The Crew 2 is Ubisoft’s latest open-world racer developed by the team over at Ivory Tower. Expanding upon 2014’s The Crew, the team have taken the title and ran with it. Just how well does it stack up?
The Crew 2 is a clear expansion upon its predecessor, as anyone looking at the car list having played the first game will be able to tell. There is a lot of crossover in the car list. That’s fine of course, but when we’ve had cars like the Challenger Hellcat come out, and we’re still stuck with a base model car in-game, it just stings a little. The game features a sizable list of cars, but nothing even remotely close to titles like Forza Horizon 3, or even the leaked list for Forza Horizon 4. The Crew 2 brings back the car classes of the first game, this time in the guise of disciplines. Cars are split across multiple disciplines, with Street Racing, Drifting, drag, and Touring Cars containing the majority of the car section of the car list. Sadly, there isn’t a variant of every car in every disciplines. You can’t take an old Dodge Challenger into the Drag category, yet you can take a Lamborghini Drifting. There’s a whole bunch of choices here that really don’t sit right. The list of cars for disciplines outside of Street Racing has barely changed from the previous title, and the models and customisation is near enough identical. This leaves the whole segments feeling like little more than a drag and drop affair from the previous game.
This move has probably been made to give the team over at Ivory Tower the time and resources to focus on what is arguably the game’s biggest talking point, the addition of planes and boats. We were fortunate enough to talk with Player Experience Director Julien Hummer earlier this year about the additions, where he stated the teams wishes to have The Crew 2 cover Motorsports in a broader sense, and bring in the disciplines that are more overlooked, yet just as exciting as those in the mainstream. This is the role that the Air Race, Power Boats, and Jet Sprint Boat disciplines fill within The Crew 2. They bring a new take on the gameplay, with events that really do feel like a set part of the game, and now some bolted on expansion. With the premise of the Live Extreme Series as opposed to a flowing story arc, you really are free to tackle these in whatever order you see fit. So long as it agrees with the unlock schedule. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for players to unlock new disciplines, as the game’s leveling is rather rapid, as players of the Beta will have noted. The list of planes and boats within The Crew 2 isn’t expansive, but features a few classics, such as the Spitfire and the Mustang. It would be nice to see more, and hopefully we’ll be getting more once the game’s post launch support begins to land. It’s just a shame that the cars don’t cross over disciplines as much as you’d like, but again this could come in the upcoming updates. Fingers crossed.
Much like its predecessor, The Crew 2 sells itself on its massive open world. Covering the entirety of the United States, players aren’t short of black-top to drive, water to sail, and air to fly through. Sadly the map just end’s up feeling underused. Not far off a staggering 100 miles from corner to corner, you’ll find an awful lot of open space. While it is fun to bomb through on a dirt bike, and a real spectacle to see from the air, it is only really fun once. After that, the whole scale of the map feels more of an inconvenience. I found myself wanting just a little more space playing Forza Horizon. Playing The Crew 2, I wanted much less. The game does not make good use of the space it’s been given. Entire cities go without a single event. Washington has an Air Race on the outskirts, and that’s it. While yes, this leaves room for the game to expand, it makes traversing the map through anything other than fast travel completely time exhausting. Yes, completing the drive across america is an experience, but is having a map void of life worth it for that experience? It’s honestly disheartening to see such a high concentration of races in some cities, and then absolutely nothing in others. It’s not like these cities are unfinished either, they look as good as everywhere else in the game.
The only real use the scale of the map gets is in the Hypercar races, which are something akin to the finale of the Need for Speed movie, if anyone can remember that. The races have the player embarking on coast to coast, or city to city runs. Even here there races tend to completely avoid those cities less visited. The area between cities is a mix of twisty mountain roads and highways, with the space surrounding being open forest, lakes, or desert. The game really relies on the few focal landmarks, such as Central Park, the Everglades, the Las Vegas Strip, and Santa Monica Pier. While focusing the events around these locations does place the player in a memorable location, it also serves to neglect the map the team so lovingly created.
Ivory Tower put a lot of work into the lighting for The Crew 2, and it really shows. The ambient lighting within the game is genuinely remarkable. You can see the haze of distant cities while flying at night, the light reflecting on water in a boat. What does let the game down graphically is the quality of some of the textures. there’s heaps of detail in places, and then it looks as though corners were cut in others. Planes and boats look great, but some of the cars look absolutely no different when compared to their counterparts in the first game. It’s an inconsistency that really hurts the game at times. There is some texture popping too, when going at high speeds, you can watch the textures on the trees pop in, and it really takes from the experience. It’s the little things as well. Not having functioning mirrors on the cars, no doubt due to the open world scale, just looks so out-of-place. It’s another point where the title’s giant world offers more drawbacks than it does genuine selling points. When you stop to take it in, the world is gorgeous. Water without a doubt looks best, with a gorgeous texture, and great looking wake behind the boats as they blast through both seas and rivers. Sadly, the car’s haven’t got the same treatment. It’s a shame to see that the mud and snow textures on the cars are near enough identical, just with a different colour. They also appear to be the same on every car available. It’s a level of corner-cutting that is understandable, yet disappointing. It also looks like a texture, and not a natural build up. There are more hard edges than a college Photoshop assignment.
With regards to the actual gameplay on offer within The Crew 2, It’s much the standard event grind that the previous title was. Once again the parts system is reliant on luck (and you can’t claim it is not, considering you can literally unlock perks related to the probability of the drops) and doesn’t seem too balanced with regards to the rate of progression across disciplines. My Street Race car is over-levelled comfortably, while my Power Boat is sitting 20 points lower than it needs to be. It comes down to the number of events on offer, the starting level of the car, and ultimately, the number of parts that drop. I never liked the system in the first game, and I loathe it’s existence here. It’s similar to Need for Speed: Payback in this regard, but at least payback lets me buy the bloody parts if needed. As for customisation, some cars are draped in it, others have nothing at all. The game features the same mix of wheels as the first game, and not a single licensed part in sight. While some of the creations by Ivory Tower are nice, it would be great to see some official licensed parts within the game for players to utilise.
Aside from the dreadful upgrade system, the size of the map again raises issues. You’ll never find yourself wanting to drive between events. It’s rare that an event is ‘up the road’ and so you end up just using fast travel to get around. It renders the world ultimately unused, which is a real shame. The map feels more like a group of events than it does a selection of world locations, which ultimately undoes all of the work that Ivory Tower has put into making the world itself a seamless experience, because you always have the seam of fast travel. Once you’re into the races themselves, they’re fun! They really are. The AI isn’t going to blow anyone away, and there’s the standard catch-up mechanics in place so you can never really get too far ahead, but at its core, it’s a fun experience. The Drag Racing feels dull, as it’s essentially a bunch of timed runs, with no real-time competition, which is a shame. The same goes for Air Race, but this at least mimics the real life event. The best races are without a doubt those involving the boats, both Power Boat and Jet Sprint races. All in all, the boats are the best handling vehicles in The Crew 2. Cars can be really hit and miss, and you’re not getting Forza physics, let alone a sim. Planes are fun but manage to feel both too fast and too slow at the same time, it’s just a little odd.
Leveling within The Crew 2 unlocks you new disciplines as you progress, until you hit Icon status. The Icon levels are all individual (Icon 1, Icon 234, etc.) and grant the player a perk point. This can be put towards the luck of parts drops (as mentioned above) multipliers, and other gameplay buffs. It’s a nice piece of end-game content, but I fear it might just have a massive impact on the leaderboards.
Ultimately, The Crew 2 is a huge undertaking that has very much bitten off more than it can chew. The map is simply too large. While it gives the game room to expand into its bulbous waistline, and we do know that there are plans in place for such content, it doesn’t really excuse the neglect areas of the beautiful map have suffered. If you love Motorsports, and really enjoy the idea of being able to dabble in multiple disciplines in one title, you’ll enjoy the crew. If you’re after a packed open-world experience, maybe wait for the DLC to take effect before you pick up The Crew 2.
Still unsure? You can watch the first 26 minutes of The Crew 2 below! You can read more about the future updates coming to The Crew 2 on the game’s website.