|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Ivory Tower|
|Release: November 17, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Language, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence, Includes online features that may expose players to unrated user-generated content|
by Matthew Hayes
When The Crew made its debut last December, it did so with little fanfare. Reviews ranged from “meh” to “average” with little variance. The concept is fantastic: imagine an enormous, open-world “MMOCARPG.” The whole of the United States is yours to explore freely, and you’ll share the road with thousands of players as they explore, complete challenges, level up, and unlock upgrades for some of the most desirable and most powerful cars ever made. Recruit your friends or make new ones online to form a crew, and take to the streets together to wreck high-profile targets, or maybe just cruise from Boston to Las Vegas to do some sightseeing.
I don’t think the world was quite ready for The Crew, and the experience didn’t exactly meet expectations. Controls were too loose for serious sim fans, dull and arbitrarily difficult missions hampered the pacing for the arcade thrill-seekers, visuals were bland, and server issues and a lack of community frustrated many who just wanted the giant social experience promised by labeling the game as “massively multiplayer.” Quietly, steadily, Ivory Tower and Ubisoft have spent the past 11 months patching, updating, and adding content to The Crew. A remnant of loyal enthusiasts have been singing its praises and anxiously awaiting its first substantial expansion: Wild Run.
Wild Run is a shot of adrenaline to a game that felt anemic and lacking. There has been a complete graphics overhaul, which you’ll enjoy even if you don’t purchase the expansion. Dynamic weather, an enhanced depth of field, and improved textures and shaders go a long way to bring The Crew up to date. It’s not going to go toe-to-toe with Forza or Project Cars, but it no longer looks like a current-gen port of a last-gen game. There’s also a ton of new content here. Monthly updates have brought a few new vehicles but Wild Run has a host of new cars, motorcycles, new extreme specs, and over 100 new events that culminate at The Summit: a timed, festival-style event where players from all over the world will meet to take part in unique skill-based and PvP challenges.
Wild Run does very little to tweak vanilla controls and handling, but there have been some general improvements in regard to steering and overall responsiveness. If you’re considering picking up the Wild Run edition of The Crew with no previous experience with the game there are a few things you should know. If you’re looking for a perfect, realistic, open-world experience to get the most out of your expensive Thrustmaster wheel and gearbox shifter, this isn’t the game for you. On the flip side, don’t expect to lucidly drift through sharp curves like you’re playing Mario Kart or cut across fields in your street spec car without losing considerable traction and speed. Ivory Tower has created a unique hybrid here; it’s not as precise as a Forza, but not as rock and roll as a Need for Speed or Burnout.
That being said, I’ve watched some hardcore players command great performance and precise handling with a variety of wheel and pedal peripherals. I myself got pretty cozy with the physics engine, quirky though it may be, and after a couple hours of gameplay and some basic upgrades my Nissan Z34 was shaking cops and zipping through turns with relative ease. The controls are as tight as they need to be without creating an isolating skill-gap between newcomers and veterans who may find themselves competing against each other in PvP events. Whether or not this was intentional on the part of Ivory Tower and Ubisoft to make the game more accommodating remains questionable, as many vocal community members still gripe about The Crew’s controls.
Wild Run does offer a few completely new driving experiences for those returning to the game, and they fill a content void that caused much of the community to lose interest in the vanilla game shortly after its release. The first things you’re going to want to play with are the bikes. These things handle great and they are fast. The first few times a performance spec bike whips by you on the open road at top speed you can’t help but laugh out loud and then drool with envy. If you haven’t booted up The Crew in a while or are checking it out for the first time be sure to set a few “bucks” (the in-game currency) aside; your crotch-rocket won’t come cheap, but when you’re trekking from LA to Nashville, you won’t find a faster ride unless you want to mess up your dragster.
Drag spec is all about acceleration, and the drag races do a great job of conveying a pulse-raising sense of speed. However I found that after a few drag events I became bored with them. In the Bonneville Salt Flats and other areas where the race is a straight shot, the whole thing almost feels like a quick-time event. Heat up your tires just enough during the countdown, floor it right as you see the green light, shift gears at just the right moment to achieve a few perfect shifts before finally boosting to the finish line. It’s the same few button presses every time. Other events will throw in some ramps or take place in locales that include some turns which, even when very slight, seem impossible to navigate at 350 mph. Forcing the player to lay off the gas in a drag race to make it through a turn kind of puts a damper on the experience.