The Crew 2 fills a void in the racing genre. It isn’t designed to be an eSports title, but instead, is created to allow casual gamers to experience landscapes by land, sea or air across continents. Racing games are often the most stressful, however The Crew 2 takes racing extremely lightly. Instead, I found myself just enjoying flying, driving or boating simply to enjoy the beautiful environments that the developers have created all in 4K HDR glory. Those who enjoyed (or perhaps didn’t) the prequel, should give the Crew 2 a stab. Unlike its predecessor, Ubisoft’s latest racer introduces races on sea and in the air. The new sets of vehicles adds an incredible amount of diversity and events that almost makes this feel like a completely different game.
Its predecessor had too much competition. Forza Horizon was its biggest rival, and I don’t think anyone can compete with what Microsoft offers as its exclusive racer. However, by introducing brand new vehicles that allow you to fly or soar across the sea, The Crew franchise finally fills a much-needed void. In addition, Ubisoft has also introduced ways to immediately change vehicles even mid-race. At one point you could be flying, and then immediately change to racing a boat. It never got old, and it is often optional, so if you prefer just flying, you don’t need to use the ‘Fast Fav’ system.
It’s surprising how most game developers who allow you to fly some sort of aircraft often complicate the controls. I appreciate that flying must be a very difficult task, however Ubisoft has got the control scheme spot on for its aerial vehicles. After all, this is designed to be an arcade game and as such, I should be able to fly my planes without needing to go through a 10-hour tutorial mode. For more extreme gamers, you can also make the planes extremely sensitive to your actions, which also includes an option to sharply turn 90 degrees and do insane barrel rolls. My biggest issue with the aerial races is that you’re always racing against the clock, rather than other planes. I’d love to see proper plane vs. plane action in a sequel.
You can tell that the game isn’t incredibly realistic when cars on the road (albeit hypercars) are going just as fast as the planes. The Crew 2 had an opportunity to create your own Top Gear-esque moments, but unfortunately that’s not possible. Instead, many of the cars are able to keep up with the planes as long as there is a decent driver behind the wheel.
Racing on sea is surprisingly more enjoyable than planes. Sometimes you’re racing in completely open waters, whilst other moments have you racing through some tough obstacles with great jumps. Boats are also harder to master than the planes. After all, you don’t exactly have the traction of a car or a wingspan of a plane to benefit you. Boat races nonetheless are the most enjoyable primarily due to the courses that Ubisoft have made. It seems as if the majority of creativity went into the boat courses.
The ‘Fast Fav’ races are known as ‘Xtrem’ events. Here, you will end up racing on roads, water and through the air in one single track. Think of them as relays, which in theory is a brilliant idea, but I was really hoping for more of these. Even the events that do exist, just aren’t as epic as I had hoped. One would argue that a relay between hypercars, speedboats and jets would be incredible to watch, but they actually end up feeling quite underwhelming. The Crew 2 perhaps needs a more suitable soundtrack to make the races feel truly spectacular.
Visually, The Crew 2 shines best when you’re racing on sea. The water physics are beautiful (gamers who have enjoyed titles such as Assassins Creed will be familiar). As you race through the waters, you can look behind to see the sea-track you’ve left behind. As the sun shines, it very evidently reflects off the water and onto other surroundings. The lighting engine is one of the best I have seen in a Ubisoft game, and considering this is a game that celebrates the landscapes almost just as much as the racing, this is a very crucial aspect that the developers have nailed.
I am not familiar enough with America to know just how realistic the environments are. However, I have been to the Grand Canyon and the creators have done an excellent job in recreating that in the game. It’s important to note that not every single road in America exists in the game – that would be downright insane. Instead, the creators have stitched together aspects of the continent into a tremendously large map, and they have done it in such a way that it all looks perfectly blended. Snow effects are particularly amazing. I couldn’t imagine the Grand Canyon covered in snow had it not been for The Crew 2.
When driving on roads, The Crew 2 suffers from more boring environments. A lot of the roads that link cities are dead, and even when driving through some of the cities, there is often not much to admire. Perhaps that is the real America, however I’m not quite ready for a USA-simulator in an arcade racing game. It doesn’t help that a lot of the streets looked repeated, so I sometimes felt as if I was visiting a familiar location.
The game also encourages you to smash things up with your car by driving through it. The only problem is that some objects are fixed, and you won’t actually know if it’s fixed until you crash into it. Certain objects that I felt I should be able to drive through, ended up grinding me to an immediate halt. Why is it that a fence can completely stop me, yet a food cart can go flying into the air?
As you travel throughout the continent, you can have spaces for your home that allow you to store your prized vehicles. To be fair, they do look beautiful when they’re all parked up, and you can even customize the vehicles. The designer isn’t as intricate as Forza’s, and unfortunately I am not creative at all. My biggest problem is that whilst you have the ability to download other peoples’ creations online, you have to pay for them! The money doesn’t go to the creators. It would have been revolutionary for Ubisoft to allow people to buy other designers’ creations and actually give those designers a cut.
The game also cries out for more long-distance events. The whole point of The Crew was to be able to race across the continent, but the game doesn’t actually provide you with many events that start from the east coast and finish at the west coast (or vice versa). Why not allow gamers to create their own routes and race in them? Even if a race takes one hour to complete, an hour’s worth of continuous gaming is considered as minor in today’s era.
I could also tell that there was some rubber-banding with the AI. For those who aren’t aware, rubber-banding is when you are coming in first-place, and the AI magically is able to keep up with you, but the moment you are coming second, the AI doesn’t race as well. Essentially, you and the AI are stuck together. The solution here is to come second until the end of the race, where you can just overtake the opponent. It cannot be fun to lose a race that lasted an hour because the AI was able to keep up with your perfect performance due to rubber-banding.
As thing stand, The Crew 2 is very much a player vs AI game. We have been promised PvP later this year, but by then, I really can’t imagine many gamers deciding to pick up the game again. Why is it that the prequel had PvP at launch, but The Crew 2 has a delayed PvP mode (almost 6 months after launch)! You can currently enjoy the game in co-op mode, but we all want to be able to enjoy some PvP action. Those who enjoyed the police pursuits in the original game will be saddened that these are no longer around in The Crew 2. For what it’s worth, I actually think that this was a smart decision.
As far as relatively new franchises go (which The Crew still is), I feel that The Crew is one of the franchises with the most potential. However, Ubisoft has only scraped the surface, and my concern is that the series needs to be improving at a much faster pace. Introducing sea and aerial races was a huge step in the right direction, but the developers need to start focusing on refinement. Make USA an incredible place to traverse through. Make sure that I am not driving through boring streets that have no personality. Introduce more epic races from corner to corner of the continent. Keep gamers engaged with plenty of PvP options at an early stage. Focus on features that will promote a long-lasting social community through options to trade and share content for free, or with some (in-game) monetary incentives for the player. The Crew 2 is certainly a step in the right direction, however it has gone from being a competitor to Forza, to being a competitor of GTA V. The Crew 2 is a statement of Ubisoft’s intent that they are dedicated to make this franchise work, however its sequel needs to showcase its own unique selling points better in order to appeal to its target gamers for a long period.