Back in December 2014, Ubisoft released their Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) open-world racer, The Crew, which despite mixed reviews has gone on to be a commercial success for the French publishing outfit and as such has spawned two DLC expansions. The first expansion, Wild Run, focused on monster trucks, bikes and a monthly tournament known as The Summit. However, the latest expansion – Calling All Units – focuses on a familiar theme within the racing genre: police chases. I mean let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a true street racer without some high-speed standoffs with the fuzz, and although the vanilla version of The Crew allowed you to be chased by the 5-0, this time around you’re the one doing the chasing.
I am the law
Calling All Units offers players of The Crew a further 12 story-based missions, putting you behind the hot wheels of various police vehicles. You play as Clara Washington, protégée of FBI agent Zoe Winters (the FBI agent that bails you out in the main story) who has assigned you the task of taking down the Harvesters, a gang of up-to-no-good street racers. The Crew’s original story may have been your generic run-of-the-mill, rise-through-the-ranks quest for vengeance, however it was well-served by the crème de la crème of voice actors in Troy Baker playing the main character. Unfortunately this isn’t the case here. To say Calling All Units has a narrative is a stretch (as it’s paper thin at best), and the dialogue is delivered via some of the most ham-fisted voice acting I’ve heard in a AAA game. Clara spits out the same maladroit one-liners and Zoe sounds like a whole different voice actor all together (which I have yet to confirm).
The gameplay in the new story missions is redolent of the takedown missions in the base game, except instead of taking down an opponent (dealing the required amount of damage), Clara must arrest the adversary by staying within close proximity of the target for 7 seconds. This is your objective across the 12 missions, with the only variant being the type of vehicle your arrest is made with. It is here you’ll find one of the game’s most prominent additions, the inclusion of vehicular ‘abilities’ that allow you to slow down and detain your target. Abilities range from Speed Hack (which disables acceleration of a street racer within range), EMP Shock (which forces all rivals within range to lose control of their vehicle) and more. Police aren’t the only ones with abilities, with street racers also having various abilities at their disposal. Some of the abilities available to street racers are Flashbang (which momentarily blinds your pursuer) and Guardian (which disables the effects of police abilities for a short time). The story missions aren’t overly difficult and rely more on the player not stacking it, which is quite easy to do.
This open-world ain’t big enough for the two of us
Much like in the base game you have different categories of vehicles at your disposal (performance, dirt, circuit etc.), all which have multiple models (at different costs) to choose from, and different missions require a particular type of vehicle to complete. Upgrading your vehicle is the same as before, whereby you acquire better parts by completing story missions or challenges throughout the game world.
The biggest issue in the Calling All Units is its mission progression. It’s obvious that Calling All Units is designed for returning players given some of the design choices at hand. For example, The Crew has a very large open world, and although it’s a bite-size rendition of the actual United States, for a game world it’s massive. The issue with this is that you cannot fast travel to an area where you haven’t been before, which is fine as it encourages exploration, but when two missions are about thirty minutes in-game driving apart, it kind of takes the fun out of it. Without having previously unlocked the different cities’ fast travel points you will spend a lot of time in transit between missions. However the biggest offender and deterrent is the cost of new vehicles. Once again, if you’ve played the base game and Wild Run you’ll probably have a bit of spending money, but if you haven’t then prepare to grind for cash (or Bucks as they’re called). Zoe will donate the cash for your first set of wheels, but after that you’re on your own and if you’re a new player you’ll be thankful for the 100k of Crew Credits you’ll be given which will cover the cost of another vehicle. I begrudgingly bought a small pack of Crew Credits for about $7 AUD so I could afford the Lamborghini (practical law enforcement vehicle right?), and by the time you get to requiring the Circuit Spec vehicle you’ll be severely short changed, meaning you’ll have no option but to grind away for funds. Or buy more Crew Credits… Now for new players this may be fine as it gives them an excuse to play the main story, however if you’re like me and have played the previous two instalments on a different system (all of my previous progress is on PS4, while the code I was given for Calling All Units was for Xbox One) the desire to play through the campaign again for a few Bucks is probably lacking.
The Italian job
Developer Ivory Tower has also added in some new activities for free-roamers, with wannabe Vin Diesel’s now able to deliver crates to set locations. Different crates require varying distances to be travelled (bronze crates are the shortest trips while platinum crates require a bit of a road trip). Upon delivery players are given upgrades, experience points and cash for their troubles, but delivery of said crate is not without its hindrances, with the boys in blue hell-bent on making sure that you don’t reach your destination. They’ll try everything from road blocks to using their newfound abilities to try and prevent you from making the drop. But that’s not all, and in fact Calling All Unit’s best aspect is the ability for players to drop-in and partake in the chase, and just like the pursuing 5-0, human-controlled rivals can utilise their abilities to bust you. While eluding the AI is relatively easy, the same cannot be said for the human-controlled pursuers as they have the ability to restart their position not far behind you if they fall too far behind. The biggest gripe with this is the game’s online rubber-banding which was present in the vanilla version remains and is still as frustrating as ever.
Like a glove
With repetitious mission design, a tedious progression system and a terrible narrative, Calling All Units fails to deliver a fulfilling experience of any kind. Returning players may find enjoyment in the new chase gameplay, which is entertaining for a while with the welcome addition of takedown abilities, however there’s only so many times you can pull over xXx_VinDiesel_xXx before it starts to get humdrum.
Reviewed on Xbox One