The Crew is a racing game set in an open world environment of a scaled-down version of the United States. Players have the ability to drive from coast to coast with the inclusion of major cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, as well as specific locales such as Pikes Peak, the Laguna Seca race track, famous landmarks such as Cape Canaveral, many highways and smaller towns. In the single-player campaign the player controls Alex Taylor. He is a witness to the murder on his brother Datton, the leader of a crew called the 5-10’s, but is arrested himself. Five years later he is given the opportunity by the FBI to hunt down his brother’s killer Dennis ‘Shiv’ Jefferson, the gang’s leader, as he is deployed to unmask the corrupt FBI agent Coburn who is also involved. He has to join the crew himself and make a name for himself to rise up the ranks.
The missions consist of a large amount of races and cut-scenes further the story, but there are also smaller challenges called ‘skills’ such as slalom courses, staying on the ideal racing line, making big jumps to cross gaps and maintaining a certain speed for a set distance. Skills are triggered by driving through them. Next to regular checkpoints races against the clock or opponents there are specific tasks such as stealing a certain car, transporting packages, escaping from cops, performing takedowns or chauffeuring. As Taylor rises up the ranks and get tasks from the crew’s tiers V, V2, V4, V6 and eventually V8, new areas open up. The entire world is available right away, but the missions in the areas to the west only open up when a certain level has been reached and events usually recommend a car of a certain level.
Cars do not need to follow roads and can generally race on any type of terrain. There are specs for each type of environment that enhance performance, such as Circuit, Dirt, Performance, Raid and Street, but not all cars have access to all of them. The game world uses a day-and-night cycle and a large map can be used to plan a route with navigation. Taylor gains experience to level up and the same applies to the cars. Regularly new car parts are supplied, often based on his performance, to upgrade the car. With each new level perks become available, used to give Taylor an experience boost or to further enhance the cars.
Next to the solo parts players can join crews to share the experience, work together and progress quicker. Crews of up to four people can form temporarily alliances with online players or with friends. Up to eight players are supported simultaneously in a single session. After the initial of the parts factions become available, such as the Eagles on the East Coast and the Wolves in the Midwest. Players get to join a certain faction to access PvP and PvE races. Joining a crew is the only way to earn crew credits, a secondary currency to buy perks and cars. The game supports microtransactions with real money to buy cars, but you cannot acquire any above your current level. This is never required to progress in the game. Crew credits can also be bought as large credits packs.
Each crew has a crew leader who can take a number of decisions, such as restarting a mission. There is also a large amount of social features to track scores and compare with friends. The game contains many types of cars from licensed manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW and Ferrari. After the main game has been completed and level 50 is hit, platinum car parts can be obtained, as opposed to the gold ones, encouraging players to continue racing as these provide a random statistics boost to get the best possible car for PvP matches at the highest level.