The Crew, released four years ago now was an ambitious open-world racer that although wasn’t perfect, was a lot of fun to play. The brief to developers Ivory Tower was simple. Make Destiny but for cars. And so The Crew was born. Although the idea on paper would be a game changer, in reality, it was a scrappy underdeveloped game that many loved and loathed in equal measure.
Fast forward four years and here we have The Crew 2, a game that when it was first announced kind of shocked me. It was the last game I expected Ubisoft to make a sequel considering the underwhelming response the original game had. But a sequel we have and I have to say, I’m not entirely sure it was needed.
Thankfully the ridiculous crime story from the original game has been dropped in favour or an XP system made in the form of followers. Yes, it’s modelled itself on the Crew’s expansion Wild Run, but I like to think it’s taken the inspiration from Watch Dogs 2 in terms of doing all sorts of things to gain you followers, especially as it’s now all TV based. The ditching of the story has made the Crew 2 more of a playground as you can gain followers by doing all kinds of stunts, in all of the three disciplines. Yep, you guessed it – the more followers you get the more you level up and so unlock new skills, events, and upgrades for your car and so on. Don’t worry there are also credits and dollars to earn so you can buy a new whip and kit it out with all the turbos and rims you could possibly ask for.
As you may have seen from the trailers there are more than just cars at your disposal in The Crew 2. You now get to try your hand with a powerboat and stunt planes and boy does it really make a difference. A quick press of the R3 button and a menu pops up allowing you to change from a car to a plane to a boat and back to the car again all in an instant. So that hour-long drive from New York to L.A is not as daunting as first appears seeing as you can mix it up a bit. There are all manner of vehicles to get to grips with, mainly in the car department, as there are variations of the ground-based excitement. Not only do you get all your usual sports and hypercars, you also get off-road buggies and motocross bikes. All the vehicles kind of handle the same, so the transition from each one is quite painless. As they all handle the same there is a questionable amount of difference between a top sports car and a budget family saloon. I guess this is down to the arcade nature of the handling which in itself is a lot of fun for the most part. Don’t expect any guff simulator crap here, The Crew 2 is pure balls-out arcade action, It has the feels of early Ridge Racer games or even Sega’s OutRun remake. Which makes for a refreshing change in this age of super serious simulators.
As this is a game about levelling up your ride the upgrade system has also had an overhaul letting you upgrade your car with a system of simple blocks that you select and purchase, you don’t have to worry about the fine tuning, manifolds, tires, spark plugs or any of that other stuff. In the Crew 2, you can just select the next best tyre, or the next best engine and fit it, just as you would a new piece of Armour or a new weapon in Destiny or The Division. There isn’t a vast list of stats and nothing scary if you don’t know a rim from a wiper (snigger). It’s a nice easy system and stops the game getting bogged down in menus and stats.
The game is played in a locked tier system, you have to complete events and win races to unlock different types of vehicles and races. Once you have your basic plane, boat and car you can then enter different events to gain more followers. Once you rank up, you can then compete in off-road races, drift races and air stunt races and so on, This, in turn, gives you access to different off-road vehicles, boats, motorbikes and planes. It’s a great system of keeping the game under control given the vast scale of the map and the inevitable side quests and missions. There was a danger that the map could have been suddenly cluttered with icons dotted all over the place, but this locked system keeps that under control. Strangely though one of the best things about the original game was the random events that dotted around the main highways and roads.
If you did decide to drive across the country, you could always drive through a gate and begin a small side quest, like a slalom, or a speed trap or a jump. This stopped the drive becoming boring and was a great system to help level up. There are still similar events in The Crew 2, but they are specific side quests and not often found on the route of your travel, you have to specifically go to them.
— Paul Collett [FNGRGNS] (@ThePaulCollett) July 3, 2018
But the main star of the show has to be the map. 60 miles of the whole of the continental United States is at your disposal from the off. It really does need to be seen to be believed. It’s like a fully interactive Google Street View. Press the map button and the game zooms out a little so you can see the surrounding area, press R2 to zoom out a little more so you can see the surrounding blocks, zoom out a little more and you can see the entire city, zoom out more and you’ll see the entire USA. Of course, the best way to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the map is by plane. And I can tell you there is nothing better than flying low to the ground (a skill to obtain followers), and then climb high over a mountain only to be greeted by the shimmering lights of L.A. It’s jaw-dropping. You see, The Crew 2 is a living breathing map of the USA, so it’s always ‘on’ as it were as opposed to being filled with clever trickery to give the appearance of a city at night. Of course, it’s not a realistic representation of the States but more of a caricature. All the famous landmarks are where you expect to see so you can plan your dream road trip if you want to take in the sites. The only downside to a map this large though is ironically it’s size. I would never encourage people to fast travel because personally, I like to take in the sites, see what hidden gems can be found along the way, but this map is so big that I did find myself fast travelling more often than I would have liked. There is an argument that the map is just too big, I never thought I would say that but it can feel pretty lonely at times and equally overwhelming. It actually feels a bit like No Man’s Sky in teh terms of having this vast area to explore but not much to do. Stupidly, something else missing from the first game was the Sat Nav. In the first game, you had the directional line overlayed on the road, easy to follow. Now for some reason, it’s just on the minimap so that dream road trip from New York to L.A. is more of a battle with directions than it is with traffic.
But what about the races I hear you cry. Well, the races are a little hit and miss. Car races are as you would expect, fast and furious, and certainly, scratch that racing itch you may have. However all is not well, the rubber banding is pretty bad and the AI doesn’t fare much better. There were times when I crashed out and was last with no car in sight, but turn a corner or two and I was suddenly fighting for 2nd place. Plus a lot of the scenery along the route can just be driven through so there is plenty of opportunities to cut corners. I’m not sure if this encourages clever or lazy driving. Motocross and offroad races aren’t much different. My first motocross race I cut all the corners and won. Not much in the way of a challenge there. Thankfully the boat races are more adrenaline filled thanks to a clever control system and plane acrobatics are much tenser and require actual skill. It’s strange how the cars have somehow slipped into third place in terms of handling, especially considering the pedigree of Ivory Tower.
The Developers would have you believe that the other main selling point of The Crew 2 is the multiplayer aspect. Team up with your crew and take part in the challenges. Just like you would in Destiny. Unfortunately, though this doesn’t quite happen, I mean the map is so much fun to explore, you don’t really need a crew, mainly because there is no way to interact with them, or there is not much you can actually do as a crew save for races and challenging some high score tables. All the single player things can be done just as easily and are just as much fun solo as they would be with friends. The only difference being is that the events are easier in multiplayer as only one of you has to finish the race. Ivory Tower are going to be working on this side of the game though with a winter update, but so far have supplied no information as to what improvements they will be.
The Crew 2 is a little scrappy, just like it’s prequel but it’s a much more polished experience. Ditching the story was perhaps the best decision, to make the game more of a playground for gamers to run around in. The new vehicles add a huge amount to the game, not only for variety but to stop the boredom that could set in with the non-stop driving in a map that’s this big.
The controls are a bit spongy but fit nicely into the arcade style of the game. There isn’t a vast amount of difference in the car’s handling, but just enough if you to find a favourite vehicle and level up. The Crew 2 is not really a game about filling a garage up with all the cars you can think of, it’s about choosing your ride that suits your style and making it even better. Besides the library of cars isn’t particularly huge so choose your ride and stick with it
I really wanted to love this game It’s been on my day one list for ages. But it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, It’s not perfect and the map is perhaps too big but omitting some of the things that made the first game work so well is a strange decision. While the arcade nature of the racing is a refreshing change form the po-faced seriousness of the modern racer the AI lets the races down which inevitably turn into battles as opposed to skill racing. The new vehicles of boats and planes really do add something to the mix and are a much welcome addition.
There is a lot of fun to be had in The Crew 2 though and hopefully if Ubisoft’s post-game updates are as plentiful as their other games this sequel can blossom into something wonderful.
The Crew 2 is available now on Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Steam.
Developer: Ivory Tower
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.