Swapping a scaled down version of the United States for a scaled down version of the Hawaiian island O’ahu, The Crew: Motorfest takes us for a tropical vacation marred by chatty locals.
I won’t make any attempt to hide the fact that most modern racing games simply aren’t “for me” because at some point most of the biggest console racing games moved the top priority from fun to pseudo-realism. If that’s what you want in a racing game then more power to you, but I miss the absolute carnage of Burnout races where you were rewarded for bumps and collisions rather than having an irritating NPC voice whinge at you if an AI controlled car decides to occupy the same spot as you in a race.
The opening of the game does a good job of showcasing the variety of cars you’ll be driving from drift heavy Japanese cars (yes please!) to vintage cars (no thank you!) before finishing with the officially mandated taste of a Lamborghini that you’ll be striving towards for most of your play time (unless you’re willing to fork out real cash, but more on that later).
Unfortunately, this opening is plagued by my biggest issue with Motorfest – the incredibly grating announcers/tour guides who harass you every 20 seconds during playlist races. This isn’t a critique of the VAs as they get across exactly who the character is during the time they’re wittering on about nothing, but every single one suffers from terminal enthusiasm which got very old very quickly.
But the tour guides aren’t the focus of the game unsurprisingly! After getting through the incredibly sluggish Hawaii Scenic Tour playlist and unlocking some more fun cars to play around with my enjoyment of the game skyrocketed. While you don’t have to start with the scenic tour it’s positioned in such a way that the game is highly suggesting you do it first, and for your own sanity I would advise you to totally ignore that and do either Made in Japan or American Muscle. These will introduce you to a much better variety of what you’ll be doing during your time with the game and give you some very fun cars as rewards for finishing both! The caveat to this is that unless you’re importing a save from The Crew 2 you would have to buy a plane or boat to mess around in.
The first run through of a playlist forces you into using a preset loan car that fits the style of the playlist (Japanese car for Made in Japan, Porsche 911 for the 911 playlist etc.) but on completing the playlist you can take in a vehicle you own to a previously completed race and play with them instead. I can understand the decision behind this to an extent but when some playlists force you to buy a vehicle to unlock the playlist, and then do absolutely nothing with what you’ve just bought, it feels like an arbitrary gate for the sake of having one and forcing you to engage with the game storefront.
While I did enjoy the races and drift events I had the most fun driving between these and getting sidetracked by collectibles (unlocked on finishing a playlist with each subsequent playlist unlocking more to collect) and challenges (unlocked on starting a playlist) such as speed traps, slaloms and escape the circle. Doing all this online with friends swiftly turned into the best kind of chaos with each of us crashing into one another sending us flying, although this may not be the case for you if your friends have even the slightest level of competence at racing games. The free roam is slightly marred by some incredibly wonky NPC AI with cars randomly attempting U-turns on motorways and infuriating inconsistency if another player-controlled car will ghost through you or bring your 300mph speed trap attempt to an abrupt end.
As we are now in 2023 every game needs to have a battle royale feature of some sort and, amazingly, both of the ones in Motorfest are incredibly fun! Demolition Derby is an up to 32 player chaotic crash fest with the standard shrinking circle limiting where you can go and forcing you closer to other players. There are few things quite as satisfying as changing into a monster truck and absolutely flattening someone who has just picked up a repair kit for their mangled little car. Grand Races are races with up to 28 players split across 3 distinct sections each using different car types. You may start off in a street car before changing to an off-roader to crash through a jungle before finally swapping to a hypercar for a final stretch across motorways and cities.
There are microtransactions in the game. Whilst they’re mostly inoffensive it did put a huge dent in my enjoyment of my first session where I went to buy a car to compete in a playlist and was immediately met with a two tier price system – one for earned money in game and another for credits bought using real money. I haven’t at any point felt I needed to spend money to unlock anything but the option looms over every single purchase that you can make in game and leaves a sour taste if I think on it for too long.
Despite a rough opening and some very questionable design decisions I’ve really enjoyed my time with The Crew: Motorfest and will continue to dip into it when I get the urge to drift around a giant corkscrew floating off the coast or to crash into friends at 300mph. There are a few things that I hope will be fixed/tweaked during the game’s lifespan but such is the nature of a live service game – there’s no guarantee it will resemble what it is currently in a years time (or even be online but that’s a different discussion entirely). Overall, I score Motorfest
7 / 10
Game code provided by publisher.
Written by Drew.