There’s a crisis of ghost cars in The Crew Motorfest and it’s really spoiling the mood. Ever reminisce on that one time you vacationed in Honolulu and a ferocious pack of transparent Lamborghinis pummeled down the highway at you head-on? Or that one time soaking in the sun on Halaie Beach as a dozen Porsche RSRs race behind you as if they’re competing in the 24-hour Le Mans? Yeah, me neither, but that’s apparently what Ivory Tower thinks makes for some chill maikaʻi vibes.
How Ghost Cars Ruin this Vacation
There’s no denying that a key marketing point of The Crew Motorfest has been its robust and immersive Hawaiian setting. From the map itself to the carefully curated soundtrack, the island atmosphere is something the designers really honed in on. The amazingly adorable final live-action trailer for the game makes it clear that atmosphere is paramount to the experience.
A trio of humanized cars daydreaming about relaxing on a Hawaiian island in the midst of a traffic jam is the perfect mood-setter for the game. There’s no doubt that The Crew Motorfest has been marketed for its chill factor.
It’s not just the chill atmosphere being ruined by ghost cars, it’s also the gameplay. Exploration is a core part of The Crew Motorfest. There are a ton of collectibles and landmarks to check off in this game. There are even photo ops objectives that make good use of the robust photo mode. Thankfully, these phantom cars don’t show up when taking photos of your car. Unfortunately, the lingering stress of a stray vehicle sliding into the perfect shot is still a concern due to the ubiquitous presence of ghost cars.
Persistent ghost car anxiety is a real thing. I’ve had bursts of stress as a result of spawns of 200mph hypercars suddenly careening straight at me from thin air. These moments do more than just raise one’s blood pressure, they cause mid-challenge accidents that force a redo. Like this time I careened off into a shack.
At times, I laugh at the silliness of it all despite wanting to quit the game. Whether you’re collecting or sightseeing, you’re bound to get a rude awakening from the phantom traffic, and that is the opposite of chill.
Why They’re in the Game
The Crew Motorfest clearly emphasizes chill exploration, so why then is this bizarre inclusion of ghost cars a thing at all in the first place?
It’s no coincidence multiple open-world racing games feature ghost traffic without pedestrians. Ghost traffic is there to keep a map without pedestrians feeling alive. Having these ghost cars zooming around the map also alleviates the reality that seven simultaneous online players in a map this size can feel lonely.
The open-world racing genre has been stuck in a rut on how to populate large maps for quite a while. The Crew’s rival, Forza Horizon, often receives criticism for having an empty world with no pedestrians. Yet, Forza Horizon 5’s 12-player lobby count is higher than The Crew Motorfest’s measly seven. Succumbing to the limitations of rival racing games while downsizing the world map is a particularly hard blow to take in The Crew Motorfest’s case.
Perhaps THE defining characteristic of the past The Crew games was the gigantic seamless continental US map. Players were quick to forgive Ivory Tower for empty pockets of road and sparse spread of players because of the sheer scope and concept. And yet, even The Crew 2 featured a lively element The Crew Motorfest fails to have: pedestrians! With the series moving on to a more compact map, it was all but certain pedestrian traffic and player density would make up for it. But nope, the map is significantly dwarfed by The Crew 2’s, yet lacks pedestrians.
How Competitors Implement the Solution Better
Forza Horizon’s implementation isn’t great either, but at least ghost cars are differentiated from the cars you race against. You won’t often see the same types of cars mixed together in Forza Horizon 5, whereas, in The Crew Motorfest, there are the same Camaros and Chargers populating both real and phantom traffic.
Another reason Forza Horizon’s ghost cars aren’t quite as bothersome as The Crew Motorfest’s is the pack usually spawns further away so you can react sooner. I’ve had many instances in The Crew Motorfest where a pack of cars spawns a scant block in front of me.
My time with The Crew Motorfest hasn’t been a total downpour, though. The map features far more variety per capita versus The Crew 2 or even Forza Horizon 5. Once you play the game enough, the various ghost car hot spots and more quiet routes get burned into the muscle memory and you get used to ghost traffic. A lot of the annoyance is remedied by cleaning up the cluttered UI a bit and turning off non-player vehicle noise too. But, you can’t turn off the infuriating ghost cars completely, which is a shame. I’d much rather cruise through a quiet and underpopulated Hawaii than one overrun with nightmarish packs of ghost cars haunting me wherever I go.