After spending a few days with The Crew 2, it’s apparent that while it seems to lose focus every now and then, it’s a bold entry into the racing genre. Despite being a little clunky, the game is a true work of love, made by Ubisoft’s Ivory Tower studio.
The Crew 2 kicks off by introducing your avatar, a young hotshot who wants to leave his or her mark on the world of racing, to the producer of a television series. It’s through that lens that the story is told – admittedly, the word ‘story’ is used very loosely, as the television show is essentially just a way to combine the different type of races into one big, long marathon event.
Progression is partially marked via followers on social media, which are gained by doing stunts in real time or by completing marquee races in the various cities around the country. The big time races provide followers by the thousands, while performing tricks on your own gets a much smaller amount at a time, so your best bet to improve rapidly is to beat the main events.
Oddly, for a game that has brands such as Porsche, Maserati, Audi, Ford, Mazda, etc., it’s a little jarring that The Crew 2 lumps everything into one big ‘social media’ bin, instead of at least making up their own version of Twitter or Instagram.
After the opening sequence, i.e. Episode 1, the player is thrown into the map – one that spans the entire USA. If you so desire, it’s possible to travel from San Francisco to New York, using any number of vehicles including planes, motorbikes, pickup trucks, and any number of turbocharged cars. The map is of course a little condensed, and is not a true representation of the USA, but it is a little odd to look upon certain areas and know that’s not what they look like – Florida, for example, looks like someone took a comet-sized hammer and fragmented it so that the only city in the entire state is Miami, wiping away Orlando (and pretty much everything else).
Traveling yourself from city to city is pretty time consuming, as there are a ton of mini-objectives to collect along the way, and thankfully, the game seems to realize this. As such, it provides a pretty seamless way for you to select the event you wish to participate in, and then essentially teleport directly there, meaning you can complete a race in Los Angeles and then moments later be behind the wheel in Detroit, ready to go again. The load times are also pretty quick too, which is impressive for such a large, always online world.
The game has a few strange moments – for example, the game really bills itself as unique with that first Episode 1, as it lets you go from car to offroad truck to plane all in one race, as the world bends around you Inception-style. While that is a lot of fun, you only get to do it a handful more times, in the special ‘Xtreme’ events and when you take on each discipline’s champion. Otherwise, you’re relegated to regular races around the country with the various vehicles.
Driving the cars and trucks are standard fare for the seasoned racing vet – nothing about the actual driving is much different than it has been in any other game. The courses are a little repetitive, often reusing the same houses and landmarks, while even the signage is repeated every couple of miles (in oddly disjointed English, no less). Every time a street race starts, you begin at the exact same parking garage, whether you’re in Chicago, LA, or Las Vegas. Same goes for the air races or boating events – all the starting areas manage to look exactly the same, no matter what.
When you encounter inclement weather, it can also be a little strange as well – while mud can be splattered all over one’s car to great effect, snow seems to behave in the same fashion as well…which is not exactly how snow functions. Not to mention, snow in Miami? I had several moments during gameplay where I wondered if this was secretly a post-apocalyptic version of America, and I can’t help but wish in hindsight that it had been.
Piloting the boats and planes are pretty fun, however, as the boats are extremely responsive (almost to the point of being a little twitchy), while the planes are smoothly intuitive as well. It’s a blast to be able to fly upside-down, just a few feet off the ground, but unfortunately, the plane events are all time trials in which you collect points by doing tricks – there is no actual racing. The boats are somewhat better, and the courses are probably the most varied, traveling between parts of the Florida Keys, or narrowly racing between swamplands in the bayous of New Orleans.
In terms of visuals, however, The Crew 2 is stunning. All the cars look sleek and polished, and whenever you’re driving along a huge vista, it’s great to look at. Whether it’s the tip of the Hoover Dam, or along the Pacific Ocean, the developers clearly went all-out to ensure it was very pretty to take in.
The narrative itself, while generally unimportant in racing games like these, is pretty flimsy at the best of times. Canned dialogue like “You’re racing against the finest muscle cars in America, so you better bring some muscle of your own”, or “That’s a bold move, allowing the other drivers to set the pace…for now!” is at best unnecessary, and at worst, downright cringe-worthy. It truly sounds as though all the voice acting was recorded in a handful of hours as an after-thought, as it’s all pretty terrible.
Ultimately, it almost feels that, with a few patches, Ubisoft‘s game could be one of the better racing games of this generation – but the key words there are ‘almost’ and ‘could be’. While it’s still a fun pick up and play racing arcade game for a few hours at a time, its uneven execution is holding it back from being truly great.
The Crew 2 is now available available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. Ubisoft provided Okay, Cool with a copy of the game on PS4 for review purposes.
You can find Sho on Twitter at @SNSAlli for all kinds of gaming news. Heck, he may even tweet about this review. Why not? It’s his first gaming review on this site.