The Crew 2
Ubisoft’s vehicle-switching racer might not go far enough
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.
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.