At a recent event at Mercedes-Benz World, I managed to get an extensive hands-on experience with Ubisoft’s upcoming open-world racer, The Crew 2. Those who’ve seen any of the previously released footage and news regarding the title will have noticed that the game has branched out from the cars and bikes of the first Crew title, to include just about every machine capable of going fast on the planet bar the Space Shuttle. So just how does it all stack up?

I had the chance to play The Crew 2 on a preview build ran on the Xbox One. The first impressions are extremely promising. The title maintains the open-world nature of the first title, and turns it up to 11. The game’s world is truly stunning, and offers a great diversity on an even greater scale. It’s like someones taken the world and given it to the Nitro Circus to add their flair to it. This isn’t a world bathed in hyper-realism, and that’s what gives it it’s charm. This isn’t some simulation title, and it isn’t trying to be. We spoke with Player Experience Director Julien Hummer at the event and he summed up the creation of the world as the following:

We want to do over the top things within the world, so it’s what we’ve tried to do with the game. Trying to have a unique place and do something crazy”

The world certainly is a unique take on North America, and gives you plenty of opportunities to do over the top, crazy things. It’s an arcade racer at heart, and a damn good one at that. You’re not going to be getting rFactor physics, hell you’re not even gonna get Forza physics, but what you are going to get is a damn good time. Races will have you taking to the rooftops, throwing yourself down the side of a mountain on 2 wheels and flying inches from the ground, in a world that has it’s base in reality, but allows you to go completely over the top in any way you see fit. The world is your oyster to explore, to tackle events in the order you see fit, in whatever vehicle takes your fancy.

“we are not telling the player to do that, do that, do that, do that, no. You do what you want to do.”

The title comes with an expansive list in all fields of competition, a vast selection of cars, split across multiple disciplines, as well as a multitude of bikes, boats, planes, trucks and more. There really is something for everyone’s taste, there’s even some old classics in every class for those stubborn enough to reject change and innovation. What impressed me is the clear difference between the classes, even if the base car stayed the same. For example, the street variant of the mustang, feels like a different beast to the drift one, a different beast to the drag car, and again completely different to the touring variant. It’s a nice touch that gives the classes purpose, and doesn’t leave you thinking ‘why can’t I just use that one here?’ It also serves to allow players to take a car they love, and know that they can get a variant of it for multiple events. This isn’t available for every car in the game however, and this is something I’d like to see change, be it before launch, or through one of the many future updates we’re sure to see. Hummer did mention the titles update cycle when we spoke with him:

We sustained the first game with more than 20 updates and two expansions, we are probably going to sustain The Crew 2 in the same way because like, I’m a player and I love updates, especially the free updates adding content.”

It’s a promising sign to see that the studio is thinking to the future, and we can only imagine what their crazy minds have planned to bring into the world they’ve created. Regular live updates seems to be the way that a lot of developers have been heading, and with open world titles it really does work wonders, just look at the longevity of titles like GTA Online.

With regards to handling, the game has a few little flaws, such as the somewhat questionable force feedback, but once you work out how everything handles, it’s a really enjoyable experience. I had a few moments where the cars didn’t do what I expected them to but once you work your head around it, it’s a very solid arcade racer. The jumps feel epic, the tight twisty streets feel like tight streets, which they often don’t in racers that try to be a little too forgiving, which all helps to make the more open highways and fields feel just that, open. The contrast in environments, and the seamless change between them helps to make the world feel all the more real. The planes and boats will feel familiar to anyone who’s played titles like GTA, but with a fair bit more refinement. They allow you to do some amazing things, and really add another depth to the experience on offer, with a fantastic difference between the way all vehicles behave. This game feels like what an arcade racer should be, an experience that makes the impossible possible. It can be easy as someone who spends a lot of time playing more realistic titles to get hung up on that, but to do so would be to look at The Crew 2 from the wrong light. This isn’t a title aiming itself at the hardcore few, it’s aimed at the interested masses.

There’s been a great deal of work on the graphical elements of the title and as you’ll be able to see from our gameplay and the relevant screenshots, they’re rather fantastic. That’s not to say that the title is graphically perfect. The character models are not the greatest you’ll find around, but in a title with its basis on racing, it is somewhat to be expected. It does take a little away from the cut-scenes and garage walks though. Being able to walk around your home and garage is a really nice touch though, and really helps to immerse the player in the world, and really appreciate the vehicle models the developers have created. They really are gorgeous. The models fit right into the gorgeous landscape, and you’ll be sure to notice the game’s lighting design. The Crew 2 comes with a full day and night cycle, as well as a full weather cycle, all held on server. Most impressive for me, was the game’s volumetric clouds, which allow players to fly through them, as Hummer explains:

“When you have clouds and the weather is not very nice, with your plane you can go through the clouds and then you are above, the sun is shining and it’s all blue skies, and doing that is something we worked a lot on with the volumetric clouds”

The effect really is a thing to behold, and a true testament to the way the game performs. We experienced no stutter or lag with transitions as such, even on a preview build, which is an extremely positive sign of the game’s optimisation and development.

The game as a whole is extremely fluid, and that seems to be something that the development team has put a huge focus on, to help create an open world with as few barriers as possible. The game has you drive through garages, docks etc to start events, giving you the option to leave, no chance of accidentally starting an event, and in doing so allows the game to load the event without a loading screen, creating a seamless experience. It even lets you drive to the grid yourself. It really is quite something.

“in the game you are switching from one vehicle to another and we don’t put loading, we wanted a seamless experience, exploring things without any barriers.”

The emphasis on creating a seamless experience highlights the developers love for their open world, wanting to keep as many distractions from it as possible. I’ll be honest, I went into the event extremely sceptical. I wasn’t personally the hugest fan of the first title, and I can be considered a bit of a snob with racers. The Crew 2 has really impressed me. It’s clear the focus has been on creating a fun experience, that incorporates multiple different forms of Motorsport into one, rounded, open package, and this preview has done just that. I’m extremely excited to continue exploring the world created when the game hits shelves June 29.

You can read our full Interview with Player Experience Director Julien Hummer here.

Our showcase of the first 26 minutes of gameplay:

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