Last December saw the release of Ubisoft's long-awaited MMO racer, The Crew. With a massive open-world to explore spanning all of America (the United States of... at any rate), it managed a decent following. Ubisoft boasts three million players to date, though the mention of players instead of sold copies leads us to believe there's some creative accounting involved (beta players included?). Nevertheless, there are players and crews out there who have been enjoying the monthly content updates Ivory Tower has been putting out. But some additions are simply too big to be added this way, and as the game draws close to its first anniversary The Crew will expand with Wild Run - a rather substantial addition as it turns out.
It's in difficult to put together demos for shows such as Gamescom. Especially when it comes to open-world games, but an extremely well put together and curated twenty minute session with The Crew: Wild Run saw us sample all of the major advertised additions to the game. For this alone Ubisoft and Ivory Tower deserve applause. Well done.
I must admit to losing interesting alarmingly quickly in The Crew myself last year. This mainly had to do with the more rigid structures of some of the missions along the main campaign. It was clearly much more enjoyable when playing online in a crew (or rather with other GR staff as it turned out), but perhaps I missed out on the greatness of The Crew by sticking with the career. It certainly seems as if Ivory Tower has focused on creating interesting content off to the side of the main missions with their expansion, and much of the new features are said to be based not only on player feedback, but on the actual metrics from the game.
Monster trucks are one such addition. There are custom made arenas (I believe there are a total of five to find in the game world) that let you flip your monster truck in gravity-defying stunts in order to collect points and earn high scores. But we suspect players will take to the roads in monster trucks, create their own challenges and see how they behave in the hills and mountains.
Then there are dragsters, and here the Ivory Tower team have created what amounts essentially to a special mode where the objective is to burn tyres ahead of the start (to get them to the correct temperature), then shift gears at the exact right time to maximise acceleration and push the nitro to reach ridiculous speeds. It's a niche to some, but we can see people investing hours and hours into this detail to record near-perfect times across a quarter-mile.
The most requested new feature in Wild Run is drift racing. We found that it certainly wasn't as easy as drifting through corners in Mario Kart. It uses a particular model, but the interesting thing about this mode is that it only focuses on scoring drift points. You can even double back during a challenge to redo a particular stretch of road if you think it will increase your chances of a great score. It will take some skill to master this, and given the extensive options for tuning available in The Crew we suspect much of your success will be down to setting up your ride to fit with your likings.
Motorcycles are perhaps the biggest addition to the game. They come in all the same categories as cars and you will be able to compete against other cars and bikes in all the events found in the game. You can restart your career with a bike and do it all again. From what we tried the bikes handle very differently from cars in The Crew (which you'd expect), but they retain that slight arcade feel you'll find in the game. It reminded us of how bikes handle in GTA for some reason. Of course, we only had a chance to briefly try it out a street model.
Add to this the new freeform driving stunts as well as the option of creating your own checkpoint races on the fly (very handy and easy to do), and you'll soon realise that Wild Run offers a massive expansion of the racing options available in The Crew.
One thing that runs across the entirety of The Crew is the improved engine performance. While there are some neat things like increased draw distance, the main new inclusion is the dynamic weather system that specifically adds rain and wet conditions.
If you've stuck it out with The Crew until now you're likely delighted with these additions to your game, but perhaps more importantly this November The Crew: Wild Run will allow new players a great starting point and what might very well be the most diverse and versatile racing game ever.
The Crew Wild Run will launch as an expansion for owners of the main game on November 17 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. There will also be a complete version for newcomers that includes the base game and the expansions. Wild Run will not launch for Xbox 360.