The Crew Motorfest review: "Better than Forza Horizon 5 in several ways"

The Crew Motorfest screenshot
(Image: © Ubisoft)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

An open world racer that gets better the more you play it, revealing a wealth of high-quality racing in a beautiful, technically spectacular Hawaii. While it lacks originality, it is better than Forza Horizon 5 in several ways.


  • +

    Technically superb from sprawling views to tiny details

  • +

    An wealth of fundamentally different vehicle types

  • +

    Cross-platform online play


  • -

    Lacks originality and feels very familiar

  • -

    Keeps insisting it's wild and amazing

  • -

    Peaks and troughs of fun and excitement

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The Crew Motorfest is so much like the recent Forza Horizon games, you could feasibly slap a 'Forza Horizon 6' logo on it and most people would be none the wiser. They'd probably even nod appreciatively at how the engine handles dense vegetation so much better, especially in Performance mode at 60fps. Ubisoft and developer Ivory Tower have picked a pretty big fight against Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios, and honestly there isn't a clear winner when playing both today.

Fast Facts

Release date: September 14, 2023
Platforms(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Developer: Ivory Tower
Publisher: Ubisoft

At its heart, The Crew Motorfest is a by-numbers open world racing game, just like the recent Lego 2K Drive, and the aforementioned Forza Horizon 5. For all Motorfest's weird and wacky vehicle types and special events, for the most part you're driving fast, exotic cars around a beautiful Hawaiian island at ludicrous speeds. There's hardly an original bone in its body, and you'll notice influences from loads of other games. 

Street racing with nitrous feels very much like Need For Speed: Unbound, spawning a plane and taking off into blue skies feels like GTA 5, and off-road events finally deliver on the spectacle element at least of that infamous Motorstorm E3 concept video. Indeed, 'Need for Speed meets Motorstorm in an open world' is probably the best description of the core gameplay, only you might need to mention its returning boat and plane switching mechanic too, which is a pretty big deal. Phew.

Welcome to Paradise

The Crew Motorfest screenshot

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The feel of the experience changes dramatically as the hours tick by. It starts off with a breathless medley of race types to whet your appetite for the feast that lies ahead, before The Crew Motorfest loses momentum somewhat, dwelling on its setting over the gameplay and playing a little too much relaxing music. It threatens to turn into a postcard rather than a racing experience, and you soon start to wonder whether it's all Hawaiian shirt and no trousers, as the various voiced characters keep telling you how wild and amazing the races are while you drive on, nonplussed.

But then it all changes. The Crew Motorfest is split into 'playlists', which are themed sets of events. It sounds like every other modern racer in that respect, but here the playlists really do have their own distinct flavors, and can be tackled in any order you choose, so long as you can afford the car to unlock it. Some playlists are pretty dull, like the Japan-obsessed touge and drift events, while others are riotously good-looking like the off-road forest sections and mountaintop dirt bike ride (which looks good enough to sustain an entire game in its own right, especially in first-person mode), or presented with charisma like the Donut Media-endorsed matchups where you find out which is faster out of a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. Others are clever like the retro playlist that adds decade-appropriate screen filters over '50s-'80s cars, complete with a licensed soundtrack including Blondie and Bill Haley and his Comets. 

However, between these standouts are some duds, and the soundtrack often descends into noise and cliche. The voice acting, too, varies in quality, and the casting feels off at times – like the Apex racing announcer with his 'bloody hell, matey' British dialect, somehow voiced by an American actor, and a rock star who sounds more like a hip hop artist. And the AI assistant, 'CARA', doesn't sound like an AI character at all. Combined with cheesy scripting, it can feel rather childish at times, though the addition of commentary in some events is at least something to be applauded, even if it pales in comparison to EA's sport titles, for example.

The Crew Motorfest screenshot

(Image credit: Ubisoft)
Rubber banding

The Crew Motorfest screenshot

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The difficulty isn't perfectly balanced, as sometimes cars will get ahead and stay there for the duration, especially on higher AI skill levels, but the racing is close enough to keep things interesting while you soak in the phenomenal views.

But my goodness, what variety of gameplay there is. To find so many convincing disciplines in one place is extraordinary. The planes have two control modes, allowing newbies to tilt and experts to barrel-roll freely. Boats and planes are both affected by visible cross-winds. You can even drive last year's Red Bull F1 car, managing its tyres in closed track races. The Red Bull can't be visibly damaged (and most cars' damage is very minor), but there are proper destruction derby events to be played online, with impressive deformation technology. It must be a licensing thing.

Graphically, it's gorgeous. Not photo-realistic, rather stylized idealistically, though all of the visual elements are realistic to a point. Lighting is impressive, fabric physics are incredible when you knock over a marquee, and almost everything in the environment can be flattened or destroyed. Knock into a bin and the wooden slats misalign. Knock it over and the top falls off. While there's still the usual problem of trackside obstacles being so flimsy they detract from the challenge of actually driving, few games have managed to combine this quality of fine detail with an absolutely epic draw-distance and versatility of play. Boat to racetrack to sky to offroad… the gameworld is truly your playground. 

The car handling is disappointingly loose for the most part, which is a pity if you want to get some ultra-precise time attack sessions in, though some vehicle types are responsive enough to be taken relatively seriously. With driving assists off, cars are oversteer-heavy, getting into deep slides that are hard to correct. That's fine when playing alone, but upon racing online and seeing everyone disappear down the road, dabbling with the stability assist and traction control makes The Crew Motorfest really come alive. It just isn't serious enough to play like a sim, instead rewarding canny reading of the track ahead. Success is all about momentum rather than textbook cornering technique. And though you can hit rewind at any time (which you will), with the basic traction assists switched on, you may barely need to rewind at all, which makes everything much more fun. Play it like a pure arcade racer and it's a much better experience.

Behind the wheel

The Crew Motorfest screenshot

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The Crew Motorfest is playable with a four player 'crew', but shares little else in common with the original 2014 release – except for the way Motorfest feels like a single-player experience with online tacked-on. Sure, you can opt into online events very easily, races have leaderboards and you do see ghosts of (presumably) other players zooming around, but the game would work just fine as an offline, solo experience. What a shame is that Motorfest requires you to be always online – you need a Ubisoft account and to be always connected, otherwise you just can't play it. And when the server goes down, you're booted. Simple as that.

On the one hand, The Crew Motorfest does virtually nothing you haven't seen before, in some cases too many times already. But on the other, it is effectively like buying Forza Horizon on PS5, which for PlayStation fans who haven't had the pleasure is a pretty big deal. For Xbox fans, the game engine here is noticeably better in dense vegetation with far less pop-in, though it is a very familiar ride. 

Unlike Horizon 5, it feels like Motorfest was designed to be played at 1080p60, rather than 4K30, though you do get the choice on current-gen machines. For sure it's way better than The Crew 2, has moments where it's as good as Forza Horizon 5's best bits, and overall offers fantastic value for money. As it is, it's a touch inconsistent and its standalone quality is dulled by its lack of originality. But it's all done so well in general, you probably won't mind. 


The Crew Motorfest was reviewed on PS5, with code provided by the publisher.

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Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine,, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.