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11 January 2024

10 Min Read

the crew motorfest

The Crew Motorfest: How Hoonigan Shaped Season 2

The Crew Motorfest Season 2 kicked off on December 6, marking the start of the game’s partnership with Hoonigan, a brand focused on building custom cars capable of performing difficult and precise driving – and looking cool while doing it. Hoonigan is known for their series of Gymkhana films, which feature rally driver and Hoonigan co-founder Ken Block performing incredible stunts in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and more. They also created a YouTube series called This vs. That, which pits two customized cars against one another in a best-of-three drag race, and will frequently post new videos highlighting new and upcoming car builds. According to Hoonigan co-founder Brian Scotto, the company’s mission statement (other than not to have a mission statement) is to be nimble and have fun, all in service of entertaining their audience (and themselves).

For Season 2, Hoonigan has completely taken over The Crew Motorfest, bringing a new Playlist, Gymkhaha Grid Masters, as well as curated weekly events on the Main Stage, monthly challenges, a car playground just offshore of the main island, and, of course, bespoke Hoonigan cars that can be earned by completing challenges or purchased from the in-game store. Some of the vehicles include Scotto’s 1993 Porsche 911 Turbo TWB, Scotto’s 1990 Audi Coupé Quattro, the 1965 Ford Hoonicorn Mustang, the 1988 Chevrolet Big Block ZZ632 Camaro, and the Audi S1 E-Tron Quattro Hoonitron 2021, among many others.

According to Ubisoft Ivory Tower Senior Business Developer Charles-Arther Bourget, the amount of content and level of detail in Hoonigan’s season represents the quintessential experience for The Crew Motorfest, and it’s what players can expect in future seasons and partnerships. As The Crew Motorfest development team began planning for Season 2, they knew they wanted to expand on what they had done in the past and build the entire season around a partnership that would highlight all of the different activities the game has to offer. In trying to find the perfect partner, the team looked to the players for inspiration.

“Hoonigan has been a community request for quite some time,” says Bourget. “They were a great choice because they had cars we had never included in the game, and we knew we could work on a narrative that would feel very different from what we had when the game launched.”

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“We’ve had our cars in other games, but they were using our cars in ways that we didn’t use our cars,” elaborates Scotto. “So when this opportunity came up, and it wasn’t just a DLC car pack – it was going to be something that was really built around this universe we had created with Hoonigan – that was interesting to us.”

As the team started discussions with Hoonigan about the partnership and what that would look like in-game, the conversation was centered on how the Motorfest team would create something that was not only in line with what Hoonigan is and does, but also could evolve and update along with Hoonigan’s cars. To highlight this, Scotto uses the example of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX: In the game, players will pick up the base model of the Evo and drive it to the Hoonigan arena. Later in the playlist, the car makes another appearance, this time fully modded out to handle the drifts and precision driving needs of a Gymkhana master. It’s modeled after Hoonigan driver Ron Zaras’ real Mitsubishi, which, coincidentally, was completed around the same time that Season 2 launched. “It should have been finished earlier, but I think the first time the car ran was like a week before the game content was released, so it really was true to life,” laughs Scotto.

To make sure the Hoonigan cars were used to their fullest potential (and that players had the most fun with them), the team worked to build a skate park for cars. According to Bourget, the Hoonigan arena initially started as three workshop areas where players could hone their skills for the Gymkhana Grid Masters playlist, but as they worked with Hoonigan, it quickly expanded to its current iteration. Inspired by the Gymkhana films, the arena features rails to slide cars across, flags for bumpers to knock over while performing a continuous donut, and wall ramps to drift against gravity (or launch your car onto the arena’s second level). All of these skills will come into play during Season 2’s events, but the Hoonigan arena provides an open area for players to race wild and try different stunts and combos as they want.

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“It’s cool to see it all come together in gameplay, because it’s actually built to be able to go do that stuff versus you trying to hack the game to do something cool,” says Scotto. “It’s actually all built into the game, and there’s a skill set to learn how to go do it.”

Because one of the main goals in Gymkhana is doing tricks and mastering precision driving, which can affect speed, gameplay objectives have also been updated. Many of the Playlist and Main Stage objectives focus on gaining a certain number of points during a race, instead of requiring players place first or in the top three. Additionally, the number of tricks you do is tied to Crew Bucks, which can be used to purchase cars and vanities from the in-game shop – the more tricks you do, the more Crew Bucks you can earn, but if you go too long without drifting, you can lose them.

“Racing is an important component, and of course it will still be important to go fast,” explains Bourget. “But at the same time, you have that element of style Hoonigan brings, tricks you need to perform. At the end of the day, allowing players to earn more bucks lets you get more cars and have more fun.”

In addition to creating an authentic Hoonigan experience with the car skate park, the team also worked to make the cars very realistic to drive, though Bourget cautions that the team occasionally exaggerated some behaviors to make gameplay more satisfying. For example, the team chose to make the Hoonicorn, which Scotto calls the icon of the brand, extremely slippery in order to challenge players. According to Scotto, while many racing games simply have a button to initiate a drift, The Crew Motorfest has players hit a button and adjust the throttle, making it feel more realistic to driving in real life, and more like an accurate representation of what Hoonigan built the cars to do.

“Most of our cars are built for a specific purpose, but to be done in a spectacular way,” he says. “You could build a car to do Gymkhana, and it’ll get everything done, but it doesn’t look cool doing it. Setting up exhaust in front of your windshield to shoot fire up is actually not pragmatic at all, really. But it looks good on camera. Even the toughness about them, the colors, the big fenders – we choose all of that.”

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Customization is a key part of car culture, as well as The Crew Motorfest. Modding cars to make them perform a specific way, adding vanities to give your car flair – it all helps create an identity that sets you apart from the crowd. According to Scotto, these touches can be nuanced and subtle, or they can be big and loud. He mentions one of the Hoonigan drivers, Gary King Jr., who has a bright green Nissan Skyline – but with a supercharged American V8 engine.

While The Crew Motorfest has hundreds of vanity and performance customization options for most vehicles in a player’s garage, those features may not be available for the Hoonicorn or most other Hoonigan cars, as the team wanted to preserve them as works of art, already highly customized for a specific purpose.

“The Hoonigan cars are so unique that, for most of them in the game, we disabled some of the customization options because the cars are intended to be as they are,” says Bourget. “You could have an underglow if you’d like, but you’d never change the body or the tires of the car. They’re beautiful objects, almost like a piece of art. You want it to stay the way it is, and as it’s intended to be shown.”

When Hoonigan started in 2011, the automotive landscape in the United States looked very different than it does today. According to Scotto, motorsports were very focused on winning, and had gotten to a point where corporate sponsorship had removed any identity from drivers. It had to be that way, says Scotto – driving is such an expensive hobby that people needed corporate funding and connections to be able to race, and had to answer to those sponsorships to keep them. Car culture followed in that wake.

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Hoonigan decided to cut out the middleman and bring their content directly to consumers through then-new forms of media like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Because of that, they didn’t need to worry about sponsorship alignment – but once their videos started to hit millions of views, brands reached out to them to do projects.

“For us, the thing was to branch out; don’t work with people who are in our space. Work with people in art, in music, in fashion. Make car culture part of the normal side of culture,” says Scotto. “We didn’t want to just make cars cool for people who were already into cars, we wanted to make cars cool for people who weren’t. When you talk about what Hoonigan means, I’ll tell you what I hope it means to people: I hope we were the ones that made it fun.”

Scotto describes a lot of the work Hoonigan did in those early days as bushwhacking, clearing a path for people in the automotive space to try something different and do different things. He mentions that other similar brands and creators like Donut Media, Adam LZ, and Cleetus McFarland have paved the way behind the path Hoonigan cleared, some of them doing it even better than Hoonigan, because they had the chance to see what Hoonigan did and improve on it.

“I think the best way to put it is that Hoonigan curates an exuberant form of automotive artistry with its tone, craft, and showmanship,” says Bourget.

The Crew Motorfest is available on Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon Luna, and PC through Ubisoft Connect and the Epic Games Store, as well as with a Ubisoft+ subscription. You can get The Crew Motorfest for up to 50% off at the Ubisoft Store through January 3, and be sure to check out the .

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