At its core, The Crew: Motorfest is a colourful and varied open world racing game offering players picturesque events in assorted rides scattered across a varied and fun to explore map. What more could any reasonable player ask for? Unfortunately for Motorfest, this description also fits my current favourite game of this generation, one I have just clocked 280 hours with since it launched less than two years ago: Forza Horizon 5. Try as I might, I simply cannot help but compare The Crew to the Horizon shaped Goliath in the open world racing scene, but imitation is the best form of flattery, so let’s see how it gets on!
Where The Crew: Motorfest shines best is within its presentation in the early hours. Keen to demonstrate its scope and vehicle variety immediately upon first loading, players are treated to a showcase of all types of car they can expect to spend the following dozens of hours with. These range from street racing low slung exotics to navigating volcanic dirt tracks in 4×4’s, while also managing to somehow fit Formula 1 cars into the mix. A pleasant surprise for me was how well this latter addition works in game.
The setting for Motorfest, the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, is stuffed to the gills with things to see and do. From cresting the intimidating peak of its volcano to crashing through lush green undergrowth, I could always find something interesting to look at or smash through no matter which direction I turned. Returning players from The Crew 2 will be pleased to learn that smooth switching into boats and planes makes a return with Motorfest, but unfortunately their events are very much taking the backseat, with all the care in the third Crew game being focussed on the four wheeled modes of transportation. It took me much longer than I expected to find, let alone participate in, a non-car orientated event and it’s far too grand an expression to say they are reminiscent of the boat and plane events from The Crew 2, as they are those same events from The Crew 2, only with a slightly different backdrop I fail to pay any attention to in the midst of a race.
I will commend Motorfest for the attention to the waves really feeling like I’m racing across an ocean, and not a bumpy blue mass like in The Crew 2, but there’s not much else positive I can say about them particularly as, unsurprisingly, there are significantly less rivers in O’ahu than say, the entire United States.
One of the main new draws for Motorfest which I expect will attract existing fandoms is how it has partnered with multiple car related real world personalities and organisations such as LBWK (Liberty Walk) and Donut Media, who narrate events you complete for them. The huge downside to this, and my biggest issue with the game, is that they seem terrified we will forget they are there, and fill every moment they aren’t speaking with, you guessed it, them speaking some more. I truly resented every syllable they accosted me with inside a handful of events each, and I can’t find a way in the options menu to incapacitate their incessant chatter.
Another issue is the fixed camera in events. It never sits just right for me when all I want is for it to back up a few feet and give me some space. Race events each go on a minute or so too long for my liking. When I’m staring at the back of a car for four or more minutes at a time while someone drones into my ear about absolutely nothing, I found myself unable to play Motorfest for more than half an hour at a time before looming housework became a more inviting way to spend my time, if only to revel in its silence.
A perplexing design choice is to put any emphasis at all on buying your favourite cars to use in the open world, but restricting players to different rentals for every event I played. Upon starting the final LBWK event in a Mini Cooper S despite arriving in a high-powered BMW, I quit the event before reaching the 1% complete mark. This was because I had been told this event entailed a race around the entire island, and the pause screen informed me the player with the current world record had achieved just over thirteen minutes while in a much faster endgame car they unlocked the ability to use later. The hardest of passes on that event, thank you.
I tweaked the vehicle handling to accommodate my usual drift heavy racing preference but could never get it to fully cooperate. By enabling my ability to swing the back end of my car out a little I seemed to disable the possibility to navigate corners by any means other than smashing headlong into it to employ the old trustworthy ‘inside wall to brake, outside wall to steer’ method to get back to the next straight line. Yes, I know the left trigger is the brake but when using it, with or without nitrous assistance at the apex of a corner, my car always seemed to revert to second gear and turn a high speed race into a pensioners commute.
After roaming the O’ahu streets for 15 minutes or so in my BMW, I booted up my Forza Horizon 5 save, hopped into the exact same motor and took a quick drive down the eastern Mexico coast. The contrast in the handling of the vehicles was frankly startling, with Horizon 5 being better in every conceivable way, from sound design, drift handling, camera angle and driver satisfaction.
Ultimately my recommendation for The Crew: Motorfest hinges on one simple question: Do you have an Xbox? If no, definitely play Motorfest as it’s easily the most fun, pretty and varied open world racer you have access to. If your answer is yes, you already know what to do: play Forza Horizon 5. Motorfest is undeniably a step in the right direction for the franchise, and if more attention is paid to better honing the driver experience aspect over who you can pay to talk at us during races, a future The Crew game could have the potential to be very special indeed. I score Motorfest
6 / 10
Game code provided by publisher.
Written, edited and images captured by Alexx.