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    The Crew Preview

    Ubisoft has been running multiple beta programs for The Crew since its delay, with large portions of the game playable. These stress tests have revealed a game with cohesive story and free-roaming components anchored by a hearty car upgrade system. We played a recent closed beta and found that Ivory Tower’s promises of a go any where, do anything experience are shaping up to be true.

    The beta took place at the start of the game, casting you as Alex Taylor, a hotshot driver whose brother runs a local racing crew called the 5-10s. A rogue FBI agent and rival gang leader conspire and kill your brother, framing you for the crime. Five years later, another FBI agent named Zoe enlists your help to catch and expose the agent who set you up.

    Regardless of how hokey the story is, you’re soon let loose on the world, free to pick up a variety of missions. An appropriate yet strange-sounding comparison for The Crew is the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

    The game doesn’t feature an age-old battle between Templars and Assassins, but the world’s map and the way it unlocks content should be familiar to anyone who’s played the fellow Ubisoft series.

    Data stations are littered around the world, which ping your radar when you get close to them in the environment. Pull up to them and the various missions in the area show up on your world map.

    While you can look at the map and track these down methodically, drive in any one direction and you’ll run into something soon enough.Skill missions litter the world and can be replayed as often as you like for XP, depending on how well you do.

    Scramble tests ask you to smash targets, Slalom lets you weave through gates, and Jump tests how far you can fly. Others include Speed Test, Escape, Hill Climb, and Race Line. Bread crumbed story missions exist (including a quick co-op option for your crew), but it’s a lot of fun to just cruise around and see what comes your way. We spent a good amount of time retrying skills missions just because we knew we had a better run in us.

    Leveling up earns you Perk Points that you can allocate for bonuses such as increased XP and money from missions (including co-op missions), parts discounts, and an increased chance of more Perk Points at future levels.

    Any performance parts you garner while driving are awarded on the spot. In your garage, you can repair your cars, buy different kits (street, performance, circuit, dirt, and raid) to change what overall type of car it is, and customize the appearance of your vehicles. Maximizing your cars is a big component of the game, and in the beta it was easy to tinker around and come out with a suitable ride. Different kits can be applied to cars depending on how you plan to use them, although kits require a certain level and aren’t available for all cars.

    Out on the road, it’s easy to spend time knocking down various skills missions or even sightsee a list of geographical landmarks, but navigating traffic can add challenge and the police will be on your tail if you drive too recklessly. Property damage is one of their determining factors, although the collision does a pretty good job of being lenient when necessary in order to create a fast and fun experience.

    It will be interesting to see how The Crew holds our attention across a full story and the entire map of the U.S.A. littered with challenges, but the beta has proven that it has a strong, inviting structure.

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