The size, scale and variety of The Crew’s open world USA is undeniably mesmerising. But what truly took me by surprise during my hands-on was the incredibly in-depth car customisation at your disposal. In Creative Director Julian Gerighty’s words, The Crew is the Pokémon of car games.
It’s an apt analogy. For starters, there are three distinct car classes: Asphalt, Off-Road and Circuit. Within these classes, you can upgrade your stock car through five spec evolutions that drastically alter your car’s characteristics to handle different terrain.
Street spec, for example, makes your car better tuned for street racing, whereas Perf increases the speed of the Street spec but sacrifices some of the handling.
Off-Road vehicles, on the other hand, can be upgraded to the rally-inspired Dirt spec allowing you to drive on dirt tracks, while Raid spec turns your car into an off-road monster capable of handling any off-road terrain with ease, which was apparently inspired by Rockstar’s Smugglers Run, with a beefier body complete with front-mounted spot lights. Circuit, on the other-hand, represents a more technical style of driving suitable for racetracks.
The upshot is that some cars can be taken through all five stages of The Crew’s spec evolution, as shown in the image above illustrating how a Mustang looks after being upgraded through every spec.
“What we see is that people actually play the game with one car, so they spend 40 – 50 hours with that one car taking it through all the evolutions and boosting it to its highest level possible. And that’s very different from a lot of other games when you’re trying all of these vehicles and you grind your garage. You can do this in our game too, but it’s not the focal point of the game.”
And that’s before we’ve got to the performance parts. Simply put that, when it comes to mechanical car customisation, The Crew is unlike anything I’ve seen before in terms of depth and detail.
Each car has 11 performance parts within the engine and chassis that can be swapped and upgraded, including the exhaust, gearbox, fuel injection, turbo, motorcore E.C.U., suspension, brakes, tires, differential and weight reduction. And whilst you’re modifying your car, a slick, Transformers-style animation depicts your car being stripped to its bare naked chassis, allowing you to see every mechanical component fully working, so you can see exactly the parts you’ve changed will affect your car, which can then be demonstrated in real-time. It’s like an interactive Haynes manual.
“Something like that is at the end of the day the fruit of passionate people who wanted to see that. It’s a very expensive thing to do in terms of production, but I think it’s worth it because we’re coming back to the level of customisation and personalisation that I love in cars.”
“To be honest, in an MMORPG you want your vehicle, your character, to stand out and be noticed by everybody else, so for me that’s something that’s essential for this type of game. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a very close relationship with these manufacturers too, but I think it pays off. I think when Ford or GM sees their vehicle in the HQ with the transformer effect and seeing inside the engine, they’re like ‘okay this is super cool.’”
In addition, eight cosmetic parts can also be swapped, and you can even customise the interior, with options to change the colour of the dashboard and upholstery. Combine this extensive mechanical and cosmetic customisation options with the five evolution stages, and you begin to appreciate that The Crew’s ambitious scale doesn’t only apply to its huge open world – we’re talking hundreds of thousands of possible combinations according to Julian. Don’t forget you can do all that with just one car.
And yet The Crew delves deeper still. Every performance part has an individual ranking level of one to 50 attached to it, so you’re going to be busy for quite some time if you’re the sort of player who has to reach the top level for everything.
“Every single mission, skill and challenge in the game will give you experience for your player level -that’s the level cap to open up the country, money for parts and new vehicles and also one part,” Julian explains. “This part will be influenced by your performance achievement, i.e. bronze, silver or gold and it will have a level attached to it. Like any RPG, your car has a character sheet, and you’ll see its evolution throughout your play session of all of those pieces, and there are 11 performance pieces per car. Not only do you have these evolutions in terms of the shape and performance in terms of terrain of the vehicle, but you’ve also got a pure performance indicator too. It’s a little more complex than just right trigger to accelerate, but that’s what makes this game’s charm.“
I quizzed Julian to find out how long it will take on average to level up one car to the top rank, to which he replied around 25 – 30 hours – and that’s if you play through the narrative.
So, not only is The Crew an open world MMO driving experience, it’s a fully-fledged caRPG, which no game has done before according to Julian. Combine those elements, and you have a very unique, deep driving experience that should keep players on the road for a very long time.
Find out more in our upcoming hands-on preview of The Crew on the TeamVVV website.