If you fell off Ubisoft's The Crew series following its second entry or are too intimidated by its myriad updates, then The Crew Motorfest is the perfect opportunity to jump back in. Taking what worked in The Crew 2 — its big open world and vehicle variety — the third instalment opts for a Forza Horizon 5 feel with more casual racing and a focus on car culture and open world fun. Following the publisher's June presentation, we went hands on with the racer and came away very impressed with the attention to detail and a new Playlists system.
There is no beating around the bush, though: this is absolutely Ubisoft's take on the Forza Horizon formula. Rocking up at a festival site on the tropical island of O'ahu, you'll partake in races on and off the track to become the best driver around. You can also get behind the wheel of bikes, boats, and planes, but our demo was all about the four wheels of a supercar.
Being able to operate those other vehicles is probably what's actually going to set The Crew Motorfest apart from the Playground Games series, but we can't speak to them right now. What we can discuss is Playlists, which give you races to win and the means to progress through the game. These are sets of races with a common theme that reward currency and motors, with four available in our hands on session. One focused on Japanese automobiles, a second went off-road, another was based on F1 cars, and the last was all about Lamborghini. With the new Revuelto supercar on the front cover, it's hardly a surprise the company has an entire section of the game dedicated to it.
These Playlists wouldn't normally be anything more than a standard Gran Turismo event, but Ubisoft has gone the extra mile here to make sure each one plays differently from the rest. For example, the Made in Japan series prioritises nitrous oxide and sticks to cars of the region. The off-roading Playlist makes handling tougher with hills and jumps to contend with alongside mudslides. The vintage Playlist makes a really neat nod to the olden days by removing the track map entirely, and the F1 saga (its proper name is Motorsports) has you worrying about tyre wear.
It's that last one which proved the most impressive during our demo, giving you something to think about other than accelerating, braking, and turning. If you go off the track, crash into another racer, or simply spend a significant amount of time on a single set of tyres, the wear gauge will eventually deplete and you'll be left with a significantly less responsive car. Maintaining control is much more difficult, and spinning out is a common occurrence the closer the gauge gets to zero. You can refill the meter and get a new set of tyres through a quick pit stop, but you'll need to strategically think about when you take it in order to ensure a podium finish. Do you risk another lap to try and give yourself enough time to get back out in front or pit early so you needn't worry about tyre wear for the rest of the race?
From these Playlists, you'll unlock special edition cars with souped-up specs and custom decals, all to drive around the exotic island that becomes filled with optional activities as you complete races. Feats and Photo Ops are just two side tasks we spotted in the UI, with other challenges to complete along the way.
Our hands on session also briefly featured the Car Meet scene, an area you can walk around that acts as a hub for the entire game. We weren't able to explore it at all, as more details are being shared by Ubisoft soon. Other observations included really cool live-action clips to introduce each Playlist and billboards set up around the open world to let you jump directly into a race from the Playlists you've unlocked at that point. There's also a rewind function that lets you scrub through the last 15 seconds of gameplay to find an appropriate place to return to the action, instead of pre-determined points other games give you.
With our roughly 45-minute session providing just a taste of what The Crew Motorfest has to offer, we're eager to play the final version come September on PS5, PS4. We didn't even get to explore the open world that connects all these Playlists together, nor explore any other modes or features. The structure of the game's races has left a positive mark on us, though, and with the Forza Horizon setup finally on PS5, we can look forward to the vibe just as much as the races. If the whole game is like this, then The Crew Motorfest is great.
Set for release on PS5 and PS4, The Crew Motorfest launches on 14th September 2023. Are you looking forward to it? Let us know in the comments below.