Motorsport, in a lot of ways, is an embodiment of just how far humans can push the danger zone before turning the sport into some form of car-based mortal combat. It is that attraction to danger that spurs us to continue pushing the boundaries in, not only motorsports, but everything we do in our lives. Almost similar to the adrenaline rush of being five feet away from a pride of lions hunting down their prey; the beautiful beasts may kill us, but there’s nothing more exciting than being there in the moment to see it unfold in front of our eyes. The Crew 2 aims to take the intimacy car lovers have with motorsport, and span it across the entirety of the USA. But just how well does it execute this? Well, if you are a fan of the first game, or an avid motorsport lover like me, stick around to find out.
It is evident from the get-go that The Crew 2 is a reboot more than it is a sequel. The dramatic tone has been negated for a more light-hearted tone and there has been a second attempt at recreating the entire continental USA. There’s a certain charm that comes with all the changes made to the campaign as well as the fun mix of new vehicle types and racing disciplines, but there are a few rough edges that need to be trimmed and the game has some missed opportunities in its fun, quirky presentation.
A large amount of content has been brought into this open-world racer; most noticeably, aeroplanes and boats, plus a monumental amount of events for each. There has been a lot of clear fine-tuning made to The Crew 2’s “Fast Fave” system, which allows players to change vehicles on the fly - pun not intended. It works well and after using it for more than 20 hours, I can’t imagine life without it. The novelty behind being kilometres above the Earth, turning into a boat and launching like a missile doesn’t have that same “je ne sais quoi” that it did when I first started the game, but there is no denying it is an immaculate feature for moving around the world, exploring, and creating absurd emergent gameplay moments.
The aircrafts on offer seem to be more defined for stunts than they are for all-out soaring through the sky. I often found myself wishing I could have just a few more horsepower to get that jet-like feeling. However, 300km/h is nothing to scoff at, but when it is in large open skies, that large number suddenly feels minuscule in comparison.
I enjoyed the boat handling, which is responsive, nimble, and straightforward. The control scheme is well thought out and allows you to easily manipulate the boat according to various surfaces on water. There’s also the ability to angle the boat vertically so that you can crank out a few extra numbers in top-speed runs, or simply give the boat extra manoeuvrability at the expense of acceleration. The races aren’t at all sluggish and I enjoyed making use of the nifty ramps that Live have littered across the otherwise beautiful water locations. Boat races have the most interesting of circuit designs, and the scenery changes are well received. While planes take to the air, boats can navigate waterways like swamps, caves, and even casino water features.
Oddly enough, there’s actually only really a few of those transform races that Ubisoft showcased so much of, where you change from a ground vehicle to a plane all in one event. They’re labelled as “Xtrem” events and as rival showdowns against each racing discipline (after you’re 70% through the specific discipline,) but that’s it. This was The Crew 2’s goofiest idea and once you’ve experienced it for the first time, you will wish they added it throughout the game. Sadly, this was a missed opportunity and the game doesn’t use it past those few events.
The Crew 2’s visuals felt best at home in the watery environments; from the ebbing and flowing of the waves to the way small spheres of water speckle and snake across your boat’s bow at high speed. Streets also benefit from this visual enlightenment when they’re damp, reflecting the low-hanging sun or other urban lighting. The visuals in the scenery are absolutely stunning and can easily be the star of the show if it weren’t the fact that those visuals don’t cope well under high speed and, to be fair, “high speed” is a common occurrence for The Crew 2.
Overall, the presentation is fairly intoxicating. I’ve never been to the US but The Crew 2 has a really good feeling of immersion to it. Natural locations have an allure to them, like the Grand Canyon covered in a thin layer of pearlescent white snow. Things aren’t quite as beautiful at street level, with a few plain roads and a plethora of repeated, oddly named storefronts. You’ll hardly notice these fine details as you speed your way through the vast city landscapes.
The Crew 2 really doesn’t want you to stop for a cup of coffee; just put the pedal to the metal and let the journey become the destination. However, take care when throwing caution to the wind because it would appear that not all smashables got the memo. It is almost impossible to know if what you hit will shatter or stop you dead in your tracks. Some food stalls just break under a gust of wind; others are forged from adamantium and cemented into the planet.
The Crew 2 gains affection in the Test Drive: Unlimited DNA that it would seem to have spliced into the home spaces - considering this is its spiritual successor. Your favourite vehicles shine best when they’re showcased in your apartments, particularly after you dressed them using the well-made livery editor. The livery editor is very intuitive and can create accurate replicas and original designs with there being little-to-no fuss. Strangely enough, the game charges you to download community liveries but doesn’t seem to reward the creator of the design.
With such a big map, it was nice to see Ivory Tower litter the entirety of the area with events that can keep you entertained for hours on end. You can play quick races that yield a few benefits, while there are more than enough long distance races that utilise more of the winding roads on offer. The Crew 2 will benefit greatly from a custom route creator, but the races on offer will keep you entertained well after that feature is possibly introduced.
It is very clear that Ivory Tower did their homework when they choreographed certain races. F1 races felt fast and required me to utilise a driving line more than any other race, while Rally Cross events felt like they came straight from the Group B segment. It’s that slight attention to detail that really hit home for me. Certain races even gave you a small history lesson around how the events came to be and I often found myself emotionally connected to those moments.
The Crew 2 is a very confident, big, and stuffed with fun arcade racing. There will always be something charming about a racing game that lets us drive an F1 car through the Las Vegas Strip, fly a Spitfire over the Salt Flats, or ride a boat next to the Statue of Liberty. While The Crew 2 still has a few teething issues to solve, it undoubtedly encapsulates the ideals of motorsports and translates it well across the vast, wide open spaces of the USA.
Will defend anything Dragon Ball. Occasionally has two-way conversations with himself. Has sleepless nights about Half-Life 3 confirmed.
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PC, PS4, PSN, Xbox One, Xbox Live
26 June 2018
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