"The Crew" takes players on major highways and off-road. Courtesy/Ubisoft

The first racing game I ever played was the original “Super Mario Kart” for the Super Nintendo, though it was several years after its launch in 1992. I was fairly decent at it. There were few turns, the courses were easy to navigate, and you were only racing against one other player and six computer-programmed, predictable drivers.

Life was good.

Sometime during the past 22 years, video game racing got serious. And difficult. Today, racing games are not particularly my favorites. Our office recently even held a “Mario Kart 8” tournament and I lost miserably. Like most gamers, I don’t like to lose. So, I tend to avoid the whole genre altogether.

Last week, I spent some time playing Ubisoft’s upcoming racer “The Crew,” an open world racing game that will launch this November for Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4 and the PC. I also spoke to the game’s creative director, Julian Gerighty, about its features, which are pretty cool. You can race almost anywhere in the United States, you can customize cars, you can even rebuild your vehicle from the ground up. “The Crew” also features a mode where four players chase after and take down a vehicle as a team, and it kinda made me feel like Vin Diesel in “The Fast and the Furious.”

“A lot of this game takes place off-road. How are you gonna do off-road? Well, all of our vehicles you can customize very heavily and can take them off-road completely,” Gerighty told us.

One of the most entertaining features of “The Crew” is the social aspect. It’s the type of game that’s more fun to play with others.

“You’re always online in this game. You’re meeting people on the road, you can invite them in your crew or to be a friend of yours,” Gerighty explained. “The game is that much more fun when you’re playing with your friends. You can play by yourself, but all these missions you can play with other people. It’s collaborative and competitive. We have a lot of racers that are head to head or crew versus crew.”

“The Crew” takes place in “an ideal version of the United States” and features realistic depictions of a number of major cities. During one of our races, we could see the beautiful Chicago skyline.

“We sent a bunch of people on a team to New York, Miami, Detroit. We spent a lot of time researching the states and Google images were useful as well,” Gerighty said.

“The Crew” allows players to customize their vehicles. You can alter the colors, change the finish from matte to metallic and even add a multicolored, iridescent finish. You can add stickers, racing lines and flames to the outside of your car. The interior can be customized by changing the color and the fabric.

“You can transform a car completely into an off-road vehicle. You may not see the massive differences, but it’s a different car. If you take the same car and turn it into a circuit car, it’s also a different experience. Each one has different handling and type of control,” Gerighty explained. He added that changing the way the car operates is one of the title’s most impressive features.

Customization options in "The Crew." Courtesy/Ubisoft

“That’s just the visual customization. Where it gets really interesting, you can strip the exterior away, have a look at how the engine’s functioning," he said. "We can strip even the cover of the engine and have a look at what’s happening inside.”

You can customize the interior of your vehicle in "The Crew." Courtesy/Ubisoft

How did developers of “The Crew” accurately do this?

“We’ve got a passionate team of gearheads who customized the kits, making sure these cars are based on real models,” Gerighty said.

Players can customize their cars using cash they earn from winning races and doing well on skill challenges.

“The Crew” is in development by Ubisoft Reflections and Lyon, France-based developer Ivory Tower. How will the title differ from other upcoming racing games, like Sony’s “Driveclub?”

“Most other racing games are circuit-based, so there’s no exploration, no cities, it’s just a question of driving and shaving a tenth of a second off a lap, so you’re just doing lap after lap. Or, it’s open city, not open world, there’s no off-world exploration or free drive experience,” Gerighty said. “So, we’re very different in the way we can fundamentally have the open world as the building block of the game.”