Say what you like about Forza Horizon, for me the true blueprint for the best open-world racing games is still Burnout Paradise, and The Crew Motorfest is the latest title to join the line of games that aim to build on that and give players the perfect automotive playground.
It may not bring a whole lot of new ideas, but Motorfest manages to hit what feels like a pretty sweet spot. There are lots of entertaining races, tons of challenges and collectables, demolition derbies, and a roster of over 600 vehicles, if you include model variants.
- THE CREW MOTORFEST // PORSCHE 959 -
Blasting around on land, sea and air is a lot of fun, although some of the handling characteristics do take a little getting used to. The reliance high-speed drifts, implausible jumps, and destructible environments put this firmly in the arcade category, but it does try to demand some more nuanced driving too.
Rarity-graded mods are found as loot items to tune performance, and tweakable setups for suspension and braking etc. let you fiddle around with the balance. In truth though, it ends up neither here-nor-there, until you get a feel for the 'brake heavily to stay on course, then commit to a drift anyway to carry some speed' type of approach.
- THE CREW MOTORFEST // DRIFT -
It certainly hasn't stopped me enjoying the game though, and the real star of the show is the Hawaiian island setting of O'ahu. It may be more compact that the maps of previous games, but its streets, volcanic slopes, and beaches are packed with gorgeous sights and interesting terrain. It helps too that the whole island has apparently become a haven for car enthusiasts with a Motorstorm-style festival of racing that lasts all your round.
Playable on your own or with a co-op crew – an online connection is unfortunately needed either way – the events are dished out via a series of themed playlists along with a chatty NPC cast that seem determined to tell you everything while racing for maximum distraction.
- THE CREW MOTORFEST // PLAYLISTS -
Designed to take you through different aspects of racing culture, the playlists are actually fun to work through and do a good job of introducing the various event and vehicle types, along with giving you a grand tour of the island.
Complete each set of races, and you open up more free-roaming activities like speed challenges, collectables to find, and even photo ops that ask you to take pictures of certain vehicles at specific locations. You'd expect that the game will have a pretty good photo mode then if it is going to encourage photography like this, and well... in fairness, it actually does although there are certainly a few rough edges.
- THE CREW MOTORFEST // PHOTO OP -
Key Photo Mode Features:
Rewind & fast forward
Free-Camera with large range
Car dirt and damage
Controls & Implementation:
Without including the Car Meet where you can take pictures while walking around the showroom, the photo mode in Motorfest can only be reached during FreeDrive and is found via a shortcut on the D-Pad. That may sound like it's impossible to take shots from any actual races or events, but that's fortunately not the case at all.
Thanks to the fact that it is built on top of a full replay video editor, a simple timeline appears at the bottom of the photo mode UI and lets you rewind / fast forward through the last 5 minutes of gameplay. Although the top-level photo mode only gets direct access to the current FreeDrive session, simply hit R3 to drop into Replay mode and return to the last race.
- PHOTO MODE // REWIND -
Once you find the right bit of action, the photo mode offers lots of camera freedom with a large range of movement, 360° pan and tilt, plus 90° roll, and a healthy zoom. Controls are also easy to handle and can be fully remapped anyway – useful to swap the reversed L2 / R2 assignments for example.
Controls are also easy to handle and can be fully remapped...
Something you cannot change though is that fact that the camera movement is entirely disabled when the settings menu UI is on-screen. This is just something that I truly hate as it means that the composition cannot be tweaked while working on the various other camera and image options without constantly switching between the two modes.
It feels unnecessary too seeing as both analogue sticks, which previously moved the camera, are repurposed for navigating the UI; something that the D-Pad already handles perfectly well.
- PHOTO MODE // DAMAGE -
Despite that personal annoyance, the menus do include a strong list of features that can make a massive difference to the final image. Different vehicles can be hidden from view to remove players, AI racers, and FreeDrive traffic from the shot, while a couple of sliders also let you splatter on a bit of mud and adjust the amount of damage on each of them.
Blur options include focus distance and foreground / background blur to adjust the depth of field, as well as some motion blur that is applied with a single intensity slider. The latter is most obvious on the rotation of wheels but can be seen on the surroundings too with enough speed and ensures that shots don't appear completely static.
- PHOTO MODE // MOTION BLUR -
Some good image editing options include the basics like brightness and saturation which are accompanied by 8 colour filters, 6 stylised themes, plus the likes of film grain, chromatic aberration, and pixelation effects. The 24 frames can be applied with varying opacity, and there is even control over both time of day and weather, sort of.
Like I said earlier, there are some rough edges here and where the photo mode has many strengths in its feature set, it has just as many weaknesses in their execution. Take time of day for starters, though the first option is titled "Weather" it actually cycles through periods of the day like morning, afternoon, dusk, etc. The actual Time of Day setting then only gets a 2.5 hour window in each of them – 05:00 to 07:30 at sunrise for example.
- PHOTO MODE // TIME & WEATHER -
The weather does change along with the time, but the trouble is that you have no control over it. It is always raining at sunset whether you like it or not, and if you want rain in the morning, tough, you can't have it. I simply cannot see the rationale here when it could be so much simpler and more effective.
Similarly, the Exposure setting blatantly changes contrast and not exposure at all, and all colour filters will revert to an intensity of 0.5 even when set to 1.0 as you swap between them – try it with B&W and you'll see what I mean.
- PHOTO MODE // "EXPOSURE" -
Perhaps my biggest gripe though is with the depth of field blur options. For some inexplicable reason, the studio decided to remove the very helpful band of colour that indicated where the focus distance was set in The Crew 2. Without it you are essentially flying blind as the huge focus steps and confusingly opposed Start / End settings make it extremely difficult to see where the plane of focus actually lies.
Thankfully, there is an excellent autofocus option that does a good job of targeting whatever is in the centre reticle and should definitely be used instead.
The studio decided to remove the very helpful band of colour that indicated focus in The Crew 2...
Even one of the best features is not immune to the flawed implementation. That Replay timeline gets split every time you change event, open a menu, fast travel, etc. and the navigator cannot jump across the gaps. To do that, the only option seems to be to go from Photo Mode to Replay mode, to Video Editor and hope there is a preset keyframes in the section you want before coming back out to the photo mode.
A warning though, don't go too far back because if you exit the photo mode altogether, then the entire timeline and the last replay will be wiped completely!
As with any racing game, the obvious things to be taking pictures of are the cars and on-track action, and Motorfest delivers that and more with sports cars, open wheeled racers, bikes, boats, planes, and even monster trucks to take to the roads, dirt, in the air, and on the ocean.
To add some personalisation, vehicles can be customised with body modifications, liveries, and vanity items, while the themed playlists also include loan vehicles the first time around, ensuring that you can always roll up to each curated event in style.
- THE CREW MOTORFEST // PORSCHE 718 -
The routes are also adorned with flags and lights that play to the theme, but this does highlight a major downside. As an example, the "Made in Japan" playlist honours of the Japanese street racing culture and puts you in a series of highly modified street machines as you boost through the city at night with neon signs blazing and reflecting on the soaking-wet tarmac.
As soon as you pull that replay into the photo mode though, the time of day and weather are reset, and none of the options can match the setup that the game had in the race. It's a real shame and is always frustrating to have such vibrant colours and reflections taken away.
- REPLAY MODE // PHOTO MODE -
Even beyond these tailored events though, Motorfest has a lot that will catch the eye. The island never fails to deliver fabulous locations to park up at or fly over, and it's easy to forget about the vehicles and just grab some shots of the scenery.
Then there is the absolutely incredible 3D map. This lets you explore the whole island from above and also seamlessly drop down to ground level to see things in fully animated detail. In case the idea hasn't popped for you yet, this makes it an amazing tool for scouting out locations for a photo shoot. Just find that next surf beach, mountain-top observatory or sulphur pool, set a waypoint and head over to snap away.
Subscribe to the regular newsletter for all the latest features from TheFourthFocus.com
The Crew Motorfest is an absolute blast to play with events and challenges scattered all over the island, and lots of inspiration to be found in the wide variety of vehicles and magnificent locations. It's also equipped with a well featured photo mode that has many of the tools needed to take advantage. Sadly though, some unrefined implementations, bugs, and the removal of essential options do slightly spoil the fun.