The Crew is a Massive Multi-player Online game (MMO) but with cars, set in a truly gargantuan open world; a fictional dimension of the United States.  The game was developed by Ivory Tower and Ubisoft Reflections, and published by Ubisoft exclusively for the latest-gen consoles - PS4, Xbox One (with a port for Xbox 360) and of course the PC due to its high requirements.  Although it is Ivory Tower's first project, the development team members are certainly not new to developing games of this genre, it isn't surprising that they were some of the same people who worked on Need for Speed, Test Drive Unlimited and V-Rally.  To set itself apart from other racing games, this features social and cooperative play, and the word is that you can even build cars with a tie-in app coming soon to iOS and Android.  

The Crew Get your crew together.

 

Gameplay

The game is however not all about multiplayer gaming, as there is a single-player campaign as well which is about 20 hours long.  You are Alex Taylor (Troy Baker) working with an attractive special agent (a basic requirement for special agents), trying to infiltrate criminal groups, if you recognize the voice then maybe you have played games such as BioShock Infinite, The Last of UsBatman: Arkham OriginsBatman: Assault on Arkham, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Far Cry 4.    

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 To give you an idea of how massive the map is; it takes 45 minutes to drive from coast to coast!  So it is safe to say you won't find another racing game with a scope this massive.  Racing in a gorgeous world with diverse environments is absolutely amazing.  You can race over various terrain (asphalt, dirt, water and you can even go bushwacking) driving different classes of vehicles as day turns into night.  Everywhere you go there is something that makes you feel like it is a living world, from birds to planes in the sky, or wild animals and people sweeping their front porches.  

There are different levels of car handling help; All Driving Help, Sport and Hardcore.  All the handling levels feel quite arcade-like, even Hardcore, which makes the game fun for the masses; much like Need for Speed, Test Drive Unlimited and V-Rally, because it is not too difficult for casual gamers to get into, and people with steering wheels won't have such a distinct advantage.  For hardcore racers, this is not a driving simulator, but even though your superior technical driving skills are not essential here, this is not any less challenging or enjoyable.  This is a different kind of fun, the kind that everyone can appreciate - together on a grand scale.

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G771JM & G551JM tested spec:

  • Intel Core i7 4710HQ processor
  • 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 (2x8GB)
  • Nvidia GTX 860M graphics card (Maxwell: 640 cores)
  • 256GB PCIe SSD option
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
  • [ROG Gladius gaming mouse]
  • Nvidia GeForce driver: 344.65 WHQL
  • Intel HD Graphics driver: 10.18.10.3910 WHQL
  • Windows 8.1 Pro

The Crew Performance: Best Playable Settings

The G771JM and G551JM are ROG’s ‘performance-mainstream’ 17-inch and 15-inch gaming laptops respectively, both feature up to a quad-core Intel Core i7 4710HQ processor, 16GB of DDR3 and Nvidia GTX 860M graphics.

Here’s the best playable gameplay settings for these gaming laptops in The Crew.

Video High

Deciding on the best picture quality with the best performance was not as simple and straightforward since the scenery being rendered is so diverse.  One minute you could be on the beach with a 4-wheel-drive, and the next weaving through small streets in a suburban neighborhood trying to outrun police.  Having the G771 and G551 run in Full-HD glory with at least 30 frames per second (FPS) at all times is not a problem, what we needed to figure out is how to get the best graphics possible and always get a smooth framerate no matter where you go on the map.  

 While it is possible to run the video preset on ultra and get an average of 32.7FPS and even have a maximum of 40FPS, I have noticed that this won't always hold true depending on where I go.  So I decided on setting the video preset on high since geometry, textures and environment mapping are still set on ultra anyway.  Now we can tweak anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion.

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Ambient Occlusion is a technique to produce film-like lighting quality with real-time performance, and it looks fantastic on this IPS display!  It was first used in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor and one of the first games to incorporate it was no other than Crysis, getting that beautiful game to run smoothly on ultra high graphics settings was as hard as turning copper into gold, which goes to show how far we have come; we are running the same technology on a laptop!  

The Crew offers three options for ambient occlusion,  Horizontal Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO+), Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO+ and SSAO).  HBAO+ is the upgraded SSAO variant, unlike SSAO, HBAO can generate higher-quality SSAO whilst increasing the definition, quality, and visibility of the AO shadowing.  In comparison to HBAO, HBAO+ doubles the detail level of the AO effect, runs three times faster, and uses the latest DirectX 11 technologies.  However, the framerate still takes a considerable hit when HBAO+ (purple) and SSAO+(green) are enabled, while SSAO (red) does make an impact; it is slightly less in comparison.  This is reflected in the benchmarks shown below, as you can tell the gap between red and green is more distinct.    So I have decided on staying with SSAO.  You can try some of these settings for yourself.   

FPS Comparison

 Here's a comparison for all 4 ambient occlusion options:

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Now that I have decided on SSAO for ambient occlusion, let's fine-tune anti-aliasing.  There are five options; OFF, FXAA, 4X MSAA, 4X TXAA and 8X MSAA.  As previously mentioned, framerate will vary considerably depending on where you are, for instance I had a minimum framerate of 43, maximum of 61 and an average of 52FPS.   Now I'm going to drive somewhere where the framerate seems lower and circle around the block.  Here is what happened:

AA ComparisonAs the graph points out, going from FXAA to 4X MSAA there is a clearly a big hit and the minimum FPS dropped before 30FPS, so evidently FXAA would be our best choice for anti-aliasing.  Also, now the minimum FPS is 36, maximum is 50 and the average is 42FPS, so by driving to a different part of town the average can easily vary by up to ten frames per second.  At least now we know and we are prepared; to avoid stutter, possibly in the middle of a mission or race.

 Here is how anti-aliasing can smooth out the jagged edges, it is quite obvious on the spoiler:

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8XMSAA Anti-Aliasing = 8X MSAA

 So far, with these settings, no matter where I go, how many cars, people, deer and bears are around,  I'm getting beautiful graphics and a smooth framerate regardless.  You have the option of setting the FPS limit to 30 to save power, for a racing game 30FPS is enough, unless there is an F1 car available later on in the game...

  • Resolution - 1920 X 1080 (Full-HD)
  • Video Preset - High
  • Anti-Aliasing - FXAA
  • Ambient Occlusion - SSAO

One question you will probably ask is; how on earth do I get outta this game??  I just saved you ten minutes.

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