The Crew gameplay preview: Driving game meets massive multiplayer online

The Crew is quite unlike any other driving game experience we've ever played. With an open-world premise, the entirety of the USA is mapped out and available at your fingertips, which presents a huge landscape through which to craft your own game.

Shown off in a frankly beautiful promotional "coast to coast" video at this year's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, Ubisoft is certainly selling the game's vast scale. As a connected world it's one occupied by companions and competitors, selected to be part of your "crew". But just how well does The Crew gel as a driving game?

It's different, that's for sure, but we can only base our assessment on a 20-minutes play session at Nvidia's off-site E3 booth.

From that our initial feeling is that it's not really a driving game in the traditional sense. The free-roaming nature of the world means you can go on road or off-road - like Forza Horizon 2 but in overdrive - where you're met with oncoming traffic, fields, rivers and, most importantly of all, other human players.

READ: Forza Horizon 2 gameplay preview

We played one mission in the northern states that was more Grand Theft Auto than a driving game. The goal was to capture a competitor and ram them until their health depleted to zero in a given time frame. Clever use of nitro boost and the surrounding terrain to gain an advantage had a sense of Burnout about it.

But then in another mission we were placed in a road race that, despite slightly heavy braking mechanics (we're sure we'll get used to it), felt more Forza in its style. Road-based checkpoints meant sticking firmly to the tarmac was the only way to win.

All of this is wrapped into an online world where experience points can be earned to propel you above and beyond your surrounding crews. More points means more kudos and more customisation that actually sits The Crew into the massive multiplayer online concept. It's a really interesting take on what a driving game is and can be.

Is The Crew any good? We'll have to wait until we're many hours deep into the game before we can verify how compelling it feels overall. But in terms of raising the bar, from what we've seen many of the ideas embedded into this game are visionary. Ubisoft's grand online vision keeps going from strength to strength.