It’s often said that mimicry is the highest form of flattery. If that’s true, then The Crew Motorfest is undeniably flattering the Forza Horizon series. The game’s entire premise focuses on a major motoring festival taking place in a location perfectly suited for myriad types of racing events — in this case Hawaii — with an open-world freedom of exploration at its core. That said, the video game industry (and media in general) is often iterative, and when one property is successful, others will inevitably attempt to recreate that success. But when following in the footsteps where giants tread, it’s best to have a large pair of boots. The Crew Motorfest makes a decent attempt at mirroring Forza, but it comes up a bit short of that finish line.
With any racing title, the most important feature is how controlling each vehicle feels. In this case, that means a selection of cars, bikes, small airplanes and powerboats. But beyond the cars, the selection of other racing machines is limited, and the game brings an odd mix of simulation and arcade racing feel to each event. Different events feature different classes of cars, of course, but none of them feel like they have a particular identity.
For example, the high-end, track-specific cars include a tire-degradation feature that mimics how Formula 1 tires break down and lose grip. With fresh tires, the cars are almost glued to the track, slowly losing performance as the race goes on. A quick pit stop will provide a fresh set of wheels to restore that grip, but the handling feels more on the arcade end of the range.
On the other hand, driving a typical street class of car seems to lean more toward simulation-style driving, but not in a pure sense. Compounding the issue, different racing assists like traction control can have a dramatic effect on handling, so finding a balance between different settings and car setups requires some tinkering.
The Crew Motorfest also suffers from inconsistent difficulty settings. The challenge of computer-controlled racers is based on a scale of one to five, but the difficulty jump between settings is significant, and where one level of challenge may feel too easy, the next level up is a sharp increase that feels unbalanced.
To get a leg up on the competition, Motorfest features a gear-based rewards system that acts as a sort of loot grab in the same way an RPG would. While this does allow players to upgrade their cars, the system feels wasted at first because players can’t use their own cars in the game’s racing series, called playlists, on the first run. In order to use cars that have been purchased, a player first has to complete the playlist before being able to go through it a second time with the car of their choice.
That creates two problems: The first is that any custom cars are unusable within competitive races at the start of the game, and the second is that unlocking all those cool, souped-up parts is functionally irrelevant initially. It’s remarkably frustrating to customize a powerful car and know that it’s unusable for all practical purposes, and it creates an unnecessary progression barrier when you have to use the car the game gives you.
As far as the vehicle list goes, Motorfest touts more than 600 vehicles, but this number isn’t entirely accurate. Of the ones available, 89 are locked if you don’t have a save from The Crew 2 and additionally have the vehicles unlocked within that game. That means the number is closer to 500, which is around the same number that Forza Horizon launched with.
And that’s really the elephant in the room. The Crew Motorfest is a competent title that provides some variation to the open-world racing genre, with powerboats, planes and bikes, but it’s not just sitting in Forza Horizon’s shadow — it’s staring the beast straight in the eyes. All the differentiating features that could elevate Motorfest are hamstrung by its own design, from locking cars behind the save of a previous game to limiting the cool, new parts you unlock to cars you can’t use in competitive races from the get-go.
At least The Crew Motorfest looks amazing, and the vehicles pop with great detail. Hawaii offers a bunch of unique environments too. That overall presentation is competent enough but can become a little bit cumbersome in its menu navigation. One final note is that it really feels like it’s meant to be played with a racing wheel, and the default controls using a controller seem to be a little too twitchy without the proper calibration.
On its own, The Crew Motorfest is a decent title, especially for those immersed in car culture. However, Motorfest does not exist on its own. It’s living in Forza’s world, and while it makes a valiant effort, Motorfest struggles to compete with the king of racers. It earns a respectable 3.5 GiN Gems out of 5 but will need some fine tuning before it can really compete for the checkered flag with Forza.