With the sequel arriving soon, Alex Nelson treks across virtual America in Ubisoft’s original driving epic, The Crew
Publisher Ubisoft / Developer Ivory Tower / format Xbox One / release date December 2014
As you zip across a (mostly) accurate recreation of (most of) the United States, no game captures the feeling of the Great American Road Trip like The Crew.
With a sequel upon us, I embarked on a virtual journey, taking in the 242 landmarks that scatter the game’s map. Each offer XP and a chance to admire Ivory Coast’s rendering of attractions both famous and obscure. With the whole of the United States ahead of me, planning is a must, but although my brother’s just been murdered in cold blood (in the game), Mount Rushmore isn’t going to see itself. Taking a north to south route around each of the map’s regions, there’s no fast travel allowed; just me, a 2013 Nissan 370Z – the speediest of the game’s starter vehicles – and digital tarmac. The game starts in Detroit, and the first port of call is Michigan State Prison, just outside the city on an uninviting grey and brown island. A rainstorm hits as I visit the city’s rundown districts, but with landmarks scattered liberally about, I make good progress.
I hit the highways for the first time on Day 2, picking up some impressive speed as virtual America whips by, the looming Chicago skyline poking through the gloaming for an impressive vista. The morning sunlight shows off the Windy City’s majestic skyscrapers, and the day ends taking in the ‘Badlands’ of the Dakotas, the setting sun streaking across the plains below Colorado’s Pikes Peak. A beautiful site.
Day 3 sees me check off the last of the Midwest’s landmarks as I lose the plot, getting bored with roads and instead ploughing through the fields of the South Midwest’s relatively open expanse. That’s one of the game’s massive regions under my belt, though one that seems to be on the smaller side. Day 4’s trip from Santa Fe to the wintry Salt Lake City is especially picturesque. I did break the no fast-travel rule when I spotted that a data station I was after was on the wrong side of the Grand Canyon and it’d be a lengthy round-trip to get there. I hopped across, got what I needed, and hopped back. Day 5’s journey takes me into the snowy mountains of northern states like Wyoming, and upon arrival I discover a veritable winter wonderland. But my nippy Nissan isn’t built for these conditions, and though the roads are well gritted, the white stuff is unsurprisingly hindering my driving skills. Day 6 starts promisingly, zipping across the Hoover Dam into Las Vegas, the trip’s most visually arresting city, the twinkling LEDs of mega casinos shimmering at dusk; a morally bankrupt mirage. I head towards the southern states, which bring with them long drives between landmarks barely worth writing home about – though the Mojave Desert’s ‘Big Thermometer’ does register roasting temperatures of 134 degrees, and the Tucson Aircraft Cemetery is a reminder that all works of mechanical engineering must die. The Nissan has taken a pounding, but with an estimated two more (in-game) weeks at the wheel – there’s still the entire eastern seaboard, Texas, the west coast and the spit of Florida to take in – I’m optimistic about the remaining road trip. Whatever happens, driving across Ubisoft’s virtual America is cheaper than doing it for real.
“The roads are well gritted, but the white stuff is unsurprisingly hindering my driving skills”