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The Crew: Across the Country in 45 Minutes

We were recently invited out to a showing of Ubisoft's upcoming online racing game The Crew as part of their current College Tailgate Tour (Geaux Tigers, Beat Bama!). I spent a good three hours with the game and have come away with some pretty strong impressions. If you're a fan of racing games, this is one you'll want to keep an eye on.

So what is The Crew? Developed by Ivory Tower (who worked on games in the Need for Speed and Test Drive Unlimited franchises), it is a persistent online open world racing game that gives you a condensed version of the entire United States of America as your own playground. It isn't the Google Maps racer the world has wanted for years, but it's certainly a step towards that lofty goal.

The Crew stars Alex Taylor (Troy Baker), who is charged with infiltrating a series of criminal organizations whose activities are largely focused on the open road. So as our protagonist gets cozy with these bad apples, his reputation, skills, and stable of vehicles increase in size and respectability.

But the star of the show is clearly Ivory Tower's representation of the United States of America and the level of care and detail that went into creating it. It's peppered with famous national landmarks, though anyone hoping for a street-by-street recreation has unreasonable expectations. But having spent a good amount of time cruising the streets of New Orleans, it's as good as a high-speed tour. I spent a good amount of my time admiring the little things, like the lights on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Across the enormous map (which takes roughly 45 minutes to drive across from coast to coast) are countless events, some of which advance the story, others which give Alex the opportunity to improve his standing with the factions, earn experience and money, and otherwise get into deep trouble.

And the true beauty of this is that you can do all of this with friends throughout the entire experience. At any point, you can crew up with them and take on the challenges together. And the gameplay is designed such that you may find yourself with incentives to help or hinder your buddies. For example, one mission had my buddy fleeing from the cops as I attempted to play Bandit to his Snowman. Definitely fulfilled a long time fantasy of running interference instead of straight up running away.

The Crew is already big in terms of map size, and when you start looking into the number of vehicles you can trick out, things get even more impressive. In the Headquarters, you can customize your rides using parts earned in events. This is all accomplished using an extremely attractive interface that literally breaks the car down before your eyes as you focus on individual parts. And between aesthetics and performance, there's a lot to earn. And if you want to earn everything for all the cars, you'll have to take on all of those events and challenges with the car you want to upgrade. So suffice to say, The Crew will be a fun, addictive timesink.

If you're a fan of arcade racers, but enjoy the customization of the hardcore sims, you would probably do well to consider this one. It's less than a month from launch, and if my impressions of it are any indication, it's going to be something special for racing fans everywhere. The Crew will be available on December 2. Check back for a full review.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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