So many games fail to live up to their promise, but The Crew may be one of the first to struggle to live up to its own name. Ubisoft's newly released driving game takes its title from the ability to form squads of friends to drive around the vast, open-world digest of America that developer Ivory Tower has created. It's a feature introduced in a day one patch, and - some 24 hours after the game's launch - it's one that remains temperamental at best.
The question of performance has dominated the Q4 games line-up this year, with Ubisoft at the centre of controversy owing to the disappointing showing from Assassin's Creed Unity. However, the slick, polished Far Cry 4 demonstrated that the firm can get it right: a rock-solid 30fps makes all the difference, and while open-world racer The Crew isn't quite as robust overall, it's still a creditable enough showing on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
What's curious about this game is that two different studios are handling development duties. In charge of the DirectX 11 versions - PC and Xbox One - we have the game's creators, Ivory Tower. It's a new development studio staffed by many veterans from Eden Games, developers of the Test Drive Unlimited titles. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 version is handled by Reflections, working directly from the Ivory Tower codebase (we covered the ins and outs of the porting process last year).
Despite the unusual allocation of development resources, the end result is a multi-platform project much like any other in the modern era, featuring far more in the way of similarities than striking differences. To cut to the chase, both versions hand in fairly solid 30fps performance levels, each operating at a native resolution of 1080p. An adaptive v-sync is in play on both systems, meaning that when the engine runs over its render budget, screen-tear manifests on-screen. It isn't consistently impactful to the experience by any stretch of the imagination, but what's clear is that tearing is more frequent on PlayStation 4. For its part, although Xbox One tears less often, very occasionally it simply drops entire frames instead.
"At E3, people forbid me to say 'MMO'. The marketing teams were like, 'Don't say that. Don't say that.' It's crazy." Julian Gerighty is a former marketer himself, who worked his way up to a senior position in IP development at Ubisoft's Paris headquarters before jumping (or possibly parachuting) into development. Now he's a creative director at Lyon studio Ivory Tower and the well-spoken and enthusiastic spokesman for its ambitious online driving game, The Crew. He seems to enjoying himself on the other side of the fence.
2014 is upon us, and it promises riches and glory unlike any year before it. With their launches under their belts, the next generation of consoles will, hopefully, show us what they're made of. Virtual reality headsets may make their mark on the mainstream. And with a raft of crowdfunded games due out over the next 12 months, 2014 should tell us whether all that money we pumped into promising projects on Kickstarter was worth it.
Ubisoft Reflections rounded off day two of last week's Develop conference with an intriguing talk, tantalisingly entitled "Tips and Tricks for Porting to Next-Gen". For Digital Foundry, it was a must-see presentation primarily because the vast majority - and perhaps even all - of the multi-platform games we'll be playing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 by the end of the year have been derived from PC code, necessitating some level of porting across to the new hardware.
The bombastic E3 show floor was packed with open-world games.