The Crew 2

Ubisoft’s ve­hi­cle-switch­ing racer might not go far enough

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - James Daven­port

It’s ab­surd fun, and I can imag­ine it’ll be bet­ter with friends

The open world ar­cade racer is reach­ing a cri­sis point, thanks in part to the qual­ity of Forza Hori­zon 3. If not for that game,

The Crew 2 might not have to be as strange and all-en­com­pass­ing as it is. In the first game, you could team up with friends to race or freely ex­plore a minia­turised USA. In The Crew 2, you can still do that, but also in­stantly switch be­tween a car, a boat and a plane with the press of a but­ton. It’s ex­tremely ex­ces­sive and I con­done it with my en­tire heart.

Dur­ing a hands-on pre­view event, I got to play the PC ver­sion of TheCrew2 and freely ex­plore the open en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing New York City. Much like the first game, the scale of The Crew2 is im­me­di­ate, em­pha­sised by the slick map in­ter­face that sim­ply zooms the cam­era out, with­out slow­ing things down by cut­ting to an ar­bi­trary menu, po­si­tion­ing the 3D world be­low you from a very tal­ented bird’s eye per­spec­tive. I could see the NYC sky­line fade into smaller build­ings, and then into rolling hills of pine, all scrib­bled through with roads, rivers and race­tracks. It’s se­ri­ously im­pres­sive, but I hope the track de­sign keeps up with all of the space that TheCrew2 has to cover.

It’s pos­si­ble to tele­port to any event un­locked on the map, but my pre­ferred method of travel was driv­ing off a ramp (and there are a lot in NYC, a civic hazard) then trans­form­ing into a plane at the peak of my arc and bar­rel rolling to wher­ever my heart took me. Of­ten, my heart took me to hun­dreds of feet above a body of wa­ter, where I trans­formed into a boat and plum­meted into the drink at ter­mi­nal ve­loc­ity. It’s ab­surd fun, and I can imag­ine it’ll be bet­ter with friends.

But it all stood in stark con­trast to the events I tried out. Be­tween steer­ing a nim­ble boat through a swamp and drift­ing a street­car through a park in NYC, there’s a ton of di­ver­sity in ve­hi­cle types and han­dling, but none of the ones I played took ad­van­tage of the in­stant ve­hi­cle-switch­ing sys­tem. I raced a dirt bike on a dirt bike track, steered a bi­plane in an ob­sta­cle course set be­tween tall city build­ings and tore through the trees in an off-road truck in a freeform race to reach a point in the dis­tance – but The Crew2’ s ver­sion of these events could have been from any open world racer from the last five years.

Trad­ing Paint

The vanilla ve­hi­cle events are di­verse and com­pe­tent enough to sit com­fort­ably among the rest of the genre, but with so much po­ten­tial for ve­hi­cle switch­ing cross coun­try races and sur­real stunt chal­lenges right at your fin­ger­tips, it’s hard to muster much en­thu­si­asm for hit­ting ev­ery rou­tine rally car race across an abridged USA. I’d much rather Ubisoft went all in on its wild ideas and built a world that took clear ad­van­tage of the ve­hi­cle switch­ing. The nov­elty of such a huge play space with ar­eas clearly di­vided by event types – cities are for street races, moun­tains for off-road­ing, wa­ter for boat stuff – makes far less sense to me than a smaller space or cu­rated tracks that high­light the fun as­pects of driv­ing each ve­hi­cle and the some­what im­pro­vi­sa­tional thrill of switch­ing be­tween them.

With­out a play­ful enough ap­proach, I fear TheCrew2 will be re­duced to an ar­cade racer va­ri­ety show with an en­ter­tain­ing way to get around. Ei­ther way, it’s still strange enough to keep me in­ter­ested. By trad­ing in brand name ve­hi­cles for the fan­tasies they pro­vide, and by favour­ing scale and va­ri­ety over care­ful track cu­ra­tion, TheCrew2 will def­i­nitely be dif­fer­ent from the rest of the rac­ers on the mar­ket to­day. Though that does not nec­es­sar­ily make it bet­ter.

Plane re­con led me to this play­ground.

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