The Crew

Ubisoft’s open-world racer spins out in a painful beta


360, PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Crew is a rac­ing MMOG that pulls in such dis­parate el­e­ments as Watch Dogs’ cell­phone UI, As­sas­sin’s Creed’s un­fold­ing map and Far Cry 2’ s health sys­tem. It has a thou­sand pop-up chal­lenges on an open-world map so densely cov­ered with ob­jec­tives and mis­sions that few play­ers will ever see it all, and it fea­tures a po-faced story that’s fault­lessly earnest even in the face of the most pre­dictable car­i­ca­tures and stereo­types in all of videogames. It’s a tent­pole Ubisoft game, all right.

But while all those familiar faces may not seem like a nat­u­ral fit for a racer, only the story is de­trac­tive. The sys­tems Ubisoft re­cy­cles again and again – the van­tage point in As­sas­sin’s Creed be­comes the ra­dio tower in Far Cry be­comes the trans­mit­ter in Watch Dogs be­comes the GPS sta­tion in The Crew – are re­cy­cled be­cause they work, and if it all seems a lit­tle too com­fort­able now, there might be a rea­son for that.

“Ubisoft and all the other com­pa­nies have to be care­ful that they’re not ex­haust­ing peo­ple with th­ese me­chan­ics,” says The Crew’s cre­ative direc­tor, Ju­lian Gerighty. “[But] I think we’re in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion where we play pretty much any game that’s out there and see sim­i­lar me­chan­ics, whether that’s As­sas­sin’s Creed or In­fa­mous: Sec­ond Son. Not ev­ery­body has our luxury of play­ing all th­ese ti­tles. For me, there are other ways to do [ra­dio tow­ers], but they would have been im­pos­si­ble to achieve in the time frame that we had to launch the game. We have to push our­selves to find bet­ter ways and do some­thing; for now, I think this works.”

Ubisoft is tak­ing no risks with the game’s older sys­tems, but ex­tra­or­di­nary risk with the newer ones it tested in the game’s public

beta in late July. The Crew’s con­densed US presents a mas­sive chal­lenge for Ubisoft’s QA team. There are thou­sands of miles of road and count­less pos­si­ble in­ter­ac­tions with other play­ers and AI traf­fic to ac­count for in a world so large that even a team of hun­dreds couldn’t ex­plore it com­pletely.

In the beta code, which dates from be­fore E3, the cars’ moon physics made coast-to­coast driv­ing less of a plea­sure than was in­tended to be. Play­ers still did it – “We’ve seen a lot of peo­ple pick up the beta, and as soon as they fin­ish the pro­logue, go to Los An­ge­les,” Gerighty says – but with enough glitches along the way to cause con­cern.

“There was a lot of be­hind-the-scenes work and a lot of very late nights from the tech team,” Gerighty tells us. “All round Ubisoft, we were work­ing on mak­ing sure the hic­coughs that we ran into were solved as quickly as pos­si­ble. There are still hun­dreds of bugs in the game that are amus­ing when you put them on YouTube, but I’m con­fi­dent the big things peo­ple are con­cerned about – col­li­sions be­ing one – will be ad­dressed for the fi­nal ver­sion. We don’t have a huge amount of time, but we’ve still got time.”

And time is The Crew’s en­emy right now. The UI is still a cum­ber­some thing, and poor pre­sen­ta­tion has made the econ­omy a sub­ject of com­mu­nity con­cern. “This is a real con­cern for us, too,” Gerighty ad­mits. “Play­ers have said cars are too ex­pen­sive, but we want to make ev­ery car mean­ing­ful. Serge [Has­coet, Ubisoft’s chief cre­ative of­fi­cer] was push­ing us to make sure that play­ers un­der­stood that your first car is a mar­riage – it’s a com­mit­ment between you and this ma­chine for a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time. That’s re­ally a mo­ment we’re go­ing to un­der­line.”

“Play­ers have said cars are too ex­pen­sive, but we want to make ev­ery car mean­ing­ful”

And there’s plenty more on the to-do list. “Are we go­ing to be able to im­prove han­dling? Ab­so­lutely. One of our big­gest chal­lenges over the last 12 months has been sim­pli­fy­ing the UI. Can we im­prove it in the time we have left? Yes. Things like voice chat? Def­i­nitely. The dif­fi­culty will be bal­anced. And if you want to just drive, you’ll be able to turn ev­ery chal­lenge off. “We’ve had peo­ple from the Test Drive

Un­lim­ited com­mu­nity playtest it, and one of the guys’ feed­back was, ‘Hey, guys, I don’t want to play any of the chal­lenges; I just want to be able to drive around and ex­plore.’ This is from a guy who builds his own cock­pit and steer­ing wheel set­ups. He’s done 5,000 hours on Test Drive. There are peo­ple who just want to ex­pe­ri­ence the open road, and we’re go­ing to give them the chance.”

Ev­i­dently, there’s a real com­mit­ment to ad­dress­ing player feed­back. But with such vol­umes to sort be­fore Novem­ber, Ivory Tower and Re­flec­tions are go­ing to have to floor it to get The Crew ready in time.

TheCrew’s muted colour pal­ette uni­fies the game’s var­ied en­vi­ron­ments, no mat­ter the weather, but that unity comes at the cost of a drab brown colour scheme

TOP Cars can be taken apart and re­built with com­po­nents de­signed for ev­ery ter­rain, dra­mat­i­cally chang­ing their han­dling and cos­metic char­ac­ter­is­tics.

ABOVE TheCrew’s minia­ture recre­ations of ma­jor cities look good un­til com­pared against their coun­ter­parts in games where just one city is the star; stack­ing it against Watch­Dogs’ Chicago is es­pe­cially cruel

ABOVE A mix of cir­cuit and point-to-point races play out on ev­ery type of ter­rain, and Raid mis­sions are a mas­sively mul­ti­player take on the likes of ChaseHQ. The Crew isn’t short on va­ri­ety

The Koenigseggs and Fer­raris that oc­cupy the high­est end of TheCrew’s un­lock curve take hours of work to reach, mak­ing the sight of them on the open road an un­com­mon one

The low sun does even­tu­ally set, with the golden hour giv­ing way to pure white head­lights, but day­time is pure Amer­i­cana, all god rays and shim­mer­ing as­phalt

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.