Last year Ivory Tower got racing fans the world over excited when they announced an open world racing simulator, whereby players could form crews and travel across a huge recreated version of North America. When the game came out late 2014 it wasn’t well received by critics, mostly due to it’s dated graphics, cringe-worthy story campaign and lacklustre vehicle handling. Fast forward almost twelve months and we find ourselves once again planning to overtake the 510s, a gang grown around Detroit’s illegal street-racing scene in The Crew’s expansion Wild Run.
Let me start by noting some of the standout positives of this game, before I dig into the technical stuff. Wild Run is an excellent expansion with the developers again aiming high and packing a swag of new content. Boasting a graphical overhaul and the addition of dynamic weather, The Crew has never looked better. What’s worth noting is that Ivory Tower haven’t forgotten the early adopters of their game, including this upgrade for all versions of it. Also a welcome addition is the inclusion of motorbikes and extreme specs; including drift, drag and monster trucks. One of the biggest letdowns of the original game was the bland, uninspiring scenery you were often forced to drive through between the five regions of the open world US. I would love to say this has been fully addressed with the expansion, but sadly it just isn’t the case. Dynamic weather – in my experience – translated to a few showers which rarely effected the handling of my vehicle and although the graphics do look better, they still don’t stack up against the game’s competition in Forza and Need for Speed. The big distances between cities has been made more enjoyable with the expansions inclusion of Freedrive challenges and stunts, bridging the gap between point A and B, and encouraging the player to take in the carefully created environment around them, instead of just weaving through frustrating AI.
Updated graphics, dynamic weather and additional vehicles aside what the expansion also offers is a new mode in the Summit tournament. The Summit only opens up for the player after finishing a set of qualifiers or by using in-game currency. It’s worth the time and effort involved as it presents the player with the ability to earn points and unlock vehicles which are unavailable anywhere else in the game.
So now the technical stuff. Wild Run’s new content and updated visuals are a welcome addition, and in some ways the game now looks and plays more to what people’s expectations were when the game originally released last year. You have to admire Ubisoft and Ivory Tower’s dedication to this game, despite lower than anticipated sales performance and some harsh reviews they continued to support the community of players with continuous patching and updates. With all the changes and additions the core game still suffers from three major issues;
- The Story Campaign – Although on paper the story itself sounds interesting … you see your brother murdered in front of you moments before the FBI show up … you’re framed for his murder and thrown into gaol. Fast forward five years and you’re given an opportunity to be an informant, tasked with bringing down the dirty FBI agent along with the gang leader of the 510s, responsible for killing your brother. The truth is, although an interesting premise, the story ultimately plays second-fiddle to the open world nature of the game. So much so that driving the – at times huge distances – between story missions feels out of place and forced. It’s also uncomfortably dramatic at times, I found myself thinking I wish they had gone with a more lighthearted story focusing on just expanding your characters skills and garage.
- Actually joining a Crew – The entire premise of this game is for players to connect and form crews, completing missions together and competing against one another. Unless you are blessed with a friends list enriched with people playing this game you’ll find connecting with random players to be extremely painful, time consuming and in my opinion just not worth the effort.
- Vehicle handling – Probably one of the most disappointing things about the Crew for me is the handling of the vehicles. I constantly found myself getting frustrated at how the car seems as though it’s simply floating over the surface of the road. Even with the graphical and physics enhancements it seems that fundamental mechanics in regards to the vehicles handling still haven’t been fully fleshed out. When I got the opportunity to upgrade my vehicle to a monster truck I drove across the country as quickly as possible to the garage in Las Vegas. I was devastated to find the monster truck handled essentially the same as my ‘street’ modified car. This included what the truck did when involved in high speed accidents. I’ve never personally driven a monster truck (something I’m hoping to rectify one day) but if one was to drive into the back of a smaller, stationary vehicle I would assume it would mount said vehicle and crush it. The only thing crushed was my hopes of seeing awesome destruction … monster trucks in Wild Run simply crash into other vehicles the same as any vehicle. It’s things like this that I felt Ivory Tower could have improved on during the dramatic update and expansion.
If you’re a racing simulator enthusiast and haven’t already checked out The Crew, the Wild Run expansion is definitely the best way to do so. Just make sure you convince players in your friends list to pick up the game and come along for the ride!
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