There aren't many racers lining up on the arcade racing grid these days, but while Forza Horizon might stake a significant claim to pole position, I felt like The Crew wasn't far behind – at least when it came to the novelty factor. Its truncated version of the continental United States – explorable by car, boat, or plane once its sequel came around – turned America into a racetrack. But for The Crew 3, Ubisoft is leaving all that behind and going somewhere a little different.
The Crew Motorfest, as this new iteration is officially named, takes motorsports fans to Hawaii to take part in
the Horizon festival the eponymous festival. Senior creative director Stephane Beley tells me that the shift in location is due to the island chain's ability to sit atop the game's three main development pillars; a setting that's diverse enough for an open world, playful enough for a live experience, and the perfect playground for anything with an engine.
Welcome to the jungle
A new teaser trailer shows cars tearing down jungle tracks before bursting out onto brilliant, white-sand beaches and then on through the city streets of Honolulu. Beley says that the PS5 and Xbox Series X has allowed for an overhaul of the game's physics, ensuring each of those surfaces feels entirely different to race on; even different types of sand will move underneath your tyres in different ways. That new-gen tech will also make Hawaii look fantastic, with beautiful, varied landscapes and breathtaking vistas.
Planes and boats will return - Beley is keen to point out that it's Motorfest, not carfest, so anything with an internal combustion engine is welcome. With its towering volcanoes and shining seas, Hawaii is the perfect place for that wide array of vehicular velocity, but it does seem as though those on four wheels will be front-and-centre. Beley mentions the importance of "car culture" multiple times, and the teaser trailer focuses on an array of motorsports' most iconic images, from Lamborghini's bull to Ferarri's stallion. Supercars are often the superstars of these games, but The Crew will offer a wide array of cars and brands, with more information coming closer to launch.
But that run-up to launch also offers a franchise first. The Crew Motorfest will be available for members of the Ubisoft Insiders program starting tomorrow, allowing fans in to help tune the experience over time. Beley's team will be looking for feedback - from what it feels like to be behind the wheel all the way to details like PC performance - with information shared over the months ahead of the planned 2023 release. When asked what it was about The Crew that had kept him involved in the game for more than a decade, Beley spoke about the importance of accessibility. That covers the traditional spectrum of tools (with specific mention of features for colorblind players), but also the keeping the franchise's 30 million players involved in the entire process; "there's plenty of stuff inside the experience that I want to be finalised with the community."
The Crew Motorfest seems like an interesting opportunity for Ubisoft's Ivory Tower studio, and for Ubisoft as a whole. The company is still searching for its next live service success story after the surprise longevity of Rainbow Six: Siege, but the open world arcade racing genre has long been defined by Forza Horizon, an Xbox exclusive that has little direct competition on PlayStation consoles. Motorfest, then, has the potential to introduce a whole new platform to the joys of this style of chaotic racing. That should excite any PS5 owners with a need for speed that remains underserved by Gran Turismo's more serious offerings. Whether you've been following The Crew since the beginning or are being introduced to it for the first time now, after an intriguing debut trailer, all racing fans should watch The Crew: Motorsport with curiosity as we inch towards its release window later this year.
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