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    Virtual Road Trip with The Crew

    Ubisoft’s The Crew is a jaw-dropping, open-world, car racing video game set in the USA. I don’t mean a circuit track with some stars-‘n-stripes in the background - I mean the entire country! From the glitz of Hollywood to the buzz of Chicago, every American place I ever wanted to visit was here in stunning, lifelike detail.

    Armed with a can of Coke, Pringles and a PlayStation 4 controller at the Ubisoft office, my virtual route was planned: I was to start at the West coast at Los Angeles and drive across the country to the East coast to find the Statue of Liberty in New York. My host informed me that it takes an astounding 90 minutes of game time to drive in a direct line from one coast to another, but I had no plans to drive in a straight line.

    Browsing through over 50 fully-licensed drivable cars (with more yet to be unlocked), The Crew features a range of classics and high-performance vehicles. They all looked stunningly-authentic, from the buffed sheen exteriors, to the detailed tyre treads and the stitched leather dashboard views. For me, the choice was easy: I just had to try the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang GT.

    Opening the live road map, I actively zoomed in and out to see all the different terrains, landmarks, roads and activities. I could have let the Fast Travel button teleport me anywhere on the map, even the peak of a mountain. But this was a “no cheating” road trip, so I set my halfway-point marker to the most dangerous-looking road I could find: a high and narrow sleet-covered trail north of the snow-capped Mountain States.

    Two online racers driving a LaFerrari and Koenigsegg Agera R wanted to tag along, so feeling a little like Jeremy Clarkson and his two pals on a Top Gear adventure, I inducted them in to my crew, we lined up at the traffic lights and took off! My mustang roared like a lion on acceleration, then purred like a kitten down the stretch. Her handling was purrrfect!

    The city became highways, the highways became rural and the rural became dry lands. The more the land opened up, the more we went off road, leaving trails of dust and destruction in our wake. There was nowhere we couldn’t go!
    “Take a road trip across the United States,” they offered. “You’ll love it,” they curiously mocked. The teased road trip turned out to be a virtual drive played on Ubisoft’s latest action-driving release The Crew, yet my journey would be no less than amazing.
    As the sun set over the horizon to the west, our three performance cars roared at blazing speeds across the infamous Bonneville Salt Flats. Even this sea of white plains goaded us onward, demanding more and more speed from our scorching hot vehicles.

    Nightfall swallowed the land as we cautiously sped up the narrow, windy roads that ascended the snowcapped mountain peaks of North America. My lights cut through the darkness and caught flecks of snowfall and the occasional glimpse of fleeing wildlife. These frosty roads were as treacherous as promised.

    At the peak of the valley crest we reached our halfway point. With all the visual distractions and scenic route detours, our promised 90-minutes had already expired, yet the journey still had so much left to go.We took a breather before firing-up one of the nearby challenges: a cross-country, downhill, 75-checkpoint race between eight racers. We modded our vehicles to tackle the snow-covered conditions. I could upgrade individual parts like the gearbox, engine, suspension and tyres. Instead, we kept it simple and chose the ‘Dirt’ package, a preset mod for the roughest terrains.

    As the night sky teased the distant orange glow of dawn, we took off at speed, easing the brakes cautiously around slippery corners. Suddenly, the nav’ marker we were following veered off-road, down into a snow-covered forest, so we followed it! Apparently, changing our preset mod package to ‘Dirt’ also changed the route, sending us rampaging blindly through dense trees and careening off death-defying mountain edges. This bumpy race was wild and a constant battle for speed and control over the rough-hewn terrain.

    Warm farmlands greeted our roaring vehicles as the morning sun appeared over the horizon. Plowing through fences and tall cornfields was a blind test of driver’s faith, like accelerating full throttle into a jungle of greenery and hearing all matter of nasty bangs and clatters bludgeoning the exterior.  The furious race southward rumbled into the valley of the Grand Canyon where I barely crossed the finish line first and whimpered an exhausted victory cry. That challenge was a good half-hour of pure adrenaline!

    After a quick detour through the beautiful Bayou in Louisiana we were running out of time. It was three hours in, and I’d barely seen a glimpse of all the scenery in this world. There was only one thing left to do: complete my journey with a final race to the big French lady in Manhattan. With my two committed comrades by my side, we made for The Big Apple, attracting much unwanted police attention along the way.

    Working as a team, I escaped the heavy police presence when one of my colleagues fishtailed a police car that was hot on my tail. For every group victory, we earned vehicle upgrades, so it’s in our best interests to look out for each other in co-op’ situations. Night fell once again and at last New York was in sight! The suburban setting became intimidating, dark skyscrapers as I neared my goal, and as my battered and beaten Mustang rolled up to the end of the bay, there she stood: The proud and powerful Statue of Liberty. I’d made it!

    For a guy who had done nothing but sit in front of the telly for four hours, I was completely exhausted. I felt like a Hobbit who had just journeyed from The Shire to drop a ring in a volcano.

    I’m going to miss my one-time road trip. It failed to offer the Hollywood promise of a promiscuous teenage comedy, nor was I left with the traditional trucker’s sunburnt arm. Then again, with a copy of The Crew, my virtual trip of a lifetime can be enjoyed again whenever I want to. With so much of virtual America yet to explore and racing challenges yet to complete, the only question left is: Where to next?

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