I like The Crew Motorfest about as much as The Crew Motorfest likes Forza Horizon.
For the record, that’s quite a lot.
Which is a bit of luck too, as it feels like perfect timing for Ubisoft to boldly go where no developer has gone before (or at least not for a few years) to revive their open world racer. Just as Microsoft and the Forza legions start setting eyes back on the track with the rebooted Forza Motorsport, a space in the more ‘wild’ scene opens up.
The Crew Motorfest fills that space. And then some.
Coming off the back of two previous games – The Crew and The Crew 2 – The Crew Motorfest ups the ante. It takes the party atmosphere that has been honed on the open-world Forza scene and chucks some Crew magic on top. The result is the closest thing you’ll ever get to Playground’s finest, without actually being in México.
Similar climes await though. The Crew Motorfest is set on the roads, the tracks, the skies and the seas of Hawaii. But this hasn’t been replicated in full, with Ubisoft instead picking out the best bits of the island of O’ahu and condensing it all down into one manageable arena. Is it huge? No, not at all, but it’s a decent size that allows for a ton of exploration. We’re not sure we want it any bigger.
What you’re left with is an open world racer that is absolutely chock full of races, of events, of Feats, of secrets and more. And what with this being The Crew, we aren’t just limited to taking them in from behind the wheel; planes, boats and bikes feature too, although nowhere near as significantly as the cars themselves. It’s the four-wheeled vehicles that are mostly the stars.
The Crew Motorfest is all about having fun. Rarely serious, never limiting, it leaves you to work your way through a series of events, Playlists and Series, each one introduced with the most minimal of tutorials, giving insight into the Hawaiian culture and world.
It works brilliantly too, tasking the player to race at speed, or to follow signpostings, hunt collectibles and more. With navigation handled with aplomb, it’s never a hassle to move through the events, ticking off checkboxes as you go. And, frankly, the presentation of these events is second to none. We’ve sat back, jaw dropped, as some of the introductions to Playlists and short film segments have played out. There’s a real slick vibe going on and Ubisoft have utterly nailed many of the finest moments.
Throw in the odd Speed Trap, Escape and Bullseye events, Slaloms and the like, and there are also plenty of events to get on with away from the racing. And just when you think you’ve ticked everything off? A ton – and we mean, a ton – of further challenges will keep you motivated even longer. And that’s all without opening up the Main Stage, where the opportunities further arise, or acknowledging that The Crew Motorfest easily caters for those without an end goal, instead intent on just cruising the streets.
There’s no doubt about it, The Crew Motorfest is a big game. It’s one that we can see ourselves playing on the regular, timed perfectly as the Forza Horizon hype begins to slowly subside, readying for a return to the track.
And whilst Motorfest doesn’t hit the heights of the customisation allowed in other games, there’s still plenty that allow you to make the vehicles your own.
Aside from a fairly slow-to-load garage system, once you delve into upgrading and customising your whips, you’ll find everything associated with a street racing scene, or elements that the more laid back explorers will dream of. Many parts of vehicles can be swapped in and out, raising car classes as you go. And with a pretty robust in-game Bucks and Crew Credits points system – kicking around alongside the opportunity to purchase bits with real world money – it really doesn’t take long to start building up a garage of your favourite vehicles.
All the big names are present and correct as you’d expect to hear. Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and names of that ilk are complemented well with more serene modes of transport. Sometimes it’s just a joy to rock up in an old camper, taking in the sights and sounds of Hawaii as you go. Or to get behind the wheel of a little MINI or VW Beetle, hunting for secrets in the tightest of spots.
You’ll want to do that too as the land Ubisoft has created looks glorious. There’s real joy in driving to the top of a mountain to scour the surroundings below, whilst day trips out in a boat or up high in a plane rarely fail to excite. Perhaps it gets a bit tricky to fully navigate skies as darkness and the night roll in, but we’ve made it what we will. And honestly, we’ve actually enjoyed the times up in the air; plane handling feeling good. We’re less impressed with the boats and water-based antics, but then, we can’t have it all.
But it’s during the day as land-based events play out in which Hawaii sparkles. In fact, perhaps it sparkles and shines a bit too much, as there’s loads of gloss going on here. But in return, that does allow the superb paint jobs and liveries of various motors to take centre stage. And just in case you’re wondering how the actual vehicles look, then the answer is superb; detailed as you would expect. Aside from some more advanced damage models that we miss – but fully understand why they aren’t used, transitioning from plane to car and falling from 5000ft wouldn’t be pretty – we’ve not much to be concerned about with The Crew Motorfest’s visual clarity.
We also like the feel of things too. We’re not here to worry about whether Forza Horizon 5 or The Crew Motorfest is the better handling game, but we’ve certainly found the latter to be more than capable. Perhaps a little too slidey and slippy in certain moments, for the most part nail the throttle and you’ll experience car acceleration and handling like expected. Throw in a nos boost and your driving skills will need to be on point. And as you may expect to hear, various vehicles handle completely differently from each other; becoming one with each will ultimately prove to be where your success lies.
It’s here where we have a couple of issues with Motorfest though and at times we’ve found the difficulty of events to be a little up and down; particularly when moving from solo play to forming an online Crew. Some events seem a tad too easy solo, so much so that we’ve had the game constantly ask if we feel it best to up the difficulty a little. But Crew up and those exact same events shift the redline upwards, providing a seemingly impossible test. Yes, dictating difficulty and assists is no real hassle, but it’s strange how fast things switch up.
And there’s no doubt in the world that however you play The Crew Motorfest, you’ll find that the AI opponents you race against are brutal, taking no prisoners. They’ll not think twice about pushing you wide of a checkpoint, and will bump, grind, rub and race like the best of ‘em. We don’t mind it too much, always ready for the fight, but it’s certainly something to look out for.
We feel we must save a small paragraph for the mention of CARA too. Our AI companion/sat-nav/everyday-annoyance, CARA is more than happy to be on hand throughout your time in Motorfest, pointing you towards events, ensuring that you never get bored. Frankly, CARA needs to keep a little more quiet – if there’s one thing that annoys in The Crew Motorfest (aside from some tiny UI bugs) it is this motoring assistant. Helpful? Occasionally. But she seems to be far too chatty for an AI when all we want to do is get on with our own business.
And whilst we’re chatting audio, even though the cars sound superb, we’ve been left a tad deflated by the music on offer. Radio stations are par for the course in any racer of modern times, but aside from moments in which event specific songs play out, we’ve not really found much to sing along to.
Really though, no matter whether you’re a solo driver looking to explore the world or a hardcore Crew member hunting podiums, The Crew Motorfest is a brilliant racer. In fact, in many ways, it’s much more or a racer – more seen as an open-world motorsport fanatic’s dreamscape.
After years of having the open world racing scene dominated by Forza Horizon, Ubisoft have certainly found the right gear with The Crew Motorfest. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, this is one not to miss.