Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Release date: September 14, 2023
The Crew Motorfest, the third entry in Ubisoft’s open-world racer series, differs quite drastically from prior installments. Instead of racing across a pared-down approximation of the entire United States, Motorfest dials in a more focused approach, offering up the state of Hawaii as your new playground. It’s a quality-over-quantity approach that helps Motorfest’s map feel both vibrant and richly detailed.
Throw in a truly remarkable variety of events, encompassing everything from Japanese street racing cars to wilderness treks on motorbikes, and Motorfest is genuinely quite full of surprises. In a lot of ways, The Crew Motorfest comes close to being a Forza Horizon 5 contender. Unfortunately, there are so many little frustrations here which all add up to ultimately offer a pretty unpolished experience.
For one, the game’s handling model has some rather frustrating quirks. When this is paired with AI that often can’t decide how fast or slow it wants to be, the resulting racing is unsatisfying. I also ran into numerous crashes and game-breaking bugs during play and, to top it all off, The Crew Motorfest requires an online connection at all times. Yes, even when you’re playing solo.
But let’s start with the good; the stuff The Crew Motorfest gets exceptionally right. Ubisoft’s racer closely mirrors that of Playground Games’ Forza Horizon series. However, there are some things Motorfest does that outclasses the Xbox Series X|S exclusive racer.
There’s a great emphasis on event variety in The Crew Motorfest, to the point that you’ll be experiencing something different in almost every race. Races are divided into categories here, named Playlists, which offer a selection of trails for you to race on with a preset selection of vehicles based on the Playlist’s theme.
Made in Japan, for example, will put you behind the wheel of the country’s street racing icons like the Honda NSX and Nissan Skyline GT-R for a series of nighttime circuits. My favorite, by far, was the Hawaii Scenic Tours Playlist, which features a series of more laid-back races, including one that puts you in a VW Camper for a leisurely sunset stroll around the island. This Playlist in particular did an excellent job of highlighting The Crew Motorfest’s drop-dead gorgeous visuals, which really came to life via the game’s HDR support.
If it wasn’t clear already, each race also sees you driving a different vehicle. This is an approach I enjoyed greatly, as in Forza Horizon 5, I often found myself sticking to a select few cars I’d upgraded, despite that game rewarding you with cars like there’s no tomorrow. In Motorfest, you’ll get to drive a massive chunk of its 600+ vehicle roster, which also includes bikes, open-wheelers, boats, and planes.
The Crew Motorfest's sheer event variety is its crowning achievement. You'll go from racing modified street legends to bikes, open-wheel racers, and planes all in under an hour.
Most races are pretty lengthy, too, really playing into the strengths of The Crew Motorfest’s gargantuan map size. Races are mostly in the ‘get from A to B’ format and typically last anywhere between five to ten minutes. It’s actually far less of a slog than it may sound, as the game’s gorgeous environs provide a compelling background to race across. Especially so as Playlists all feature unique elements and objects to make them visually distinct.
Completing three Playlists unlocks the Main Stage, which features three avenues of progression for additional rewards. These will have you revisit races you’ve completed, participate in dynamic events, or explore the island for hidden secrets like treasure boxes or photo opps. And this is where you can take your collection of cars and apply upgrades to them for a significantly different style of racing. Yes, you’re retreading content a lot with Main Stage, but being able to change up your vehicle for these events injects some extra life into them.
One last aspect of The Crew Motorfest that both impressed and surprised me was its incredibly responsive UI. Compared to many other racing games, Motorfest can see you hopping into the menu and between vehicles in a matter of seconds, with little to no load time in between. Additionally, the game’s load times overall are brisk, especially on current-gen systems.
Unfortunately, for everything that The Crew Motorfest gets right, it gets another aspect equally wrong. For starters, it has one of the strangest handling models I’ve ever experienced in a contemporary open-world racer. One especially irksome quirk is that cars have a habit of overcorrecting themselves after a turn like they unnaturally ‘snap’ to a lane once the turn has finished. This often leads to you needing to readjust your racing line and means you can never quite take corners or straight optimally. And yes, this even occurs with driving assists disabled.
But that’s not the end of the handling model’s woes. Unlike Forza Horizon, there’s very little difference between how different surfaces affect your car. You’ll glide across tarmac, gravel, sand, and mud like you were just traveling down a freeway. That would be fine were The Crew Motorfest strictly an arcade racer, but it’s not, as you do have access to tweaks like torque strength and brake bias.
There’s also barely a damage model to speak of in The Crew Motorfest. Your cars will get a little dinged up, certainly, but it’s all purely cosmetic (there's no option for simulated damage, either) and amounts to some light dents and paint scraping. Similarly, driving through dirtier surfaces barely muddies the car beyond a few light speckles. Granted, this isn’t exactly a dealbreaker, as more sim-like racers like Gran Turismo 7 also opt for light damage and wear. But it does take some immersion away from Motorfest’s sublime Hawaii map.
Another quarrelsome aspect is AI racers’ ability to aggressively rubber-band. That is, to artificially speed up or slow down to create an illusion of difficulty. Even playing largely on the second-highest difficulty level, AI drivers could rarely win races on their own merits. More often than not, I would catch them slingshotting into first place, gaining two to three-second leads in record time. The opposite is true, too, as I often witnessed the AI noticeably slowing down as the checkered flag approached.
All this, though, frankly pales in comparison to my biggest gripe with The Crew Motorfest. The game requires an online connection at all times, even when you’re just racing by yourself. Much like the Forza Horizon series, Motorfest employs a semi-online model that populates your session with other drivers, in case you want to race or party up with them. But even Forza lets you disconnect and race purely offline if that’s your preference.
There’s none of that in The Crew Motorfest, so if the servers go down for whatever reason, you’re bang out of luck. And yes, that also means the game doesn’t play nice with console features like Xbox Series X|S’s Quick Resume, as you’ll be thrown out of your session when you take the game out of standby.
There is a lot to love about The Crew Motorfest. It features one of the most beautiful open-world racing maps I’ve ever seen, and I love the amount of variety on offer when it comes to the racing. But the issues I’ve highlighted, as well as its tendency to either crash or disconnect from the server, means I often can’t enjoy it as much as I want to. Future patches and updates will likely help smooth over the cracks, but as it stands, The Crew Motorfest’s frustrations tend to outweigh what it gets right.
As is the case with other Ubisoft titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Crew Motorfest features a decent amount of accessibility options. Subtitle size and background opacity are here, as well as support for seven different text languages. There are also three different colorblind settings, as well as options for a high-contrast HUD. Players can also minutely adjust the strength of the controller’s vibration and, if playing on PS5, the strength of the DualSense wireless controller’s adaptive trigger feedback, too.
How we reviewed The Crew Motorfest
I played approximately 20 hours of The Crew Motorfest on PS5. Being an open-world racing game, it was paramount to focus on the variety of races and challenges available in the game, as well as the quality of the overall handling model compared to some of the best racing games around.
If The Crew Motorfest isn’t quite what you’re after for your next gaming spell, consider checking out our best PS5 games and best Xbox Series X games lists for top recommendations, as well as our guide to all the upcoming games we know about.