikes and monster trucks also give a bit more variety over the base game.

    • Wilco1985 says:

      Yeah, most of those problems happened to multiple people. Falling through the geometry happened twice to me and twice to my friends, that I know of. It has only happened on bridges and elevated highways though, so you land below it, instead of falling of the map as it where. I have validated the cache and tried a completely fresh install as well.

      Glad to hear that there are people who experience far less problems than we have.

  16. ludde says:

    Why no clickable screens?

  17. Isometric says:

    I too enjoy the musical styling of Best Coast.

  18. Player1 says:

    Car handling is nahhh, graphics are mehhh, but if you switch to cockpit view just cruising around the lands is quite fun and relaxing. I need to ask some of my friends to do a cross-country-race like you did, it sounds fun.

  19. N'Al says:

    Do Fuel next?

  20. warenhaus says:

    a now-familiar sense of loneliness crept back into the car and into the passenger seat. To be accompanied by loneliness might seem a strange thing, but then this was a strange trip.

    Is this a reference to Moustaki’s “Ma Solitude”? If not, it should be. link to

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