The original Crew was an interesting experiment that merged storytelling with an open-world MMO setting, the likes of which very few in that genre had done. It had your traditional cut-scenes and story missions mixed with an open ended setting that featured the entire setting of USA. In fact it was quite big that it took around 40 minutes to drive from one end of the map to another. However, many people believed that it was held back by the game’s server issues as well as restricting story settings.
The Crew 2 does away with the substantial story, instead choosing to focus on you becoming the best driver. So whilst it may not have innovated on the story front it did open up a lot of possibilities for the developers to focus on, the biggest of which are the tri-level races, taking place across land, sea and air. You might begin a race on the road, but quickly change to a boat, finally finishing as a pilot. It works exactly as well as it sounds.
Originally I was a bit sceptical as to how they would put this switching mechanic in play without breaking the flow of the races, but what truly makes it work is Ubisoft’s iconic presentation. The world beautifully warps around itself like something you’d expect in Nolan’s Inception as either the landscape distorts, moving your camera towards another vehicle or panning you upwards into the air, focusing on planes already racing at breakneck speed as you gradually take control of them. In fact it isn’t the gameplay itself that benefits from Ubisoft’s out of the box presentation but the cut-scenes as well that make good use of motion graphics and animated graphics.
What I particularly find outstanding with the presentation during the cut-scenes are the white bars that you may have noticed in various trailers for the game. Rather than just using it as a cropping tool to help give the illusion of a wide angle camera, they use it creatively as objects and vehicles intersect or pop up over it, giving you this pop out 3D feeling. All in all it is done in a fantastic manner that manages to maintain The Crew 2’s unique style.
Gameplay wise, you of course have all the races that you can play ranging from on the road to off-road, sea and air as mentioned before but the coolest thing is, after you have unlocked each type of vehicle you can add them to a Land, Air or Sea slot, allowing you to easily switch between them during open world play and when this aspect is combined with an open ended world, it provides for various emergent mechanics. Just by searching on YouTube you can see people racing one type of vehicle against another, which is what I expect Ubisoft had hoped for.
Speaking of vehicles, the game’s selection contains a brilliant roster of cars, giving you vehicles such as Koenigsegg Agera, Harley Davidson’s Iron 883, selection of F1 cars as well as the usual BMWs, Hondas, Mercedes and more. I personally loved having this huge selection as most of the cars were definitely something I wanted to try, and with an open world setting you can try them at your own pace and style in order to get used to your favourite vehicles.
The game’s open world is absolutely breathtaking as well where it doesn’t feel just tacked on as you get a variety of landscapes, ranging from barren dirt lands to the urban sprawl and the lush forests which actually have wildlife in it, a nice touch to help add immersion.
Another thing that helps add immersion to your experience is that you get to create your own avatar, so you have your own personal character to bring through the journey who amasses fans and followers and even has their own apartment that you can customise parts of and even make your favourite vehicle its centrepiece.
However, let’s talk about the most important bits, the handling and AI. The handling in the game has definitely improved compared to the first game, giving you more control and viewpoint customisation to handle your vehicle. It doesn’t feel as slippery as the last as well, giving you that perfect arcade feel. Of course there are still a few cars that may not feel 1:1 with their real life counterpart in terms of performance, but it makes sense given that certain sacrifices had to be made in order to fit with the arcade aesthetics. Notable differences like this can be found with the rally vehicles.
Although the AI is better when compared to the frustrating rubber-banding of the previous game, quite a bit of it is still unfortunately in play here. I tested it with various different cars by slowing down or speeding up in between races to see how the competition would react to it, and just like I thought most would try and match your speed. Making it so that if you know how rubber-banding works you can manipulate certain races to throw them in your favour.
Another thing I found odd about the game was just how much it focuses on single-player content, so much so that most of my gameplay was spent playing alone as I rarely felt the need to connect with my friends since most of the main content and races are all made for you to take on your own. It makes me wonder exactly what kind of position Ubisoft wanted to be in as even the PVP part of the MP is not fully available yet and is quoted as coming later this year.
It is because of these omissions that the game feels lacking at times. Don’t get me wrong, with the solid mechanics and roster of vehicles it offers, it is absolutely fun but only for so long, as once you have done most of the races or events it feels like you are retreading the same grounds over and over.
Lastly speaking of the music, the first Crew game had one of the best original music in videogames by Joseph Trapanese, who unfortunately didn’t score the second one. Even then, Steve Ouimette and ill Factor have done a tremendous job with the music for the second one, incorporating full American instruments and melody with rock/club style drums and electronics that really work well with the American open and wild setting as well as the exhilarating races. In fact I would say if there are any soundtracks that you should get this year, The Crew 2 and of course God of War are some of the must!
All in all, filled with groundbreaking presentation, a huge and lush open world, with genre defying Land, Sea and Air races compromising of an impressive and popular roster of vehicles, The Crew 2 is a really fun time, but perhaps not worth the high asking price for most people as it is still lacking PVP and the game can start feeling uneventful without a structured story progression and repetitive types of races as the standard edition on PC is worth £50 with the gold edition at £75. However, the interesting thing here is, that for those that love all thing cars, they might want to pick up the Crew 2 as there is a lot to see and test.
+ Innovative Vehicle Switching Mechanic
+ Good Roster of Vehicles From Big Manufacturers
+ Vast Open World
+ Fun Arcade Controls
+ Fantastic Original Music
- Races Can Feel Repetitive
- Might be Too Expensive for Some
- No PVP at Launch