The Crew Motorfest preview: Throw it at the wall, see what sticks

The Crew Motorfest preview: Throw it at the wall, see what sticks
Images courtesy of Ubisoft

Written by 

Dawson Roberts

Published 

12th Jun 2023 19:15

The Crew Motorfest is changing the series' formula extensively, taking things away from the giant recreation of the US and placing you on the colourful island of Hawaii.

While much of what the game is doing feels new for the franchise, it also seems like, now more than ever, this might get lost in the racing game shuffle - despite still offering plenty to enjoy.

Brand new Crew

What made the first two iterations of The Crew stand out from the typical open-world car games of late was that aforementioned recreation of America. Even if you ignored all the set races, stories and events, just road-tripping around different states and creating your own path was incredibly fun.

When Forza Horizon 4 took things to the UK, it never felt like you were driving around places you knew, and even being from England, driving around The Crew’s version of America still felt more exciting.

During our short 30-minute demo, we didn’t get to explore the open world at all, but we did get a glimpse of different parts of Hawaii inside of a few races. From the small glimpses I've seen, it seems to suffer from that same issue that Forza Horizon 4 had, in that its location feels a little restrictive because it can only offer as much variety as its real-world counterpart.

That’s something I say, even ignoring that this game is now just repeating the same car festival theme that the Horizon franchise was built on.

Just land, no sea or air

The Crew Motorfest screenshot the start of a race
Click to enlarge

Taking the game out of the US isn’t the only significant change; The Crew 2 also introduced boats and planes, both of which were incredibly fun to use and neither of which are returning for The Crew Motorfest.

It made exploring the map a lot more engaging, and the fact you could switch vehicles at the touch of a button was a fun twist, albeit one replicated in some fashion by LEGO 2K Drive. With Motorfest, you are now solely stuck to the ground, with no transformation in sight.

Thankfully driving feels as good as ever. The Crew has always taken a more arcadey approach to racing, and no matter what car you are in, it’s easy to pick up and start drifting around corners in no time. If you're looking for an accurate sim that emphasises the very modular aspects of driving, this might not be for you.

Still, if you're like me and want to drive around the fastest, coolest-looking cars, there is still plenty to enjoy.  One thing to note that is very exciting is that Motorfest will allow you to transfer all of your vehicles from The Crew 2 to Motorfest - free of charge. Now my collection of Lightning McQueen-styled sports cars can come with me to Hawaii, and I can 'Kachow' around an entire island.

Perfect playlist

The Crew Motorfest screenshot showing a Japan-themed event
Click to enlarge

The big focus of this preview was on the new Playlist feature; pre-designed sets of events usually themed around different cars or settings.

For example, the “Made in Japan” playlist puts you in Japanese cars as the world suddenly fills with neon lights and giant dragons; you work through different contests and unlock new cars/parts as you go through each of them.

It feels like a much more dramatic step up from the Crew 2-themed events, where certain races would plunge you into black and white or even become movie sets. Reskins of areas make things feel fresh, but design elements in the initial Japan race did feel a little repetitive after a couple of corners.

The “Vintage Garage” playlist was the main one I got to play around with, and the first trial turned the island into a 50’s haven; it removed your mini-map, and instead, you have to find your way around the island using pictures of landmarks.

The Crew Motorfest screenshot showing decades themed racing
Click to enlarge

There's themed music, a sepia tone and, of course, retro cars to boot. This was by far the most fun I had during the demo; I was forced to engage with my surroundings and take everything in instead of just following a set line the entire time.

It’s unclear how consistently fresh and engaging the races in these playlists are. I got to experience the first and last events of the vintage playlist, and while the first was unique, the final one was a simple race with tonnes of balloons scattered around, each representing different decades. It’s a stark contrast to the creativity of the first part of the playlist and one that left me questioning whether or not the other six races would be distinctive at all.

Winning Formula?

The Crew Motorfest screenshot showing F1 cars
Click to enlarge

Another new addition is the introduction of enclosed F1-style races. These differ from typical street races by being on looping tracks that mirror traditional circuit-based affairs, and while controlling a car that reaches incredible speeds seems initially difficult, it’s made even more so by the new grip system.

As you drive around these courses, a large green bar appears at the top of the screen, indicating how much grip your tires have. The bar depletes as you drive around, and you have to make calculated pit stops to fill it back up. It’s a surface-level attempt at adding F1 mechanics and one that could be expanded upon in the full game, but even at its most basic, it does add an engaging layer that makes it memorable.

Through a big opening montage, we also got to play around briefly with off-road races, and as expected, they are by far the most visually stunning. Driving through luscious green forests and foliage reminds me why I love open-world racing games, and when mixed with the slick drifting around muddy corners and through tight gaps, it all feels fantastic to play.

Final Thoughts

The Crew Motorfest is still holding a lot of its cards close to its chest, and for what it's worth, it isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong, but it's also not doing anything incredible.

Driving has retained that arcadey feel that previous entries have, and if the events we’ve seen consistently innovate with each playlist, there's a lot of room for creativity.

I sit and think about what the rest of the game has to offer, and even though I haven’t even set foot into the supposedly vast open world, it feels like The Crew is giving up its identity with the removal of the US-spanning map.

In an increasingly homogenised genre, once you take out the planes, boats and recreation of the US, what makes Motorfest stand out? What's here is fun, but is that enough to stand out from the pack?

Dawson Roberts is a Social Editor at GGRecon. He primarily works on the @ GGRecon TikTok page producing daily news videos and opinion pieces for millions of viewers. When not being berated for his terrible opinions, Dawson loves to obsess about Lightning Mcqueen, The Last of Us, and all Hideo Kojima-related things!

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