The Crew 2 Review – Start Your Engines
Ubisoft returns to the starting grid with the release of The Crew 2, a sequel to 2014’s mediocre racer that promises to be bigger, badder, and faster. Adding a flurry of new vehicles, vast improvements to the environment, and highly intuitive video and capture tools, does The Crew 2 warrant enough for another lap around Ubisoft’s race-driven America?
The Crew 2 Review
The Crew was a traditional start to a new franchise with Ubisoft. A game that showed promise and potential, but lacked in execution. If you can ignore its questionable story and rough technical start, it laid a good foundation for the release of The Crew 2, which seemingly took on board the feedback regarding the originals low-budget movie feel. The Crew 2 removes the linear story entirely and allows players to craft their own, participating in different racing disciplines and forging rivalries along the way. While it lacks the direction provided by cutscenes and scripted sequences, it still manages to maintain a level of storytelling worth the time to explore, all the while not sacrificing a player’s freedom of expression.
Freedom. If there’s one word that sums up The Crew 2, it’s freedom. America is back in glorious fashion, as players are free to visit and explore the USA’s most iconic cities and landmarks, whether that be checking out the UFO Cafe at Roswell or taking a dip in the reflecting pool in Washington DC. The game looks incredible at high speeds; whether whizzing through skyscraper-lined roads or dodging between trees in the forests, the world looks fantastic. The quality level does drop off slightly if you take the time to stop and really look around, but in a world of this size, it’s a technical requirement.
The technicalities of video game design is a foggy area for The Crew 2. I was infinitely impressed at the ability to warp to a friend the other side of America and be driving by his side within a matter of seconds, likewise the ability to zoom in on a fully 3D and dynamic map blew me away. However, while the game manages to master this seemingly impossible technical feat, it falls short on the basics. The loading of AI vehicles is poor, as clear roads suddenly fill with vehicles at the end of the draw distance. Six trucks driving in the distance seemingly transform into small family cars as they grow closer, and the photographic mode…what a waste.
One of my favorite activities in The Crew was driving around America hunting down monuments, landscapes, and iconic buildings from around the country. Taking a quick snap and moving on, creating a photo album of memories and exploration, was something I was excited to see play a more prominent role. There are dozens of photo op missions that reward both good levels of fame and cash – the currencies used to unlock and upgrade new vehicles and races. Some of these are as simple as taking a picture of Mount Rushmore, while others required me to fly under the Eiffel Tower replica in Las Vegas while doing an inverted roll. Each photo felt more challenging and rewarding as we progressed, but often that was soured by the frustration of a 10 second loading screen every time we entered this mode.
I understand the intent. Vastly superior photographic and video editing tools give the community the power to forge their own paths in this expansive racing world, but those intentions are lost amidst a technical engine that clearly isn’t ready for that level of depth. Of the five times I attempted to use the live editing option, my game froze four times. While the options and variety looked impressive, I quickly forgot its potential in place for an experience that didn’t involve closing my game every five minutes.
Despite this, a technical aspect The Crew 2 masters is once again its car customization. The visual and technical options available to players are arguably the greatest of the modern console generation. Completely custom liveries allow players to combine hundreds of layers and images to forge designs of their own creation. An intuitive, responsive, and accessible marketplace allow for near-instant navigation and acquisition of creations from other players. If the bygone days of Needs for Speed early years’ customization has you dribbling in nostalgic anticipation, The Crew 2 has more than enough to scratch that itch.
Honestly, it feels as though two entirely different teams work on technical optimization for the game. For one team, everything they touched turned to gold. The other, well, the time assigned for them to fix their bits was instead spent fighting for top spots in a Drag Racing event. Which are awesome, by the way.
If there is any one single element that’s going to divide critics and players alike, it’s the handling. Whether you’re crashing against the waves, soaring through the clouds, or burning up the road, each of the vehicle types comes with a unique handling system. However, none really seem to hit the mark…at least at first. The introductory tutorial race mashes together multiple vehicles types to break you in, but all glide around awkwardly, never really feeling connected to the world around them. This is further amplified by the lackluster and unimaginative collision mechanics that offer little more than a small bump or nudge. While The Crew 2’s introduction to the game may have been lacking in acceleration, it more than makes up for it with top speed.
If it had not been for this review, there’s a good chance I would have dropped the game then and there. Ubisoft have included various vehicles across a number of their biggest franchises, but each time it felt tacky and cheap. It originally felt like it did not match to that of Grand Theft Auto V, which released five years ago (I know, crazy). However, The Crew 2 really grows on you. While the initial Street Races are cumbersome, confusing, and lacking in entertainment value, as you progress and unlock more disciplines, vehicle types, and race options, it evolves into something far superior to its original.
Once I had the opportunity to explore a much bigger and more impressive variety of races, I began to understand what Ubisoft set out to achieve. While I found the Street Races to be mundane and frustrating, the Rally Cross, Drag Racing, Motocross, and Touring Cars all provided hours of thrilling entertainment. The Rally Cross replaced the predictability of Street Races with entirely open courses that let you carve your own route as you progress. The Drag Racing features unique mechanics specifically for the mode, rewarding gear changing and car tweaking in different ways to other modes. The Motocross events had me launching over dirt jumps with more opposition bikers than I could count, and the wonders of Touring Car races left me feeling like a champion each and every time.
If you’re looking for a true simulation approach to driving your favorite vehicles, The Crew 2 isn’t your game. However, if mindless fun and exploration alongside the ability to switch between a car and a plane mid-jump sounds like a good time, it’s a must have.
The Crew 2 doesn’t rewrite the book. There are many, many games out there with better driving, better flying, and better physics. However, there is something to be said about the ability to be a jack of all trades. The Crew 2 may lack in the precision and execution of each individual vehicle type and discipline, but it offers a massive mixture making for a racing banquet. The negative experiences of certain modes were instantly alleviated and forgotten as I dove head first into events more my style. While we may fail to agree on which is the best event, I think we can all agree on the high level of creativity and variety on offer.
The Crew 2 is a vast improvement on the original in every aspect. The environments offer a vast, exciting, and expansive world to explore. The huge variety of racing events, alongside a near endless progression system, promises hours of play time, and the car customization is the best we have seen this generation.