Bigger, better, louder, faster – it’s the same promise for most updates, but can Ubisoft really deliver? Yes, it truly can. Improved graphics, new vehicle choices and new places to explore make The Crew: Wild Run a clear improvement over the original MMO driving game.
Brake, hand-brake, accelerate, camera angle/point of view, map size – all the basic driving controls are well-placed and easy to use. You can’t remap the controls, but it’s not really necessary, anyway.
For an open-world racing game, the graphics are well done. Locations are sharp and detailed. Cars shine, wet asphalt looks slippery and fields will show every blade of grass. In other words, it’s an improvement over the original game. Wild Run touted its updated visuals, of course, but to the delight of gamers everywhere this is actually true.
Jump into the driver’s seat and you’ll be intrigued by the precision of the graphics. Planes and hot air balloons fly overhead. Car bodies get scratched and dented while windshields have a nice shattered impact effect. Street signs and advertising billboards are all clearly legible. And, although the colours are a bit muted, the presentation of light in the sky and reflected in water on the pavement is really a highlight.
On the downside, menus appear in a pop up that’s easy to navigate but frustratingly small and hard to read. Menus will come in handy when you want to change radio stations, personalize options, look for crew, review the mission diary or multi-task on a number of different things. (Yes, you can do this all while driving.) One a side note, this game is not nearly as glitchy as the original, although you may find yourself holding a weird pause for a moment or two at odd times.
Sound is another key feature. The revving of the car’s engine and squealing of brakes will have you sniffing the air for the scent of burned rubber. There are lots of details to discover. Helicopters whir, sirens wail, birds tweet, chain-link fences ring and bystanders shout with concern. You can also adjust the radio to your station of choice while driving. Musical options run the gamut from classical to rap and pretty much everywhere in between.
The narrative is pretty thin and the voice talent is adequate enough for the job. A female narrator, Zoe, will guide you through the challenges, warn you when police are coming and fill you in on back story about your character. Your avatar has a male voice that tends to sound angry most of the time.
Assuming you are already a fan of racing games (why else would you buy this?), let’s skip over the (still) thin narrative and move right into the additions to The Crew’s gameplay.
First, let’s look at drag. Rev your engine, shift at the right time, hit the accelerator and watch your chute deploy in a cut scene. Everything is highly cued here, so it’s just a matter of following visuals and hitting the right controls when needed. Not your thing? Try seeing how long you can spin in circles over in drift mode. Still not working for you? Move on, there’s more.
Next up, we have the monster trucks and motorcycles. The monster trucks are truly awesome. These are big, powerful machines that dominate in every sense of the word. As if that’s not enough fun, the bikes are even better. Customize your ride in an insane number of ways and try out some stunts for fun.
If you don’t want to race, try the FreeDrive mode for any of the new additions. See how much fun it can be to take a dragster or monster truck out onto the open road. Once you’ve done this, your morning commute will never look the same.
Some finer points to mention. First, you have to actively seek out the new content. Fast travel to points on the map to find the drag, drift, monster truck and motorcycle races.
Second, this world is big – really, really big. At times, it can seem overwhelming. While it’s a great place for novices or groups to try out a bunch of new challenges, it’s not so great to fine-tune a specific skill.
Third, you’re going to have to earn your way into each new activity, so it’s going to take some time to work on your skills and put some money in the bank before you can fund your dream bike.
Also, let’s make a quick mention of The Summit. This is a competitive arena for online racing veterans to meet up and strut their stuff. It’s going to take time for a novice to get here, but there’s a lot going on once you arrive. Enter various qualifying competitions, win points, get highly ranked and enter the monthly competition. We assume this is an area that will continue to expand as more in the race-gaming community discover it.
Like real life, The Crew: Wild Run can be a bit sprawling and unwieldy. What it does do, however, is give a taste of where the rubber hits the road. Improved graphics, gameplay physics and dynamic weather were upgrades made available to original game owners, but other additions were not. Now we have extended choices in vehicles, new challenges, an impressive road tour of the United States and The Summit to make this extension well worth the price of admission.