The Crew 2 is Ubisoft’s second attempt at bringing a massive immersive, yet grounded open world to the racing video game scene following 2014’s The Crew. Tagged as a “CarPG” The Crew attempted to throw players into a somewhat accurate recreation of the United States of America and was certainly no mean feat. With The Crew 2 however, they’re taking it to the next level by bringing in not only a living, breathing, open world, but car, bike, plane, and boat racing disciplines.

In The Crew 2 players will have the freedom to tackle the world in whatever vehicle they so desire, seamlessly switching from car, to boat, to plane, and bikes while tearing up the streets of cities such as New York and Las Vegas. At a recent event at Mercedes-Benz World we managed to get an extensive hands-on with the game as well as a brief chat with Player Experience Director Julien Hummer.

One of the main things we wanted to find out was the inspiration behind bringing the additional disciplines into the game. Interestingly, the studio have taken a look at how motorsports have evolved over the years and felt that focusing on just cars would have been an oversight.

The Crew 2 Preview Image

“The first inspiration was, why not? Trying to have a massive open world such as The US, you want to have a different perspective looking at crazy views when you are in your plane within the cities. From looking at Las Vegas by night with your plane, then switching to a boat and trying to dive into the Mississippi, and do all things like that. So one of our inspirations were there was make sure that you can do whatever you want with all motorsports available, all vehicles available, within the massive online open world we’re building.

“The second one was the evolution of motor sports so currently it’s not only around cars, you have boats and planes and when we went to the US months ago to meet real driver and pilots we discovered that people who like driving boats, planes are also passionate racers so the people we met there were one of the two inspirations we had for the game.”

Adding to this however, they wanted to make sure that the game was not only somewhat true to life, but also enjoyable. Offering the players the chance to jump into vehicles across all car racing disciplines, but boats and planes too, was something the Lyons-based studio wanted to achieve.

“We wanted to have a game grounded into reality to make sure that it’s what players want.”

Furthermore, taking inspiration from real-world extreme sports was also a key factor in The Crew 2. Hummer mentioned that what Red Bull are doing with their Air Races gave them inspiration to push the boundaries and offer something that, while is possible in real life, isn’t as attainable as it is in the game.

“We wanted to have a game grounded into reality to make sure that it’s what players want. Like, when I want to drive a car, I want to drive this car, so it’s in part offering that beautiful dream vehicle, and then some parts of it was wanting a game to be fun. So grounded into reality, plus accessibility and fun, then do that in an open world, then we say ‘okay, this is what we want to achieve’. As an example, when we created the playgrounds – what we call the areas where you do the events – it’s what we wanted to achieve, we wanted something fun and dedicated to the country where we were.

“When we build a race track for a touring car, it’s an easy thing, it’s like ‘do that’, but when we’re talking about a street race we wanted to have something you cant do in real life, like jumping on rooftops in New York City, downing the Hollywood Mountains in your Moto X, so something that’s grounded to reality but you can’t do that in real life.

“You see Red Bull in what they are doing with planes and air races, it’s a reason why it’s grounded to reality plus this evolution we’re seeing in motorsport. 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 and you say ‘wow this is memorable, I’m trying to do something like, flying under the golden gate and it could be an event there, and wow’, it’s exactly that.”

The Crew 2 Preview Image

Aside from the ambitious recreation of the USA, The Crew also offered a living-breathing world with a day and night cycle. In The Crew 2 the same cycle will also be there, but this time the studio have put plenty of work into it. This is due to the new vehicles being added into the game which offer a completely new experience when it comes to the way the world looks and reacts.

“We worked a lot on all of the lighting in the world and we have a full day and night cycle, a full weather system, it’s based on the server, and we wanted to make sure that as soon as you are driving and piloting, the experience you have when you are free driving is changing all the time, it’s living, it’s the feeling you want to have when exploring the world. So working on that, working on all the lighting systems, working on the volumetric clouds is a big focus.

“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, it’s something we can do, so you have the feeling above and under the clouds, and we worked a lot on that to have a different perception within the world.”

Introducing new vehicle types into what was essentially a car racing game did offer its own set of challenges. The feeling of speed is something Ubisoft addressed in the upcoming game. While it’s achievable in a car, when trees, the road, and the environment itself is whizzing past, having the same effect in a plane isn’t as easy, especially when you’re surrounded by nothing but blue skies.

“Believe me, when you cross the street with a plane and with the buildings, it’s pretty impressive.”

Adding to that, when transitioning from flying high, to twisting and turning in amongst the city streets, there needed to be something that helped the player retain some control and not feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, the studio have been putting the game through its paces with various in-studio playtests.

“So working on speed, it’s not easy because you’re working on the focal. So if it’s too much speed, it’s becoming a tunnel effect so it’s not walking, so we need to find the right balance. So what we’re are doing in Lyons, in our studio, is holding a lot of playtests. Every two weeks we have players coming to the studio and playing the game, and part of that is the speed effect, we are testing it to make sure the right balance is found so that it’s impressive but still playable, still accessible.

“And for the plane this was exactly the case, because when you are in the sky we need to have an effect, because if it’s only the blue sky there is no speed effect. Believe me, when you cross the street with a plane and with the buildings, it’s pretty impressive.”

One thing we found at the event was how fluid the game felt when going from free play to beginning an event. What stood out to us the most was how the game had no loading screens, going from one thing to another happened instantly as part of the overall game. During our interview, Hummer was happy that we’d noticed as the studio had put a lot of work into this feature.

The Crew 2 Preview Image

“In the world that we are using is exactly what we wanted to achieve, the way you enter a race is one of the pillars of the game, this seamless experience we want to deliver. So you don’t have any loading, you are driving and launching the event and even finishing an event, you’re still driving the vehicle you started with. We wanted to have this seamless experience, you can switch vehicles or continue, even when you are zooming in and zooming out, you won’t have any loading. So it’s one of the things we wanted to achieve within the game.

“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. So during the speech at the beginning of the event I talked about the freedom, so this is it. If you want to be free, I have to remove all barriers, I have to remove the friction you can have, so it’s a reason why you are playing, we are not telling the player to do that, do that, do that, do that, no. You do what you want to do. Do you want to do an event? You can go through the map, or directly drive to the event, it’s exactly all about that.”

Following the launch of the first title, the developers continued to support the game for quite some time with both free updates and paid expansions. We wondered if, despite the sheer magnitude of content on offer in The Crew 2, whether they were going to take a similar approach, and while Hummer couldn’t reveal to many details, it seems they may be taking a similar approach.

“as soon as the game is live we have more feedback and you want to improve the game for the players.”

“So currently we are talking about the game that’s going to be launched. 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 something we know how to do, to improve the offer, to add more content, events, and things to do for players. So it’s exactly want to we achieve with the second game.

“So as soon as the game is live we have more feedback and you want to improve the game for the players.”

Closing the interview we asked Hummer if he could summarise the game for those who may not have played the first game. His response was, admittedly, quite ambitious.

“I would say that if you want to have the most important diversity of motorsport diciplines and explore the most massive open world ever created, then just try The Crew 2 and become the motorsport champion.”

Check out the first 26 minutes of The Crew 2 below as well as our preview of the game right here.

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