I still can't believe racing MMOs are a thing. I know some people say they're just racing games and not proper MMOs, but once you get inside something like The Crew, you'll find a lot of interesting stuff. I demoed Ubisoft's persistent-world racer at last year's E3, and this year's hands-on revealed some changes for the better.
While last year's demo felt more focused on the cars, this year's session felt more like it was pushing the social aspect of the game. Yes, you still have "ghosts" of friends you can asynchronously race or use to learn how to beat certain parts of the game, but playing with others is much more fun this time around.
For this year's demo, we were put into groups of three to compete in some races. Well, maybe I should say events. First, we got a take-down mission. In these missions, your goal is to work with your friends to cause a target car to crash. Like a mob in your favorite combat-oriented MMO, the car has health you need to whittle away. The car controls and physics made things much more challenging than my experience with World of Speed, but I vastly prefer the openness of The Crew.
I was able to cut off the enemy car several times and ram it once or twice, and it was nice to contribute even though I'm not a a virtual racing expert. The take-down mode really felt like it was meant for me since the open nature of the maps allowed me to turn at my pace rather than having to anticipate stretches of frequent turns on linear tracks.
When I did have to actually race, I still had a hard time, but so did a few other racers. Luckily, the game still features a catch-up button that will put you back on the track or, on some maps like the take-downs, closer to your friends or objectives. It lets less skilled players keep up with friends so we're not totally left behind, plus, it's simply more fun!
And this is one of the key differences between World of Speed and The Crew. While WoS has physics and controls more suitable for novices, it seems like a much smaller and more linear game. The Crew is more punishing in terms of how easy it is to spin out of control or outright crash, but having a persistent world (the entire U.S. can be driven across) to explore gives it more of an MMO feeling.
While I'm still not convinced that The Crew is really an MMO, it is coming along nicely and seems like it will expand the genre and be fairly fun to play in the process.
Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 10-12, bringing you all the best news from E3 2014. We're covering everything from WildStar and Landmark to Skyforge and H1Z1, so stay tuned!