Generally, the PlayStation 5 lacks top-notch arcade racing games to play. Alas, Ubisoft and Ivory Tower have the potential to seize a sizable market share with The Crew Motorfest. Packed with hundreds of vehicles to drive alongside an alluring open world, The Crew Motorfest is quite the improvement over previous instalments in the series. As such, it’s a decent time, although one with its fair share of blemishes.
Driving across Oahu – a Hawaiian island – The Crew Motorfest takes players on a tropical joyride. Despite a smaller map than other racing game competitors, it compensates with enjoyable single player content. The Crew Motorfest initially introduces playlists to gamers. Playlists offer different genres of racing, allowing for incredible diversity in gameplay compared to other racing games on the market.
Five unique playlists (from a total of 15 at launch) are initially available from the get-go in The Crew Motorfest: ‘Made in Japan’, ‘Hawaii Scenic Tour’, ‘American Muscle’, ‘911 Legacy’ and ‘Rule the Streets’ offer enjoyable experiences to grip players early into the game’s runtime. Thus, it’s not long before you’re racing some of the most popular cars on the planet! Each playlist gradually builds you up to driving bigger and better cars. I personally appreciate how each playlist comes equipped with its own unique aesthetic too. For example, “Made in Japan” consists of stunning night races based on drifting, with bright dragon cosmetics juxtaposing the night theme across all races.
What’s great about these playlists is the fact that they actively encourage use of all kinds of vehicles. Every playlist is unique but crucially, a different vehicle is used for every single race. This adds depth and allows players to try vehicles before making the all-important decision to purchase them. This mechanic is even more appreciated when you realise how poor the financial rewards are in relation to vehicle prices in The Crew Motorfest.
Alongside a variety of vehicles some playlists offer events aside from the standard race. Drag races are an example provided a swift burst of intensity as you aim to change gears at the perfect time and race across a short distance in mere seconds. There are other examples too – such as drifting challenges – and I appreciate the low frequency of these. As such, racing maintains its prominence throughout.
With over 600 vehicles on its books, The Crew Motorfest offers diversity galore. Unlike other racing games, planes and boats are made available to players. Exploring the open world is thus made easier as with boats and planes offering greater traversal. Hitting that sweet spot and changing vehicles at the perfect time is satisfying, although I must say that steering and handling aren’t strong suits for either. Planes are quite the joyride, especially when enable a mode allowing you to perform stunts that you’d see in Star Wars.
Fortunately, most cars are gratifying to drive. They feel appropriately weighty, making it so you cannot simply drift around corners with ease or have perfect traction. Physics could of course still be improved for some vehicles, but this is a significant leap compared to The Crew 2.. I do have one gripe however, which directly impacts the quality of racing. Cutting corners is a time-gaining option far too consistently in races. While sometimes it’s great to pull off a corner cut to gain time, it’s nowhere near as satisfying as pulling off a satisfying turn or drift. Going across grass or hitting obstacles fails to punish players as much as it should in these cases. Races feel lazily designed in places as a result, whereas physics as a whole leave something to be desired.
Once you’ve practised offline in playlists and traversing the open world, it’s time to explore the multiplayer! Unfortunately, there’s not much at launch to be excited about. Racing begins as enjoyable, albeit chaotic. Up to 28 players compete at one time, making mayhem inevitable, but it’s welcome due to no vehicle damage. I appreciate how like the playlists; a range of vehicles are made available – depending on the race – to players. Three cars can be chosen for the races, using one after the other throughout them. I’m disappointed that there’s no option to race against smaller groups, such as the typical eight-player races you’ll experience in playlists.
The second and only other game mode currently is Demolition. This is essentially a battle royale, one that greatly differs from that of your standard Call of Duty: Warzone or Fortnite, of course. Drivers can collect buffs across the circle to increase the ratings of their car. I’ve enjoyed and will return occasionally to Demolition because it’s also chaotic. Other than this though, the Multiplayer leaves something to be desired. Unless updates add depth it’s probably not worth bothering with, aside from an occasional race. As such, I recommend focusing on the single player content, which is solid.
What’s great about each of the 600+ vehicles is the level of customisation available to all – interior and exterior. Interior customisation is sometimes overlooked in racing games, but in The Crew Motorfest you can change to interior colour. It may be a minute cosmetic change, but it’s one that doesn’t go unappreciated. As someone who often prefers to drive in first-person, this is welcome. Otherwise, there’s plenty of personalisation you can add to your favourite vehicles in The Crew Motorfest.
Unfortunately – and my biggest pet peeve with The Crew Motorfest – is its awful performance customisation system. Loot boxes are prominent, offering potentially special performance items that have no cosmetic impact and are there purely to make more money. It’s a blatant attempt that reminds me of how loot boxes are out of hand in gaming, especially in the likes of Ubisoft and EA titles.
Rather than being able to choose how I want my exhaust and tyres to look, it’s all dependent on what I randomly receive at the end of races or in loot boxes. Making matters worse for this egregious system is assigning each item a performance level. It’s simply a screen with numbers and a basic item image. To be honest, I’d be perfectly happy if there wasn’t a performance customisation option at all, especially when it’s like this. Worse than this is how expensive vehicles are in the game. With hundreds available, you can imagine how much of a grind it is to get merely a fraction of what’s on offer. Vehicle bundles exist to ease the financial burden, but I wish anybody the best of luck in unlocking them all.
Back to positive talking, so let’s look at the aesthetics. Visually, The Crew Motorfest is somewhat saturated, with harsh greens and yellows being emphasised. Given the context of Oahu, this is the correct decision because of the emphasis on Hawaii’s tropical beauty. As a result, driving across the landscapes is mostly stunning. Character models haven’t received the same love, but they’re hardly important in a racing game. It’s slightly overkill when it comes to saturation, but seeing a beam of sunlight on your screen racing across the highways will never get old.
Atmosphere certainly exists in the main areas of Oahu, but that identity occasionally goes missing as you explore the island. For an island-wide festival, it’d be nice to see more cosmetics dotted across the map in the open world to reflect this. Speaking of which, the world can sometimes feel empty. Even in more populous areas, cars on the roads are sparce. Traffic is important sometimes for keeping the player on their toes while exploring; otherwise, it becomes too mindless. Nonetheless, seeing landmarks – from volcanoes to jungle areas – offers immersion that ultimately isn’t captured in urban areas.
I can confidently say I’ll be returning to The Crew Motorfest throughout the remainder of 2023. Despite an unforgivable focus on microtransactions and a multiplayer missing something, completing playlists is consistently enjoyable for me. Add to the mix a real aesthetic identity and you have a racing game encapsulating the beauty of driving through a tropical paradise. Time will tell if its community remains, especially with Forza Motorsport releasing on Tuesday, 10th October. Nonetheless, this is simple, chaotic fun… most of the time.
Developer: Ivory Tower
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Amazon Luna
Release Date: 11th September 2023
Gaming Respawn’s copy of The Crew Motorfest was provided by the publisher.