The Crew Motorfest Hands-on Preview – That festival feeling

Posted on June 13, 2023

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since The Crew 2, and while the community has still been going strong, it’s time for another entry in the racing franchise, this time with the fully-fledged sequel The Crew Motorfest. We got our hands on the opening section of the game and some additional races, and while it feels familiar, it’s already looking like the best version of The Crew to date.

The Crew Motorfest takes some cues from the Forza Horizon series, ditching the sometimes-too-serious story beats for a light, breezy festival situation, where the race types are varied and everything is a fun party.

While The Crew certainly isn’t the first racing game to have this festival theme, it pulls it off, albeit with some more too-serious voice acting from Malu at “Motorfest PR” as they show you the ropes. Notably, this is the first Crew to go outside the US, landing in Hawaii, an environment that promises lush rainforests, cool beaches, bustling city streets, and ash-filled volcanoes.

Hawaii provides a lot of variety, and the game’s intro section quickly introduces you to multiple types of race types, locations, and vehicles you’ll be hitting the road in. It doesn’t quite flow and kick off in the same way as Forza Horizon 5, but the different styles of vehicle (with a quick history lesson on each) work well to set the tone.

“…more than just an aesthetic difference but something that you can feel as well.”

Starting with Japanese street cars before moving into an off-road vehicle through the jungle, then taking a Lamborghini sports car for a spin, then hitting a serious competitive motor track before going back in time to a more vintage experience, there’s a lot to enjoy. What sets these apart is not just the vehicle types, but the modifications to how the game plays with each; in motorsport, there is wear on the tires to worry about (and speedy pit stops), while in vintage cars there is no form of GPS whatsoever. These subtle differences do a lot to ground you in that style, making it more than just an aesthetic difference but something you can feel.

The Crew Motorfest has a big open world to explore much like its predecessors, but we didn’t have the opportunity to cruise around it in our hands-on session. Motorfest also has ‘Playlists’, a selection of short thematic campaigns that offer “unique and exciting car culture experiences”. These playlists look to give you a similar experience to what we played in the intro, as you bounce from sportscar to vintage and everything in between.

We had an extended look at one of the playlists, Made in Japan, which focuses on Tokyo streetcar culture. Hawaii is converted to a neon-soaked Tokyo in these races, with glowing dragons spitting fire and other iconography transporting you. It’s cool to see that the broad setting of Hawaii isn’t limiting the team in any way when it comes to stylistic touches, and the change of setting was cool to see and bodes well for the other Playlists we’ll see when the game releases.

The Crew Motorfest maintains a solid foundation of polished racing, which has been the trademark of the series since its inception. While it doesn’t feel like the most original racer from the jump, there are enough unique ideas here and a clear passion for the cars you’ll be behind the wheel of and their place in history that it should still make for a very satisfying drive when it launches later this year.

The Crew Motorfest releases for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC on September 14.