The Crew: Wild Run
“Hey, have you tried the new expansion for The Crew yet?” a gaming buddy recently asked me.
“Nope,” I replied, nonchalantly.
“Yeah, it’s called Wild Run and it’s way better than last year’s original game. Way better handling, variety, a giant open-world to race around in, and…” he paused for dramatic effect.
“And what?” I bit.
“It’s got bikes, man!”
“Hmmm…” I tried to act ambivalent, even though I loved riding motorcycles in racing games. “Maybe I’ll check it out.”
It wasn’t soon after that I was installing the game.
It wasn’t too long ago—just this past December, that I’d tried the original game, The Crew, at the same friend’s house. I’d considered it so-so, with wonky controls and handling, and an uninspired story. But I did think that it had pretty decent graphics. Looking back, I believe that my less than enthusiastic initial impression of Ubisoft’s racing entry had been slightly tainted since I was still in a funk about their lackluster offering of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Fast forward nearly a year later and I’m hours into their new expansion, Wild Run. The first thing that I noticed was the sheer variety of racing styles, tracks, and events that were available. Over the course of only a few hours, I’d careened down mud-slickened roads and engaged in some rough and tumble rally romps. I’d also bounced up and down and too-and-fro in mighty monster truck mashups, and burnt rubber on all manner of tarmacs. I’ve never experienced that level of variety in a racing title before.
But later on came the kicker: Riding across a fairly realistic approximation of the United States with all of its jaw-dropping sights and sounds. From the cool coniferous woodlands of Vermont, down past the turnpikes of New York and Jersey, and on into the humid flatlands of Florida, all while riding atop a Harley Davidson Softail. I could practically hear the Born to be Wild soundtrack blasting away in the background. It was quite an eye-opening experience and a far cry from the middling, comparatively uninspired gameplay of the original The Crew game. But I digress…
The Crew: Wild Ride presents players with a vast, open-world experience, coupled with narrative-driven elements. Its main story has been seen many times before in racing games (and films), and plops players smack-dab into the shoes of an operative who is trying to infiltrate a highly dangerous organized crime syndicate which originally spawned from Detroit, but has now spread its tentacles all across fair America. Not exactly original fare, but to its credit the storyline is blended in with the gameplay pretty seamlessly and isn’t obtrusive in the least.
Players initially have to grind their way through a whole plethora of qualifiers across a variety of events. These include the aforementioned rally and monster truck showdowns, as well as full-on, adrenaline pumping drag races, motorcycle only events, and the more traditional drifting and drafting-style racetrack contests that we’re all familiar with. As you build up your driving credentials, you can eventually gain access to special events which truly test your driving mettle. One of the special prizes that can be gained by winning such trials is being able to obtain a unique car unlock, which can really be a blast and engenders an almost palpable sense of accomplishment.
The game mechanics have been bumped up nicely, and vehicles now feel both more weighty and precise. Just about everything on your ride can be tinkered with which can be a real boon (and lure) for all of those tuner-types and gearheads out there. Conversely, just about everything on a vehicle has the potential to break down or become compromised due to the new damage model that French developer, Ivory Tower, has infused within The Crew: Wild Run. Combine this with the ability to customize your character, as well as variable cockpit views, and the like, and the expansion further distances itself from the more arcade-y end of the spectrum of racers out there, although by all means it still isn’t any Gran Turismo.
The graphics have also been revved up considerably, and now feature beautifully billowing volumetric smoke, gorgeous car models, and outstanding racing environments. A special mention must be made to the incredible job that the developers have done with the dynamic weather effects. Snow and dust storms, powdery snow banks, rain-slicked streets; environmental effects have never been so well-rendered in a video game. Brilliantly articulated sounds such as the rippling of thunder and the loud gusts of moaning wind, only boost the polished visuals and are the icing on the cake.
Jumping into a multiplayer game with friends (or in some cases strangers) is where the game really shines. Wild Run ratchets the multiplayer count up from eight to twenty-four. I expected that this would bog the game down with lag or a framerate loss. To my pleasant surprise, the gameplay remained silky-smooth and never shuttered once. I later learned that Wild Ride had been greatly optimized for the gaming PC crowd by the developers.
Nothing quite compares to meeting up with some friends online, having one of you predesignate some basic rules in one of Wild Ride’s Free Ride challenges, and hitting the customized course for some friendly completion. It’s a new, refreshing take on a classic, time-honored, racing mode.
The Crew: Wild Run is one of the more enjoyable racing titles that I’ve had the pleasure to play in quite some time. Being able to compete in a multitudinous assortment of events, with tons of different types of vehicles, in disparate types of weather and track conditions, gives Wild Run a vast amount of replay value. Another value-added aspect of the game is that developer Ivory Tower and publisher Ubisoft have pledged to polish and upgrade Wild Run over the long run (no pun intended), so players aren’t left out in the dark with zero octane in their tanks. The Crew: Wild Run is truly an exciting and unique racer that should keep racing game fans’ hands full for quite some time.
The Crew: Wild Run’s visuals (especially on 4k gaming setups) have to be seen to be believed, and the aforementioned weather effects will have PC gamers double-checking to see if they are beholding a live action movie or a game. Getting a new gaming PC rig might be wise:
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