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The Crew: Motorfest (Xbox Series X) Review

October 5, 2023 | Posted by Stewart Lange
The Crew: Motorfest Image Credit: Ubisoft Entertainment
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The Crew: Motorfest (Xbox Series X) Review  

Forza Horizon has dominated the open world racing game market since it was first released for the Xbox 360 and now over a decade later, we may have finally found a game that while maybe not a full contender to the throne, it’s certainly more than capable of pushing the Microsoft exclusive every step of the way in the Crew Motorfest.

The third installment in the Crew series sees a massive overhaul from the previous games. The first was decent but overly forgettable and the fact it was more forcibly multiplayer didn’t help it massively at release as the “always online” games weren’t quite as commonly accepted as they are now. The Crew 2 was a massive overhaul in terms of the ambition and scale, with huge open world to explore across a huge range of vehicle types including planes and boats. Motorfest serves up more of the same and it’s hard not to see the Horizon influence given that essentially, a festival of driving has taken over an idyllic, beautiful island for a celebration of fast cars and racing stemming out of a hub in the middle full of bright lights, blaring music and show rooms full of the most beautiful vehicles in the world.

The Horizon effect isn’t a bad thing. On one hand, it’s a tried and tested formula that works and while on paper it looks like a complete rip off, there’s hardly a long list of non-contrived reasons that such an occurance could be taking place. Thankfully, Motorfest does so much differently that it not only holds it own against Horizon, it does lots right fully on it’s own merit. The biggest change is the focus on the Playlist system. Not to be fully mistaken with a Spotify playlist, they essentially create a theme over the next few races, with the default soundtrack, accessible cars and even the scenery all change with the selection. The first one you’re likely to do is a Japanese one, and while it’s not the most exciting, once you start to realise which ones will compliment your play style and what you’re looking for it’s actually quite a cool twist on what should be a hard formula to deviate from too dramatically. While some of the menus are going to feel quite familiar to the recent Horizon titles, this at least makes the core gameplay loop feel unique in it’s own right. One downside is that it can take a while to unlock some of the genuinely amazing playlists and events, with me maybe hitting 10 hours playtime before the hook really got me. After that, I was no longer playing to review, I was playing because I truly wanted to.

Also a break from Horizon is the driving itself. While it can be customised, at default the driving in Motorfest is much more arcadey than the Forza series. While obviously the planes and boats don’t have a direct comparison, these handle much like you’d expect them to in games where they clearly aren’t the main focus; such as GTA or the open world Ghost Recon games, for example. The four wheel driving feels more like Need for Speed at it’s best than a sim racing game, or even the prior Crew titles. The sense of speed I’d argue is better than Horzion as a result and the use of NOS and flying across jumps just further encourges this. The thing is, developers Ivory Tower were formerly Eden Games, who gave us Test Drive Unlimited which arguable drew up the blueprint that Forza Horizon built into their own creation. This is suddenly apparent as you find the Hawaii map to be semi familiar from that game, but with development and creative “borrowing” to bring the shine to the title that it needs to compete.

The full range of licences vehicles all feel different from one another too, with sports cars or track based cars feeling dramatically different from 4 wheel drive or off road vehicles. The motorsport levels now offer an element of strategy with pit-stops being required to ensure your tyres last the whole race. This is a big departure from the island based races and another thing that sets Motorfest apart, hopefully appealing to the crowd who prefer the more sim based racers such as Assetto Corsa or Project Cars. It doesn’t do enough to fully scratch the itch, but it certainly helps bridge the gap and honestly, I wasn’t at any point looking for that from Motorfest fully anyway. Where it shines is the sensation of speed, the wide variety of races and the fact it’s just different enough to possibly make a follow up a true contender to the Forza Horizon series, and especially for Playstation gamers who have been looking for a bonafide alternative for years. I just feel like it’s release during arguably the most crowded window of new games for years will mean it gets lost in the shuffle and that would be a shame because quite honestly, I have very little to say against Motorfest at all.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Despite the obvious fact it's borrowing a tried and tested formula from The Forza Horizon series, The Crew Motorfest is a true competitor to it, rather than just an alternative or a clone. It's fast, fun and extremely varied and if you prefer your racing in a slightly more arcade style, I may suggest you'll have more fun here than with the upcoming release of Forza Motorsport, which will certainly be a Gran Turismo rival. It's finally a great time to be a racing game fan.