The Single-player campaign is up to 20 hours long, and entails infiltrating criminal groups with protagonist Alex Taylor (Troy Baker). Players can also participate in mini-games called skills challenges that are peppered across the world. They are triggered when a player drives through them and involve completing challenges such as weaving through gates and staying as close to a racing line as possible for a period of time. Missions can be played alone, with friends, or with online co-op matchmaking. The multiplayer mode lets a maximum of eight players to compete in races and other gametypes. There are no in-game loading screens or pauses.
The Crew creative director Julian Gerighty has called the game a role-playing game with large-scale multiplayer elements. The multiplayer is not separate from the single-player. Players can form "crews" to race together or against ghost records.
Though the player can play alone, the game requires a constant internet connection to play.