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In theory, The Crew Motorfest should tick all of my boxes when it comes to delivering a great virtual driving experience. Its races take place in an great open-world map, it looks gorgeous and it’s set in Hawaii. For context, I had one of the best vacations in my entire life across Honolulu and Kauai about five months ago.
So yeah, I should absolutely adore Motorfest. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly respectable entry in a Ubisoft series that has never set the world alight in terms of sales success.
Judged in isolation on its own merits, it’s a decent racer. Sure, it stutters a little bit on the PS5 version I’ve been playing over the last few weeks, but the odd frame rate dip is in no way game-breaking.
In my best moments with Ubisoft’s driving title, it reminds me of the joys of initially taking to the skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020). This is a form of virtual tourism at its finest. Just as flying over a digital version of my home town of Edinburgh in Scotland thrilled me back in 2020, the same intoxicating experience of racing around a real-world location is very much Motorfest’s central appeal for me.
Before I continue on with my Hawaiin ramblings, let's focus on this racing game’s (briefly) biggest selling point.
At time of writing, The Crew Motorfest is free to play until October 20. In a generous move on the part of Ubisoft, the publisher is offering a five hour free trial of its latest speed fest that you can access on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Ubisoft’s PC store, The Epic Games Store and even on the slightly decrepit Xbox One.
There’s no two ways about it; that’s a seriously cool move on Ubisoft’s part during a time when we’re all feeling the sting of rising cost of living expenses during a prolonged energy crisis.
Whether you decide you want to buy the full game or not, I’d definitely recommend dipping your toes into the free trial. Though it doesn’t push the racing genre forward in meaningful ways, it’s mechanically competent, the game looks sensational on the best OLED TVs and it's instantly superior to the duo of underwhelming entries that came before it.
Set on a shrunken-down version of the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu, there’s a base joy of simply cruising around its picturesque settings. It may not be quite up to par with the best racers out there (I’ll get onto that issue in a minute), but from a purely personal take, it’s been an absolute joy revisiting Hawaii in virtual form.
The amazing people of these beautiful islands have suffered unbearable tragedy this year with the devastating wildfires in Maui. Is reveling in the digital scenery of The Crew Motorfest inappropriate considering these awful, real-world events? That’s a touchy subject, and one that only you as an individual reader can decide for yourself.
All I can offer is this: as someone who adores Hawaii, I think it’s cathartic to see a racing game that revels in the islands’ natural beauty. Whether some of the profits of the game end up helping the victims of the Maui devastation is yet unclear — and it’s obviously not something Lyon-based developer Ubisoft Ivory Tower is contractually obligated to — but it would be heart-warming to see whatever sales success Motorfest garners help the people of one of the most beautiful islands on Earth.
As officially the world’s biggest Jurassic Park fan, which was mainly shot on Kauai and Honolulu’s stunning Kualoa Ranch, I can’t deny the affection I have for the latest Crew game is largely based on its location.
At the same time, there's no overlooking Motorfest’s shortcomings. In a world where Forza Horizon 5 exists, it’s simply the inferior racer.
As much as Playground Games’ open-world car celebration rubs me up the wrong way with its patronizing narration, it’s undeniably impeccable on a purely mechanical level. Its driving model is deeper and more nuanced than what the latest Crew title can offer. And on a technical level on Xbox Series X, it almost never drops a single frame. In short, it’s a racer of the very highest caliber.
It may not be an all-time great driving game, but The Crew Motorfest is absolutely worth five hours of your (free) time for the grand price of diddly-squat. This is a polished if imperfect racer that if you end up digging its Hawaiian vibes like I do, you should consider dropping $70 for the full priced game.
And let’s be honest, if you’re a PS5 owner with serious Forza Horizon envy, you’re unlikely to be served up a better open-world racer on your Sony console anytime soon.