It’s rare that a video game map will make me excited. Hell, it’s rare that I even notice them, as most maps are serviceable and little more. So before playing a few hours of Ubisoft’s open-world racing game, The Crew Motorfest, I didn’t expect to be blown away by its in-game map. And yet, I was. It might be the best and coolest video game map of 2023.
The Crew Motorfest, out today via early access, is the third game in Ubisoft’s open-world racing franchise. But this time around, the developers have decided to stop trying to recreate the entire United States and do something better: Copy Forza Horizon. Okay, that’s a bit reductive, but Motorfest really feels like Ubisoft’s stab at trying to replicate the fun and exciting vibes of Microsoft’s popular Forza Horizon franchise. I’ll have to play more before I can deliver a final verdict on how successfully Motorfest pulls off the formula, but I don’t need to play more to tell you that its map is amazing.
After the exciting and very Forza Horizon-like opening of Motorfest, I was plopped into Hawai’i and let loose on its roads, ramps, and hills. But before I hit the gas and flew out into the world, I popped open the map to get a lay of the land. When I did, the game seamlessly zoomed out to show a better view of the island, which looked pretty cool. Then, however, I discovered I could spin the fully 3D and highly detailed map around while cars and planes continued to move about it in real-time, which was even more impressive. However, it wasn’t until I zoomed in on the map more that my mind was blown.
Sometimes, maps in games represent the world via simple lines that create a crude facsimile of the actual place you’re exploring. Even those that try to offer a more visually detailed representation of the setting typically don’t let you zoom in too close to the action. That’s not the case in The Crew Motorfest, however. Instead, when I zoomed into the map, I saw all the details of the game world represented in real-time in the map viewer. And I could zoom into any part of the large island and watch NPCs mill about or cars drive around.
I can’t stress enough how seamlessly and flawlessly this all works, too. Sure, you can poke at it and slowly zoom in and out to spot some of the tricks Ubisoft is pulling off to make this all work. But still, this is one of the coolest maps I’ve seen in a game. I ended up playing around with the map for like 20 minutes after discovering how closely you can zoom in on any part of the island. (The Crew 2 featured a similar map, but this time around Ubisoft lets you zoom in even more and it looks even better.)
It’s especially nice to have an impressive and useful map like this after playing a ton of Starfield recently, which has a decidedly less cool and very bad in-game map. That “map” in Bethesda’s RPG hasn’t helped me at all. Meanwhile, The Crew’s map not only looks awesome, but it actually provides useful information about where roads connect, how buildings are shaped, where hills are located, and other geographical information.
Ubisoft, spin off this tech and make a game about exploring maps and finding assassins or hackers or whatever franchise best works with this idea. I’d play that. Until then, I’ll keep playing around with this wicked cool map. Oh, and I’ll play Motorfest, the actual game it’s connected to, as well. Eventually…