September 1st, 2012
(as of 2012-12-04 20:52:14 PST)
(as of 2012-12-04 20:52:14 PST)
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Choosing a character in a well-made fighting game is like deciding what to eat at a restaurant you frequent. There's safety in going with what you're used to, but pleasant surprises await if you dare to try something new. Both feelings initially resonate in Secret Ponchos, though sticking to one fighter becomes an easy choice the moment you discover that each outlaw has a progression system. Superb skill yields substantial rewards, and Secret Ponchos sticks with traditional upgrades toward increased health, stamina, range, and other familiar stats.Eight-player free-for-alls are predictably chaotic.
The diversity of this small cast of five outlaws follows the adage that "what one stat giveth, the other taketh away." The Kid Red (a blunt nod to Billy the Kid) is a dual-wielder whose high-firing rate is tempered with low health. The opposite applies to the presumptive Civil War veteran known as The Deserter. Each hoodlum performs according to seven stats, and it's refreshing to play something where each attribute feels immediately tangible in combat.
My go-to outlaw is The Matador, the obligatory left-field character in a group of Western-themed outlaws. She's not unlike the French fencer Charlotte, who equally stuck out in the predominantly Japanese-themed Samurai Shodown. This bullfighter is limited in ranged attacks, but her melee hits are especially lethal. It wasn't conscious, but this choice does reflect my tendency to rely on melee kills in first-person shooters. I simply like the immediacy and gratification of an up-close, high-damage attack. And just like with a good fighting game, there's a lot to glean from learning moves beyond the standard attack. In The Matador's case, a lunging stab is both deadly and far-reaching, though it leaves you wide open if you miss. Using her cape to throw up blinding dust is a perfect overture before unleashing a series of uninterrupted sword attacks.
If you suspect that this roster is intentionally modest, that's because it is. If you look at the Outlaw submenu, you'll notice question marks in place of two concealed desperados, saved as paid downloadable content for a future date. When the initial cast includes someone as unusual as a matador, it wouldn't be unreasonable to get a Davy Crockett-inspired frontiersman or a Rough Rider like Teddy Roosevelt down the line. My money is on a Robert Rodriguez-influenced mariachi performer with an arsenal in his guitar case, but what I really want is a broken bottle-wielding barkeep who is sick and tired of his saloon getting trashed.Death scenes are slow, dramatic, and, of course, letterboxed.
I simply want more fighters because I want to see how Switchblade Monkey's artists interpret more Western archetypes, given how marvelous the current cast looks. Pointy and angular lines work for this fivesome and are eye-catching as both 2D art (e.g.. during the match introduction) and as 3D models during the match and main menu. If you told me that this game had been spun off from a cult graphic novel, I would have believed you, though the lack of an expository single-player mode is mildly disappointing.
For all the hours that one can spend upgrading the ghostly Phantom Poncho or the quick-drawing Killer, the limited selection of four maps and deathmatch modes does the game no favors in holding your attention. That said, the eight-player Free For All isn't your standard deathmatch, since the victor is determined on the best kill/death ratio, not overall kills. When you're using a fighter who cannot heal (e.g., everyone but The Deserter), hiding becomes a viable option, especially if there's a kill count lead you want to protect. Before you know it, you've become that one character in The Hunger Games (or, if you wish, Battle Royale) who manages to survive much of the story by staying out of trouble. Hiding is also tactically beneficial in one-on-one matches if you have a health lead. If the match counter reaches zero, the healthier opponent is declared the winner. If you're the more injured opponent, running around anxiously to hunt down the potential victor can leave you careless and outside your comfort zone.
The indifference of death and the unfairness of the Wild West bears out fittingly in Free For All. Managing your kill/death ratio is all the more challenging when you have seven hunters out for your head. At its cruelest, this mode lets you steal kills. When one outlaw manages to reduce another opponent's health to a sliver, you can swoop in to finish off that weakened foe, at the risk of drawing the ire of the player who did all the work. As a minor consolation for these stolen kills, Secret Ponchos does factor the total damage you've dealt in a given match.
Graphic-novel-style body distortion makes this table impractical for The Deserter.
Secret Ponchos' elegance is in its cover system. Taking temporary refuge behind a horse trough or a train car to take a breath and collect yourself is a sensible tactic for any gunslinger. Hiding behind objects to avoid gunfire is not unusual in top-down shooters. How Secret Ponchos stands out is two-fold. Depending on your outlaw of choice, getting into a proper cover pose will speed up your healing, reloading, or stamina recovery process. This heightens the tension not only for you but also for your pursuers, who know full well that the tide of battle can be rebalanced if you manage to avoid gunfire long enough. Actual concealment is the other benefit of cover. Functioning like a short-term version of fog-of-war tactics seen in real-time strategy games, pressing against an object renders you invisible unless you're within another character's field of vision. It's easy to appreciate this level of depth. Cover can turn a shootout into a cat-and-mouse hunt, especially if a team with a point lead chooses to hide while the clock runs down. On the flip side, bold hombres who do not believe in stealth can just stand in the middle of a given map's open area with the benefit of a 360-degree view and wait for would-be challengers. If you want to be Peter Fonda and yell, "Come on out!" at the top of your lungs, Secret Ponchos gives you such moments.
The first time I was gunned down by an opponent who had taken full advantage of the cover system was the moment I appreciated the thoughtfulness that has been poured into Secret Ponchos. You can always count on adversarial multiplayer enthusiasts to pick out the best-performing characters within days of a game's release. So when an eight-player ranked match features at least one of each of the five outlaws, you know to expect a beautifully balanced competition. Since it encourages replay through one fighter over a long period, it's not the small roster that limits Secret Ponchos' appeal but rather its passable selection of maps and modes. Yet Secret Ponchos is well worth falling for, if only because playing as The Killer and using cover for a speedy reload is the closest a game has ever come to depicting the first Metal Gear Solid boss fight from Revolver Ocelot's perspective.
The Flight Simulator series will return later this week, though not from Microsoft.
Train Simulator publisher Dovetail Games signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft earlier this year for Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition, a new version of the 2006 game that will launch through Steam on December 18. Pricing was not announced.
The game promises to deliver an "authentically accurate aerial experience." Flight Simulator X offers players more than twenty different aircraft, including commercial jetliners, fighter jets, and even single-engine private planes and helicopters. There's around 80 missions to complete, including races and rescues, and over 24,000 airports, according to a recent press release.
Flight Simulator X will also offer multiplayer support and it works with Windows 8.1. Looking beyond the game's release next week, Dovetail says it plans to release a "range of add-ons" for the game starting in 2015. These were not named outright, but you can imagine more aircraft and locations.
Dovetail and Microsoft announced their Microsoft Flight licensing arrangement back in July. Per the terms of that deal, Dovetail gets to release Flight Simulator X on Steam, and also create new, original titles based on Microsoft's proprietary flight technology. These games have not been announced yet.
Fans of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series were dealt a blow earlier this year when the company shut down free-to-play simulator Microsoft Flight.
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The latest Amiibo manufacturing defect has appeared in the form of a Luigi toy with no left hand. Someone is hoping to cash in on the mistake, as it appeared today on auction site eBay.This is what the Luigi Amiibo should look like
How did Luigi lose his hand? It must have happened at the manufacturing plant, because the seller says the Amiibo remains factory sealed. It appears Luigi's trademark white glove was simply never put on.
The owner of the busted--and potentially valuable--Luigi Amiibo lives in the UK, though they will sell the item to anyone worldwide for an extra fee. Only two bids have been placed so far, with the top offer being £11.50 ($18).
That's just barely above Luigi's standard £10.99 ($17) asking price in the UK.
The one-handed Luigi was purchased directly from the Nintendo online store, and its seller assures bidders that it's no fake. "The Amiibo has not been opened, tampered with, or damaged in any way and is currently being stored safely in a box as to prevent and accidental damage," the seller writes.
As for why the seller is choosing to put the rare Luigi Amiibo up for sale instead of keeping it as a collector's item, this person told us: "As we've seen with the Dual Arm Cannon Samus, Dual Sword Marth, Legless Peach, some of these rare Amiibos can go for quite high amounts. I'm also only a student, so extra money would really not be a bad thing."
The Luigi Amiibo defect is the latest in a string of mishaps, following the two-cannon Samus, legless Princess Peach, and the Marth toy with two swords. We can only imagine what will come next.
Nintendo's Amiibo line was released in late November alongside Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The toys have been top-sellers, shifting some 700,000 units in ten days, and that's just for the United States. The most popular Amiibo so far is Link, from the Legend of Zelda series.
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Capcom's classic 1987 platformer Mega Man is not an easy game, a group of teenagers recently discovered as part of the latest video from the folks at the REACT YouTube channel.
Check out the video above to see a handful of teens take on the NES platformer for the very first time in their lives--with varying degrees of success. Their exclamations--"What the heck, bro?" when being shot at, and "It's just death at every corner" as an assessment for the game--are spot-on.
Do you remember the first time you played Mega Man? Let us know what you remember about the experience in the comments below!
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The fourth major patch of Assassin's Creed Unity, the one that promises the clear up most of the game's remaining issues, has been delayed. It was previously scheduled to arrive today, December 15, but this is no longer the case, Ubisoft explained in a post on its website.
"Rigorous quality control is of paramount importance to us, and your feedback over these past weeks has indicated that it is important to you as well," Ubisoft said.
"As stated last week, we'd expected to release the patch today (and we know that many are anticipating its release), but we are choosing to hold off until we can give you the improvements we've promised," Ubisoft went on. "We are committed to delivering major performance improvements, which requires that we refurbish the Paris map and that will take a few more days to hit the high level of quality our players deserve."
Ubisoft ended its note today by again thanking fans for their continued patience and understanding.
As previously explained, Unity Patch 4 will address a long list of issues, and should improve stability, performance, online matchmaking, and connectivity overall. You can read the full Assassin's Creed Unity Patch 4 update notes through our previous coverage.
Unity was released in November, though it--like other big-name games this year--suffered through some technical troubles out of the gate. Ubisoft has released a number of patches so far, and is even offering up free DLC and full-games to apologize for the bugs.
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Amazon has The best new deal of the day, offering Assassin's Creed Unity for $30 as part of its Gold Box offer. The deal is good today only, and applies to all versions of the game: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (physical and digital). Head to Amazon's website to buy the game.
Below you'll find the rest of today's best deals divided by platform:
Sony still has a $400 PlayStation 4 bundle that includes one out of four games: Destiny, NBA2K15, Far Cry 4, or LittleBigPlanet 3.
Best Buy has a 500GB PS4 with free copies of Killzone: Shadow Fall and 22 Jump Street for $400.
Today's your last chance to grab a game from the second week of holiday sales on the PlayStation Store.
Some highlights from the second week of offers:
Other PS4 games deals:
Get a $10 credit when you add $60 to your PSN account with PayPal.
This week's Deals with Gold offer includes:
However, keep in mind that Garden Warfare and Peggle 2 are free with a $5/month or $30 year membership to EA Access. We also have a list of Xbox 360 Deals with Gold.
You can get all the Batman Arkham games and DLC for just $10 from Bundle Stars.
Humble Bundle has kicked off its Winter Sale, with discounts on more than 500 games. The store will host 48-hour deals, 12-hour flash sales, and additional offers yet to be revealed over the course of the Winter Sale. Some great deals available right now include Shadow Warrior for $4, Valkyria Chronicles for $15, and The Walking Dead: Season 2 for $8.49.
You can get SimCity 2000 for free from Origin.
Green Man Gaming is offering a 20 percent discount on digital games with the code DECEMB-202014-GREENM. Its 12 Days of Festive Deals promotion is also discounting LEGO games by 75 today.
Today's your last chance to get in on Uplay's buy one, get one free sale, which includes Assassin's Creed Unity, Far Cy 4, Watch Dogs, and many others.
GameStop has the PS Vita Borderlands 2 Limited Edition Bundle for $170.
Samsung 28-Inch Ultra High Definition LED Monitor -- $496 (Amazon)
|Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg.|
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Wait, what? Some DLC is winning GameSpot's Best PS3 Game award? When it's this good, absolutely. Left Behind also won our Game of the Month award in February, prompting some to scoff at the fact that a mere downloadable add-on to a game could be compared, on its own merits, to full standalone releases. But the reality is that it's been years since traditional archetypes of price and length applied to video games. What constitutes a "video game" is a moving target, and constantly updating and reevaluating that definition is essential to the growth and prosperity of this medium we love so much.
Left Behind, too, is essential. Though clearly based in many of the same elements that made The Last of Us excellent, Left Behind's remarkable achievements in character development and gameplay mechanics are entirely its own. Ellie and Riley's friendship is one of the most rich and nuanced relationships we've seen in games, charting not just the extremes of emotion that you'd expect in such a perilous world, but also the subtle ebbs and flows of fondess and distance, the warming and cooling that temper and forge the bonds we hold most dear.
The emotive acting and genuine writing are wonderful, but what makes Left Behind a wonderful game is how brilliantly it repurposes The Last of Us' core mechanics. The vital combat skill of hitting an enemy with a brick becomes a mischievous teenage game of smashing car windows. Exploring the environment for items to use in crafting becomes scouring the mall for joke books and masks to use in goofing off. A water gun fight uses stealth and shooting to create a moment of light-hearted play. These moments stand in dramatic contrast to the desperate, desolate combat that Ellie must undertake in the snowy sequences and serve as a glowing example of the power of games to entertain, enlighten, and evoke emotion with nonviolent mechanics.
In perhaps the most transcendent scene in the Left Behind, Ellie stands with her eyes closed before a non-functioning arcade cabinet and Riley talks her through the act of playing an imaginary fighting game. Though small prompts appear so you can play along, the screen is taken up almost entirely by Ellie's face. Skepticism gives way to concentration as she dedicates herself to the task and steadily gets swept up in the moment. The imagined lights of the game dance across her face, each color a shade of the happiness she is awash in from having a game to play and a friend by her side. In this moment, she is a mirror, and you see not only the imaginative, transformative joy of games, you see yourself.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor isn’t just a Lord of the Rings game. Developer Monolith Productions has taken an IP that has seen some rough times and spun it into something completely fresh, boldly creating their own characters and story set within author J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe. But it’s not just Monolith’s story that’s being told, it’s players’ stories. Through the nemesis system, Monolith’s brilliantly-structured enemy hierarchy, players can bring about an Uruk’s demise or, in dying at their hand, bolster the enemy's prestige. Every action affects the Uruks you are fighting against, ensuring that every time you play the game your experience will be different. It’s a never-ending, ever-giving cycle of push and pull against your enemies that offers endless ways to complete challenges. Not to mention smartly scripted Uruk enemies with unique abilities and weaknesses make your encounters with them entertaining. For all of this and more, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is our pick for the best PS4 game of 2014.
"No, honey. They go to limbo."
This conversation with my grandmother introduced me to the idea of an otherworldly realm in which I pictured children wandering aimlessly through darkness and mist, denied the pleasure of communing with God. I imagined that to be in Limbo was to feel perpetually lost and unable to find the way, or to even know what your destination might be.
Limbo, the game, is special in that while it does not wholly depict that mysterious dimension as my mind did, it captures its essence. You are a boy who wakes up in a lonely world made up only of black, white, and shades of gray. Video game logic demands you walk from left to right, jumping over obstacles as they appear, a simple task that needs little attention in the initial moments. This is your chance to absorb your surroundings. The background provides an illusion of depth, but its branches and bridges are out of focus, as if you are dreaming them into existence. The pint-sized hero, his bright blinking eyes shining from his blackened silhouette, trots ahead with the charming gangliness of a six-year-old.You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
Then comes death. Limbo is a hostile place, home to giant spiders that would feast upon you, and traps apparently scattered by the world's other denizens. You step onto a claw trap, and it closes on your neck. Your head falls to the ground and wobbles just for a moment before lying still. No tears are shed, no music plays--the game provides no grand gesture to honor your demise. It simply happens, and you revive at the most recent checkpoint to try the puzzle again. Some of these deaths aren't outright fair; stepping on a pressure plate could mean certain death, but so could jumping over it. Such inconsistencies aren't common, but your first time in Limbo requires some trial-and-error experimentation. Loading times are short, and checkpoints are frequent, however, so death is rarely a frustration, though often a horror.
What does it all mean? People pondered that question when Limbo was first released on the Xbox 360 in 2010, and the Xbox One version adds nothing new that would illuminate the mystery of this world, so there's little reason to splurge on another version if you've already played. Nevertheless, the ending offers important clues to the greater plot, if not to the details of the game's events and objects--the imposing neon hotel sign that you must cross, for instance, or the murderous children, seemingly escaped from Lord of the Flies, that aim their blowguns at you. Limbo means for its atmosphere to consume you in the moment, and in that sense, it succeeds. You drag a dead child's corpse to solve a puzzle, and perhaps wonder if anyone grieves this lost soul given the apathy of the realm. You glimpse a figure and regard her with tenderness, but the brief glimmer of hope is snuffed out in an instant.After life, before death.
It isn't until the final third of its two- to three-hour runtime that Limbo's puzzles become challenging. The first half of the game is more concerned with building dread and ambiguity. Even after being vanquished, a colossal spider's remaining leg thrusts at you from its thorax, one final act of defiance that could leave two corpses for the crows to pick. When you pull the leg from the spider, the audible cracks and visible white splatters emphasize just how recently its life force was crushed. Elsewhere, you push boxes and pull levers, rushing to finish the puzzle before the rising water fills the room. Failure means watching the dear boy go as limp as a ragdoll as liquid fills his lungs.
The second half leaves behind the horrors in favor of puzzles involving gravity and complex machinery. As memorable as it is to navigate tilting rooms with only a few hanging lamps to light the way, it is that spider that most embodies Limbo's somber spirit. The later puzzles are complex and clever, but they don't haunt the heart. The finale feels abrupt because it returns to the first hour's imagery, having abandoned it for long enough to have altered your personal connection with the game from an emotional one to an intellectual one. And yet the end offers insight into a backstory left otherwise untouched--enough of it to inspire another playthrough, this time ever so much wiser than you were before.
With the exception of the Rayman games, there aren't a lot of options for PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 that capture the joy of two-dimensional platforming. Juju doesn't do that consistently, either, but it has its moments. Sometimes things even come together well enough that you'd swear you've been deposited in the Mushroom Kingdom. Perhaps the game's biggest problem is that it seems to be working to evoke that particular response rather than to establish a consistent and engaging identity of its own.There's a medal in it for you if you grab everything.
An introductory cutscene shows two young mammals are playing outside when a wise old bear walks past them on his way to what looks like an Incan pyramid. The youngsters follow him, darting behind trees to avoid detection. They watch as their elder sticks his staff in a pedestal slot and communes with the translucent images of four distant planets. He is interrupted by a little bird that seeks his help, so he descends to the nearby forest. That distraction gives the kids a chance to mess with the staff. Their meddling releases a giant bat and a bunch of bees and assorted pests. Before long, the kindly old bear is abducted, the world is overrun by malicious wildlife, and a little pink bear with a magic mask--one of the two responsible for the mess in the first place--must reassemble the staff by journeying to the four mysterious planets.
Juju takes place almost entirely in these four themed worlds. Each one consists of around eight action stages, along with two boss encounters. Individual stages don't feature a timer, just a goal at the end where you can stop a spinning wheel to collect a prize before returning to the world hub to select the next stage. Areas are littered with the game's equivalent of coins or rings, and you earn medals based on how many of them you gather and how many bonus stages you find and clear.
The pink bear cub you control is a relatively weak heroine as the game begins but strong enough to get the job done thanks to the assistance of her magic mask. Mini-boss encounters add additional skills to her repertoire so that, by the end of the game, she is butt-bouncing, hover-jumping, and tossing explosive balls at an increasingly tough group of nasty critters. She often must pause and start banging on her drum, as well, which opens up the path ahead or distracts enemies long enough that they can be defeated. This is one of the game's few attempts to do something genuinely different, but it mostly falls flat because it's just a hassle. You press and hold a button for a few seconds when prompted by a situation, and that's the extent of it. More than anything, it breaks up the pace that the game might have established at that point.
Early on, Juju is rather dull. Exploring the sparsely populated introductory world feels more like a chore than an adventure, and the background artwork--though detailed nicely in the Unreal engine--is too generic to be interesting. Checkpoints are frequent, and the threat from enemies is minimal, so players of all ages should have little difficulty progressing to the end of each stage. However, subsequent worlds are a great deal livelier. By the time they reach the third and fourth planets, the player will need to pay attention to progress and will be rewarded for doing so with some of the most vibrant artwork that the game offers.Don't let anything block your progress.
The aforementioned bonus stages provide an additional incentive to explore every nook and cranny, but they're not cleverly hidden. Typically, the player need only rush toward an obviously placed large wall, and part of it will pull away to reveal a magical gate. Bonus areas come in only a few configurations throughout the game, and thus get tedious quickly. Some of them are surprisingly easy to fail until you've practiced a lot, and you only get a single shot at them unless you drop into a pit or something on purpose and try again from the last checkpoint. Because the bonus stages are so repetitive and even a little frustrating, they feel like a waste of time and not the reward they might have been.
Bosses serve as another stumbling point. You encounter most of them twice. First, they appear as mini-bosses with one pattern. For instance, you encounter a toad, and you have to get him to swallow stinging bees so that he harms himself and flees the scene. Then you face the same foe, which now has learned a few new tricks, at the end of a given planet. Most of the bosses are difficult to defeat, serving as an abrupt spike in difficulty that could leave younger players out in the cold. The final boss in particular provides a hefty challenge. It's by no means insurmountable, and older players should be able to persevere after two or three attempts and some attack pattern memorization, but these oversized antagonists are a bit much for the younger set.Pretty!
That's a shame, because kids are the obvious audience for Juju.The young heroine doesn't provide much for adults to identify with, and the overly cute adversaries feel like they belong in children's television programming. It's easy to appreciate the vibrant visuals regardless of age (though not the lengthy load times preceding each stage), but that's probably not enough to keep your attention over the course of a four- to five-hour campaign. There is a good way of bridging the generational gap, however: Juju lets a second player drop in and out at any time. Two people can work together to snag all of the loot, which makes bonus stages easier, and to find all of the secrets. They do have to stay fairly close together, since the camera isn't willing to pull back very far (players temporarily drop out of sight if they stray too far apart), but it works. There's no worry about running out of lives, either, meaning the cooperative experience is a positive net experience in spite of a few hitches.
With Juju, the developers at Flying Wild Hog have cobbled together a charming adventure that never surpasses its inspiration but still manages to provide a generally inoffensive romp through gorgeous fantasy worlds. Unfortunate difficulty spikes may keep some youngsters at bay, and the repetition is discouraging regardless of your age, but there's still some innate appeal to this cute and competent platformer, which gets the job done with minimal fuss.
You start off in the streets of Detroit, but it's not long before you're rolling through mountains, everglades, and forests. The huge maps and its colossal number of activities is intimidating at first, but that's great: the more places to go and things to do, the merrier. Story missions, which take you through a trope-filled campaign that plays out like a Fast & Furious sequel, send you from one region of the country to the next, and missions emerge out of the blue along the way. You street race, smuggle contraband, take down competing criminals, and tackle bite-sized emergent challenges that test your abilities behind the wheel while you're on the go. There are hundreds of things to do, but only some are truly fun. The problem? With so much ground to cover, The Crew feels and looks like it's stretched too thin, and it's evident from the start. The Crew's world may be massive and varied, but it's not good-looking. It's constantly plagued by texture and geometry pop-in, and looks generally outdated. People, buildings, the environment, and most importantly, the cars, are represented by disappointing models that suffer from an unsightly amount of aliasing.
At some point during your journey across America, you wonder: what was that about forming a crew, again? Despite the game's title and pitch, The Crew is a single-player experience tucked into a multiplayer server. It starts with a story that casts you on a grand mission, and you're constantly encouraged by your cohorts to head to the next step along the way. You always have the option of inviting three of your friends along for the ride, but at no point does the game inspire you to do so. Think extra crewmates will help you on a difficult mission? Nope; the game scales its difficulty accordingly. If anything, forming a crew is a chore that's easy to brush aside. The best thing you can do to improve your chances at success is to upgrade your car, but the way in which The Crew facilitates this can get a little frustrating. While the game won't prevent you from entering a story mission, it will tell you if you're below the recommended level. You can purchase kits when you're avatar's level is high enough, but it takes a while to hit successive milestones.
In practice, you earn new parts as rewards for missions, but playing story missions alone won't provide you with enough parts to get your vehicle to the appropriate level towards the end of the game. That's when you have to grind through optional missions, which pop up as you drive around the map. Some of these objectives are enjoyable, such as long-distance jumps and missions that challenge you to drive as fast and as far as you can while keeping your tires on the road. Others, like the missions that challenge you to hit a series of targets that are strewn both on and off the road, are frustrating. Essentially, the game asks you to drive like a jerk, and it's not fun when you can't help but careen into other cars and buildings as you try your best to fulfill the criteria to earn a medal. It comes down to the luck of the draw. Sometimes the coast is clear, and other times you're bombarded by a phalanx of other vehicles that you can't avoid when pursuing objectives.Where we're going we don't need roads.
These optional missions can be useful when you need to level up, but they can also be an annoyance when you're just trying to get from point A to point B. Every time you hit the road, you eventually cross the virtual gate that activates these missions, but there's nothing you can do to prevent them from activating automatically. Pass through a gate, and you have to suffer through a cluttered user interface, which starts with icons, but ends with a large results screen that blocks your view while driving. Apart from driving off the road to avoid a gate, or entering into a menu to abort after a mission activates, you're at the mercy of the map.
One of the best aspects of a racing game is the selection of cars that you get to choose from, but The Crew has a meager selection and does a poor job of incentivizing you to explore your options. Story missions are broken up by the type of vehicle they require: street, dirt, raid, performance, or circuit. Not every vehicle can be kitted out to fit every spec, but the one you get at the start of the game definitely can. Given that you earn new parts for the vehicle you complete missions with, you are never compelled to pick up new cars. Maybe your curiosity will get the better of you and you'll check out a new car, but there's nothing stopping you from using the same car from the beginning of the game through to the end.
Although the variety of cars is underwhelming and underutilized, the story missions take advantage of the different car specs in a good way. As you travel from one region of the country to the next, you encounter different terrain and environments that call upon the different types of kits you can fit to your car. You race street cars through dense cities, take on dirt car races through construction sites and rough terrain, and tear across states in souped up performance vehicles. The story missions are largely the best moments in the game, however, there exceptions: raid car missions and fleeing missions.
Raid missions are fun at first--you charge through mountains, swamps, and back country in an armored vehicle--but at some point, the game decides that you need to fulfill precise criteria, such as collecting objects on rough terrain under a strict time limit, and raid cars are anything but precise. They slip and slide all over the place, and when these missions leave no room for error, you end up very frustrated when you're cut short due to the game's poor physics. The same can be said for missions where you have to flee from cops, who are incredibly overpowered. These missions are not fun in the least, and the cops' unusual bursts of speed feels like a product of driving games of old. This isn't the only example of frustrating AI. During races against the computer, cars sometimes drive off of tracks for no reason, taking a 90 degree turn out of the blue before flying off of a cliff.
Essentially, the game asks you to drive like a jerk, and it's not fun when you can't help but careen into other cars and buildings as you try your best to fulfill the criteria to earn a medal.
With rough physics and AI, you get into a lot of collisions, but luckily, damage doesn't hinder your car's driving capabilities. However, you do have to endure a slow-motion cutscene as punishment when you take a strong hit. Eventually, you have to pay a negligible fee to fix your car if you've gotten in a lot of accidents, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to how much money you earn during missions. If crashing is not a big deal, wasting players' time with slow-motion cutscenes as punishment is pointless and disrespectful of their time.
Unfortunately, you have to endure the game's questionable physics in other scenarios, most notably during player-versus-player races. It's nearly a guarantee that each PVP race will start with a ridiculous display of bugginess when opponents' cars suddenly speed up and flip in multiple directions at the drop of a hat. I've seen cars teleport into the sky, and rotate uncontrollably before appearing 20 feet down the track for no reason. These moments of chaos are funny, but they make for an inconsistent and unpredictable experience. Pray it doesn't happen to you. That's assuming you can even get into a PVP match. There are a handful of lobbies across the map, but they're severely underpopulated. It's a rare occurrence that you can find enough people to race against in less than 15 minutes. Luckily, you have the option to drive around while you wait, but it's still deflating when you can't find anyone to play with.
Keep in mind that if UPlay, PSN, or Xbox Live is down, you can't play The Crew, even if you just want to go solo. During my time with the game, I was booted due to server or connection issues on a daily basis, which was very frustrating. The most enjoyment you get out of the game's connected world comes from player-vs-player competitions, but even they have issues.
When The Crew puts you into races with good AI, and you get to race through interesting and varied environments, you get the feeling that you're playing a good game. When you struggle to find people to join your crew online, balk at the outdated graphics, and shake your head at the AI and the occasionally unpredictable physics, you realize: The Crew isn't that good after all. When you can't play due to server issues, you find a new game to play and leave The Crew in your dust.