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Friday, December 8, 2023

Old Home, New Horizons: Hands-on with The Crew Motorfest

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There’s a circular chicken-or-the-egg argument to be made around The Crew Motorfest. Call out its uncanny similarities to Playground Games’ current Forza Horizon series and you’ll invariably be reminded that Microsoft’s genre-leading racer arguably already owes its own debt to 2006’s pioneering Test Drive Unlimited from Eden Games. It’s a debate further muddied by the consideration that The Crew developer Ivory Tower was indeed founded by Eden Games veterans, including Test Drive Unlimited game director Stéphane Beley.

However, here are the facts: Motorfest does appear, more than ever, extremely inspired by the tone of Forza Horizon. That much is clear. However, it’s retaining the multi-vehicle approach that helps The Crew keep its own identity – and it’s doing so in a tropical paradise that, after hundreds of hours of Test Drive Unlimited nearly two decades ago, feels a little like returning home.

The end-result of this cocktail isn’t completely clear after our 30-minute hands-on, as our first taste of The Crew Motorfest in action was limited to just cars. Boats, motorcycles, and aircraft are returning from The Crew 2 but our initial introduction to Motorfest didn’t touch on these vehicle types.

It did, however, highlight a broad spectrum of cars – and it also gave us an early taste of how Motorfest is structured, with themed racing and driving challenges arranged into separate playlists. These playlists are described by Beley as short campaigns, and they appear to be loosely similar to Forza Horizon’s ‘Horizon Stories.’ That is, driving missions that place us in specific vehicles for certain tasks or races, keeping the action varied and teaching us a little about an interesting pillar of car culture while they’re at it.

Motorfest’s curated prologue spotlights a number of these playlists. The first highlights iconic Japanese sports cars and marks the arrival of Toyota in the series, and events take place on the rain-soaked, night time streets of Honolulu. This quick taster was followed by an offroad racing-themed playlist (pitting 4WDs against offroad bikes in a bush-bashing cross-country hustle), and a closed-course, pure motorsports-themed one (which features pit stops). There’s also a playlist that focuses on cars from the ’50s through to the ’80s, and another squarely on the history and pedigree of Lamborghini. Front-and-centre here is the newly-announced Lamborghini Revuelto, which was officially revealed just weeks ago as the V12 hybrid successor to the Aventador and will be the most powerful production model the company has ever made.

The Crew Motorfest – First Screenshots

We were also able to select a playlist to revisit and participate in a further two events, and the vintage playlist beckoned. The first event was a leisurely cruise in a hulking American land yacht, and the second was a point-to-point race in a Ferrari F40. I particularly loved the intro vignette of old-school footage here, and having the music match the eras was also a strong design victory. Hurtling through Hawaii in one of the most iconic ’80s supercars ever made with Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ blaring on the radio was, honestly, a pretty brilliant few minutes.

Hurtling through Hawaii in one of the most iconic ’80s supercars ever made with Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ blaring on the radio was, honestly, a pretty brilliant few minutes.


The demo was conducted with default settings but it is possible to make some broad assessments on the handling, and the news seems good. The Crew series’ arcade accessibility is still here, but there’s already a better sense of weight and grip. That is, the cars feel heavier in an authentic way, and more planted as a result. It also feels as if you can balance cars on the throttle more and gently correct out of mid-corner oversteer.

We were not able to experience any free-roam driving during our session so it’s not possible to offer much insight into the overall nature of Ivory Tower’s take on the island of O’ahu. On first glance, however, the slices of it we drove on appear reminiscent of both Forza Horizon 3 and Forza Horizon 5. That is, winding beachside roads, muddy rainforest tracks, and urban city streets. Unlike Test Drive Unlimited, Motorfest is not a 1:1 recreation of O’ahu in its entirety but from our brief glimpse of the map it appears to remain a credible facsimile, with Honolulu down on the south shore, and two large forest reserves flanking the main route from Pearl Harbor to Pipeline.

Interestingly, Ivory Tower has also confirmed that The Crew 2 players will be able to import the contents of their own garages for use in The Crew Motorfest. More details on how this will work are to follow at a later date.

Speaking of dates, The Crew Motorfest hits the streets on September 14. How will it fare against both Forza Horizon and the upcoming Hong Kong-based resurrection of the Test Drive Unlimited series, which is also still reportedly due out this year? I don’t know about you but I look forward to finding out.


Luke is Senior Editor and part of the IGN reviews team. He really did play a ridiculous amount of Test Drive Unlimited. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.

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