The Crew: Motorfest Review

Although I didn’t play many of them to start with, racing games quickly became one of my favourite things over the last couple of decades or so. In fact, every time a new one is announced I get excited. This is especially true of the Forza Horizon series, which I consider to be the best racing games ever made, bar none. Up until now there’d been nothing like them, but that has changed with the release of Ubisoft Ivory Tower’s The Crew: Motorfest, which exists as the third game in that franchise.

Those who’ve played The Crew or its sequel will know that they presented a scaled down version of the United States, where players could drive across different regions and visit certain cities. The games were open world, full of activities, and would even allow you to drive a boat or a plane. Things are different this time around, because — despite still being an open world racing game — Motorfest is centred in one state. Its map is a faithful, but obviously not to scale representation of Oahu, with lots of real-life landmarks added in for realism. The result is a game that feels more focused, and one that is most definitely better than the two which came before it.

With that being said, on the other side of the coin lays the fact that The Crew: Motorfest is very much a Forza Horizon-like experience, which maybe wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for Playground Games leading the way. It unabashedly borrows lots of elements from those games, including a festival (although this one is seemingly locked to one location), gifting players points for near misses and clean, high speed racing, and the arcade style racing that those titles are known for. Thus, if you like Forza Horizon, you’re likely to enjoy this game. It’s not up to the same level, but is a rather good peer.

Things begin with the player jumping from one event to another, in order to get a feel for the type of racing that will be found within this game. This includes driving ‘regular’ cars, hopping into a swanky sports car, driving F1 style vehicles and going off-road. These are glimpses of the playlists you’ll drive through over the course of your play through. The thing is, though, that it’s not obvious how one is supposed to beat this game. Is it just by completing all playlists? Doing all of the challenges? Leveling up? Despite a few sessions with this thing I’ve yet to discover what the answer to that question is. I’ve even become a legend.

All of the twelve or so playlists are themed, so you’ll be doing something different in each one. Well, you’ll always be driving, flying or boating, but you’ll be using different vehicles and taking on different types of challenges. For starters, there’s a Japanese themed playlist wherein you drift and drive through a Hawaii dressed up like Japan, a tour of Hawaii playlist where you explore the island, an American muscle cars one, a Porsche-based playlist, a Donut Media-themed one and more. Additional ones involve going off-road, driving electric vehicles, hopping into an F1 style car and more. This design provides a good amount of variety, and is a definite plus.

To give you an idea of how this plays out: Upon selecting a playlist, you’ll see a curving line above you that leads to your first event. You’ll follow it to a statue of sorts, and will drive up to it in order to trigger the event. Then, once you’ve completed that race, drift challenge, drag race or time trial, you’ll be led to the next statue and so forth. This goes on for approximately seven events per playlist. That means you’re essentially locked in from start to finish, unless you decide to abandon what you’ve been doing.

Although you’re able to buy, customize and drive your own cars, many of the playlists loan you vehicles. This is because one can utilize several different cars in and of itself, having you jump between one and another with each different event. Hell, some events change cars two times before they’re over, allowing you to try different versions of that type of car. This is something you get used to, but then it’s taken away after you’ve completed the first six or seven playlists. The following ones have restrictions, and require you to purchase a specific car in order to compete. This was frustrating and disappointing to me, because some of those vehicles are quite expensive and it’ll be a grind in order to earn enough money to purchase them. I made the mistake of spending my first million on a couple of cars, in order to unlock something, and now I’m kind of paying the price for that. If I’d saved it, I would’ve been able to buy the F1 car without issue.

I guess I just don’t like being locked out of things that were previously available, and forced to grind to unlock them, even if I’m enjoying the game itself. It just doesn’t feel like fair or good progression.

Also found in the single player menu are challenges, which provide added events to complete. You’ll unlock different ones as you play, and can tackle them outside of playlists. Plus, you can also seemingly go back and replay previously vehicle locked events with whatever vehicle you choose.

On top of all of this, there’s the main stage, where you can compete in different tiers of events, ranging from starter to legendary. Then, there’s a demolition derby, and a massive big race with tons of different players. I think I read it’s just shy of thirty. Add miscellaneous challenges, like speed traps, slalom courses and ones where you must speed through checkpoints as quickly as possible or get as far away from a spot as you possibly can, and there’s quite a bit of content here. That’s before you factor in upcoming seasons and whatnot.

The actual racing feels more weighted than ever before, and is the best The Crew has ever felt. While I struggled to get into the first one due to poor physics, and had a hard time finishing the second game, due to being stuck in a boat race without a good enough boat, I find myself wanting to finish Motorfest. I’ve now played it three days in a row, and keep getting sucked into the idea of, “Just one more race.” Whether you’re trying to win a race, finish in the top three, make great time or get the highest possible drift score, the controls are going to work with you instead of against you. That is, when it comes to cars. I personally feel like this game would’ve benefited from just being car-based, but the planes and boats (which don’t factor in much for a while) are there for those who want you use them. You can actually jump from a car into a plane and take off immediately, or do the opposite. Boats are also always available in the open map, but it doesn’t feel like it was built with boats in mind. At least, not enough.

Speaking of something outside of the box, I should also note that this game features electric cars. They have their own playlist, wherein you must often drive one to a certain destination without damaging it too much, before racing it in an upcoming event. This gameplay is different, because you’re not usually tasked with keeping cars pristine, although the people who talk over your races (about the car type you’re racing, car culture, their personal opinions, etc.) will often say to keep such and such in good shape because it’s worth a lot of money. EVs also differ, because instead of recharging your nitro meter by simply driving and waiting for it to fill, you must drive over lengthy pads to do so.

So far, I’ve completed seven of the playlists, looked for hidden chests using a beeping radar system when close, and driven around the map. In this time I’ve engaged in exactly one plane event and one boat event, neither of which I was crazy about. The plane controls fine, but the boat is still the weakest part of this game, and it doesn’t add much to the experience. As I said above, The Crew: Motorfest likely would’ve been better without it, because it feels like an afterthought.

There are three different difficulty modes, to boot, but you can adjust things as you see fit. In this design, the challenge level is ranked from one to five. Easy makes things 1/5 in terms of difficulty, whereas normal makes events 2/5. It’s possible to add or remove numbers on this scale until you get to where you like to be. Since it’s the baseline and I’m not incredible at racing games, I’ve been playing on the normal difficulty. Things haven’t been too difficult, but there’s been the odd event where another car will be unbeatable, or will come out of nowhere to win. Usually this isn’t too frustrating, because you’re often asked to just finish in the top three but, during one-on-one showdowns and events where you’re supposed to win, that’s not the case. Then again, I’ve rarely ever lost a race, and found that — if I restarted some of the duals — things would usually end up differently.

Of course, like Forza Horizon before it, The Crew: Motorfest also includes rewinds. I’m thankful for that, because I’ve screwed up more than once. This allows you to rewind about thirteen seconds into the past and fix your mistakes. Purists may not like this, but I certainly appreciate it when they’re included in racing games. They’re also completely optional, as always.

Moving on: The Crew: Motorfest can often be a pretty game, with really nice looking car models and lots of accents that transform the map during each themed race. You’ll see floating donuts, drive through some of them, and will also see logos and accents from other playlists as you drive through them. The game’s look also changes from time to time, including when you’re driving in the Hawaiian version of Japan in the one playlist and driving EVs in another. At those times, things look neon hued, with lots of neon signs and neon posts lining the roadway. Its avatars also look decent, but there’s only a very limited character creator at the start of the game. You won’t see them too much, though, outside of when you load into a car show where you can vote on the best looking cars, and see others moving about, or when you really look into your car. Your avatar rarely gets out to talk to people during cutscenes, but it does happen.

When I played on the Xbox Series S, I found that the game ran quite well. That said, there was occasional screen tearing. The frame rate was good throughout, but wasn’t always perfect due to lots of different lighting changes in certain races.

Hawaii, itself, is quite big and looks beautiful. There’s lots of variety on the island, and that’s probably why the developers at Ubisoft Ivory Tower chose this location. You can go from racing in the water to speeding through a beautiful and unique jungle, then back to the black sand beaches for another event. There’s also lots of city and country driving, as one would expect. You don’t get a tally of all of the roads you’ve driven on, though, like in Forza Horizon.

You will, however, find a lot of ‘ghost cars’ as you drive on the island. This is because other players, and their race competition, sometimes appear as you’re driving. It’s a neat form of connectivity, but one that isn’t handled all that well. Although they’re fainter than traffic cars, and often appear like they’re coming at you, it can sometimes be hard to tell. Thus, you might end up swerving to avoid one, or crash into traffic because you’ve gotten used to so many ghost cars coming at you.

The audio, on the other hand, is mostly good but may turn some people off. There’s a really varied assortment of music, from rock (The Black Keys and Royal Blood being two of the only ones I recognized) to rap, to electronic music and so forth. Most of the time the music is picked for you when you’re racing, but that’s not the case when you’re driving in the open world. I can’t say that I really liked the tracklist, myself, but there were a few songs that I liked, and that is usually the same with every game. I’m a metalhead, and like classic rock as well. There’s none of that here, or at least I’ve yet to find it.

What might turn some people off is the dialogue. Even during races, people will talk. These are usually the narrators or hosts of the different playlists. They’ll talk about the type of car, how you’re doing and that kind of thing. This might get annoying for some, as will some of the characters you meet early on who are a bit insufferable. They exist in Forza Horizon, too. There’s also your car AI to think about, as she’s quite chatty. Her name is Cara, and I’ve read a complaint or two about her online. I didn’t mind the talking though.

At the end of the day, The Crew: Motorfest is a pretty big step up for this series. It’s easily the best of the three, and despite borrowing a lot from the best racing series in existence, it also manages to be its own game. I would never say that this is better than Forza Horizon 5, but it’s still a really solid and enjoyable racer, which is hard to pull oneself away from.

This review is based on a copy of the game we were provided with. It was played on Xbox.

The Crew: Motorfest Review
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
Lots of content
Beautiful cars and a really nice looking island, which seems to capture Oahu well
An interesting location to race through
Easily the best Crew game, because it improves everything, but also because it borrows from Forza Horizon pretty liberally
Varied playlists, lots of different vehicle types, and a good variety of event types
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Screen tearing on Series S
You're loaned cars for the first several playlists, and get used to the idea, then you have to buy expensive ones for the rest. It's a bit of a culture shock, so to speak.
All the talking might annoy some
Sometimes the AI is unbeatable, but it's rare
'Ghost cars' can be distracting