I’ll be honest, I never felt blown away by The Crew when it originally released back in 2014. It’s not that it was bad by any means and the huge open world was certainly impressive, but it lacked that *something* to really pull me in – it just felt like there were better racers available to play instead.
Now, with The Crew 2 everything feels different. Sure, a lot of the fundamentals of the game are the same, but it just feels a whole lot more exciting. It’s less about following a run of the mill narrative and more about exciting driving, and it makes for a much more interesting experience. Oh, and there are planes and boats this time too, which can only be a good thing…
The Crew 2 drops the whole ‘undercover FBI’ malarkey of the first game and offers a simpler narrative: you’re a fresh and young racer who wants to make it big, which means getting as many social media followers as possible as you race your way to glory. Glory isn’t necessarily defined by coming first in every race though, but rather by being an entertaining and stylish racer who pleases the masses. As you become more popular with the fans you’ll see your opportunities grow, with showdowns with icons of the racing world to partake in as you journey to see your name up in the lights.
It’s a much simpler premise (and one that might be guilty of being a bit overdone with the whole social media thing), but it works – it also ensures that racing is the main focus of the experience, with less time spent witnessing a clichéd plot take place in the background.
As with the original, The Crew 2 has a big focus on simply exploring a huge map that’s based upon the US. Don’t worry, it’s not to scale (duh), but you can expect to spend a fairly long time simply traversing across each state. There’s no denying that the sheer variety of sights to see is impressive, but even more so how the game actually manages to capture the feel of each state be it thanks to swampy marshes, cities with skyscrapers, or just mountainous sights. There’re a ton of neat landmarks to come across too, each of which add that extra little bit of personality to the game – I spent a ton of time with friends just hunting these down, which was a lot more fun than it should’ve been.
Whilst the world is great to travel across, I will admit that I spent a lot of time fast-travelling to events. It’s a huge world, and with not much to do in the distance between events besides sightsee, it was often the easiest way to progress through the game. Or, of course, you could always fly there by plane which is a lot quicker…
The main change that has been made to The Crew 2 is the addition of planes and boats, with players no longer restricted to just racing across the roads but actually hitting the sea and skies too. This was actually one of the main features that appealed to the most about the game after feeling a little underwhelmed with the first game, and thankfully it has delivered exactly what I was hoping for.
I always enjoyed playing racers like Hydro Thunder in the past, so I was particularly excited to try the boats out. Whilst I’ll admit that they probably offered the least excitement as far as the track designs were concerned, it felt great to weave in and out of other racers on the water. The boats are decent to handle and definitely made for some fun events, even if they might not have hit the exciting heights I’d hoped for.
On the other hand, the planes were a heck of a lot of fun and added a genuine thrill to competing. I couldn’t help but to fly low as often as I could, all whilst weaving in and out of obstacles (or buildings… or mountains… or anything) that were in my way with barrel rolls and quick turns. It really adds something completely different to the game and is a fine example of the progress offered with The Crew 2. Of course, driving on-road is a whole lot of fun too with its rich selection of vehicles, but I couldn’t help but to get most excited for hitting the skies.
Whatever vehicle you’re driving, it’s all about fun over absolute realism. The Crew 2 is an arcade-like racing experience, so you can expect over-the-top events which are more about dramatics and excitement than offering a perfect sense of realism. It’s all about having a good time and it catered for what I wanted from a racer perfectly.
The events you take part in are broken up into different disciplines: pro-racing, street racing, off-road racing and freestyle. Whilst they narrow down to different types, the objectives of each race completely vary up with plenty of different goals given to the player – it might be a case of winning, pulling off some stunts, testing your endurance, or even taking the perfect photo of your slick driving skills. There are plenty of events to complete in the game and you’re given the freedom to tackle the ones that best suit you. There are plenty more coming in the future too, and whilst I never found I didn’t have anything to do in the game anyway, it’s great to see that it’ll keep updating with content as times goes on.
When you complete events you’ll unlock loot, which allows you to equip each vehicle type with different parts that’ll improve them in a variety of ways. It’s not always just the vehicles’ stats, but there are also boosts such as making it easier to earn social media followers, which sometimes makes more of a difference that a faster speed. It’s not a massively fleshed out system and it does keep things simple, though there’s enough depth on offer with the upgrades that you’ll be able to cater your vehicles to your playstyle.
Having these improvements isn’t always essential though, because The Crew 2 is a bit guilty of being easy anyway. As mentioned, there’s no real demand to come first in a race to succeed whilst the other objectives rarely caused any problems. There’s also an obvious case of rubber-banding on show, so you’ll never find yourself too far behind your opponents even if you completely crash out (something I did a lot during those fast races across streets). Those hoping for an ultra-competitive racer might be left a little underwhelmed, though fortunately each event manages to be fun anyway so it’s not too big of an issue.
On the multiplayer side of things, currently there’s only co-op available right now with competitive racing due later this year. The co-op events are cool, but it still felt a little odd that I couldn’t compete with others right away – it is one of the hallmarks of a racing game, after all. Still, I can’t deny that sometimes it was just great to roam through the massive world with a friend and take in its sights, so I can’t complain too much. Actually being able to race against them properly is something I’ll look forward to, though.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that The Crew 2 demands an online connection in order to play. I know this isn’t a problem for most people anyway and it was the case for the original game too, but it’s certainly something that’ll cause an issues for a few players.
It actually caught me out once – with the Xbox One I’ve found myself putting the console into rest mode and hitting the action again later, yet when I did it with The Crew 2 the game had to reset itself before I could go back in. It’s a minor qualm (and something I should’ve learned from after making the same mistake with For Honor), but it was definitely frustrating at the time.
Visually, The Crew 2 looks pretty impressive, with some slick car models and environments joined by a startling Inception-like effect that sees the world twist, turn and shift around as you swap between vehicles – it might sound strange to just read about it, but believe me, it looks so cool in-game. Add to that an impressive draw distance that allows you to see everything that’s ahead of you in the horizon (something that’s massively appreciated when in a plane) and it’s easy to appreciate the job Ivory Tower have done in crafting something that’s as pretty as it is fun to play.
I have to mention the Replay tool too, which allows you to put together neat little videos that showcase your racing skills. There’s a ton of flexibility on offer with plenty of different tools in place that allow you to make almost professional style videos. It’s not something I’ve played around with a whole lot, but those who enjoy this sort of thing will certainly have a lot of fun crafting their own highlight reels of racing victories.
That being said, whilst The Crew 2 looks great, there were times where it felt like it didn’t have the same detail as the original game. I didn’t play it a whole lot, but I remember it had a much more detailed damage system with vehicles (something which I see a lot of with my poor skills). Not only that, but some of the environments felt more realistic before, with some locales in the game looking a lot more basic compared to the original game’s counterparts. It’s never anything terrible and the game still manages to look fantastic, but it did seem a little odd that the visuals seem to have taken a bit of a step back.
I much preferred The Crew 2 over the original, with the arcade-like fun vibe of the game feeling a lot more fitting to a world that essentially acts as a vehicular sandbox. Whether you’re on land, sea, or air, you’re always guaranteed to find something cool to do or impressive to see. It’s all good fun.
Still, it’s not perfect with the drawn out distance between events, a lack of competitive multiplayer and a slightly easy difficulty standing out. The visuals have definitely taken a step down from the original too, even if they do look impressive.
None of these issues stop The Crew 2 from being a highly enjoyable racer though, and one that I can see myself coming back to for some time – especially with the promise of more events and competitive multiplayer coming later this year. If you’re a racing fanatic or can just appreciate a well-made open world, it’s definitely worth giving The Crew 2 a try.
Developer: Ivory Tower
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC