The upcoming attempt at Playground Games’ established formula is destined to finish on the podium, which isn’t exactly a glowing remark considering it’s a race between two. That’s not to say The Crew Motorfest doesn’t have merit; it’s an exceptional looking setting, the picturesque Hawaiian island of Oahu providing an eye-catching playground for burning rubber; the driving physics seem grippy, responsive and above all else accessible, but with enough customisation options for petrol heads to endlessly tweak vehicles to their heart’s content. And with 600 plus vehicles available at launch – and more likely coming in DLC – all meticulously crafted with bespoke engine sounds, The Crew Motorfest is shaping up to be a car collectors dream.
It’s just… well… it’s all a bit derivative, isn’t it? The festival setting, one in which a rabble of motorsport enthusiasts occupy beautiful lands in celebration of car culture is lifted straight out of Forza Horizon’s playbook. Motorfest’s verdant, lush, beachside setting – whilst indeed beautiful – is more than reminiscent of Forza Horizon 3’s Australia with a touch of Forza Horizon 5’s Mexico thrown in for good measure. The choice of Hawaiian island is even derivative of Test Drive Unlimited too. Surely there are other worldwide locations with esteemed, challenging driving roads which the developer could have chosen? Iceland perhaps? South Africa maybe? Alpine Italy and Switzerland? Hunan Province, China? Morocco’s Mediterranean coast? The list could go on – unique, unexplored locales of winding road, rugged terrain, aquatic beauty, and dense metropolises exist all over the world, so it feels a bit of misstep for the developer to tread such familiar ground in The Crew Motorfest’s setting.
From watching closed beta gameplay though, the infrastructure design of Oahu appears a carefully planned network of roads and side streets – highways connect rural towns, perimeter motorways orbit urban cityscapes, country roads wind believably through mountains. It’s a far cry from Forza Horizon’s wild highways oftentimes resembling dropped spaghetti and should result in some satisfying road trips between events. Sure, there are those that’ll lament the loss of hours-long drives through gorgeous, unfathomably vast American scenery as per the first two The Crew games, but in Motorfest’s miniaturised Hawaiian island a sensibly designed road network on a truncated map will at least alleviate some of the tedium felt when driving between events in Forza Horizon.
There’s always the somewhat unique option to switch on the fly between car to airplane to boat in Motorfest, granting players chance to glimpse the Hawaiian splendour from the sky or sea. And what’s more, the island’s waterways and airspace are as well designed as its motorways. Three tiers of traversal are a definite pat on the back for the devs at Ivory Tower; their ability to craft an environment that’s penned in compared to its forebearers yet feels larger than the play space’s square mileage suggests is a feat that can only be commended.
There are only flashes of these alternative modes of transport visible in The Crew Motorfest’s official trailers up to now but have a look through some of the closed beta gameplay to get a feel for how the transitions between vehicle types works. In short: it’s seamless. And, as a bonus, switching back to car mid-air above an event on terra firma below looks to be hella fun for some unconventional target practice.
Planes and sea vessels aren’t exempt from Motorfest’s Playlists either, which is a good addition by Ivory Tower. Just to explain, these Playlists are a collection of tailored events which aim to celebrate a specific car culture. So, in addition to challenges related specifically to air and sea, there’s a smorgasbord of mini campaigns tied to explicit motor vehicle subcultures. Of course, there’s an off-road speciality with a garage stocked full of rally and motocross vehicles primed to plough through muddy country roads, classic car races (authentically complete without the availability of nitro boost, which seems a given on pretty much every other vehicle type in Motorfest), elite motorsport in the form of F1 and Indy Cars, drifty Japanese street racing (which comes with a neon-soaked Honolulu set-dressed as if a tropical Shinjuku), Lamborghini and Porsche specific championships cycling through different eras of these esteemed manufacturer’s legacies… the list goes on.
An advantage these Playlists have over, say, Forza Horizon’s Horizon Stories is whereas Playground Games’ MO is to lean heavily on vehicle and manufacturer info with car missions light on story, The Crew Motorfest really does try to educate players on the specificities of whatever culture their Playlist is inspired by. The specifics of the Playlist extend to gameplay mechanics too. Those nitro-less classic cars? Well, if you’re getting behind the wheel of a 1961 Jaguar E-Type, a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, or 1969 Ford Mustang prepare to be without map or sat nav. With the task being to get from point A to point B on disparate locations on the island the thrill of racing off the beaten track using dusty old photos of landmarks as your only guide is something Forza Horizon in its current guise cannot replicate.
The Playlists in The Crew Motorfest appear tied to the core driving experience, rather than side missions as per Forza Horizon. On launch, there will be 15 Playlists available, but undoubtedly more will arrive throughout Motorfest’s life cycle. The developer appears to be aiming for a live service feel with Motorfest, with monthly challenges accessible from what the developer calls the Main Stage.
If this feature started out too downbeat on The Crew Motorfest, well, that wasn’t intentional. Sure, there’s a lot of same-same here, but peel back the veneer and Motorfest is genuinely attempting to provide something different. Sure, it looks the same, and it starts out kind of the same with a rabble of trendy millennials gushing over fast shiny supercars, but as evidenced in this feature there are points of differentiation too. Whether these warrant Motorfest to be upheld as its own thing is debatable, but inarguably these bespoke features Motorfest is attempting will be good for the player. Fans of the Forza Horizon formula will benefit as Playground will undoubtedly up their game for their next open-world motoring instalment.
And, above all else, if you are indeed one of those fans of the Horizon formula then there’s no reason not to dive into The Crew Motorfest, whether it’s more of the same or not. And for those that always fancied Horizon but are exclusively PlayStation players, well… this game is for you too.
Surpassing Forza Horizon will be a tall order for The Crew Motorfest given the former’s longevity and popularity but coming second place to the best in the business isn’t necessarily bad in this case. Or, rather, perhaps these games should be thought of as siblings, and for anyone that has two or more kids choosing your favourite is a pointless, fruitless task.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.