The Crew 2 re­view

Big world, small ideas

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Does Ubisoft’s lat­est open-world racer de­liver?

For all it tries and for all of its small vic­to­ries, The Crew 2 ul­ti­mately loses its at­tempt to turn the United States into a ve­hic­u­lar play­ground. Cer­tainly, it’s a valiant ef­fort and an im­prove­ment on the orig­i­nal, but a lack of per­son­al­ity, a reliance on progress-through-rep­e­ti­tion and frus­trat­ingly im­ple­mented ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence com­bine to hin­der what might have oth­er­wise been a grand road trip.

Its prob­lems are built around com­fort. The de­gree to which de­vel­oper Ivory Tower strives to make sure play­ers feel com­fort­able in this dig­i­tal recre­ation of the land of the free re­sults in an ex­pe­ri­ence that lacks any of the dan­ger and spec­ta­cle that you’d rea­son­ably ex­pect when of­fered the chance to tear across one of the world’s most di­verse and in­ter­est­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

Han­dling is sim­plis­tic and too easy to mas­ter, while the race types lack orig­i­nal­ity, the nar­ra­tive is achingly awk­ward in its pre­sen­ta­tion and the re­wards for good per­for­mances are pre­dictable – it is far from what we would call as­pi­ra­tional.

This is a game in which all of the jagged edges have been shaved down to a per­fectly smooth sur­face, pre­sum­ably in the hope that what’s pre­sented will in­sult or harm no one. Un­for­tu­nately, that has led to an ex­pe­ri­ence that could at best be de­scribed as sooth­ing, and at worst lobotomis­ing.

You find your­self play­ing sim­ply for the lack of rev­e­la­tions it presents, just as you might re­watch a fa­mil­iar movie specif­i­cally be­cause you know it poses no threat to your in­tel­li­gence and will sim­ply ask noth­ing of your mind.

This is a shame be­cause the build­ing blocks for some­thing spe­cial are present and cor­rect and, at times, The Crew 2 can be en­joy­able. The ad­di­tion of planes over and above the ve­hi­cle op­tions in the first game, for in­stance, gives you the op­tion of ex­plor­ing the United States by land, sea and air. This pro­vides plenty of po­ten­tial for set­ting up your own cre­ative routes across the coun­try and, in­deed, it’s these self-made mo­ments that rep­re­sent the best the game has to of­fer.

Mov­ing from car to plane, plane to bike and bike to boat as the ter­rain changes is a great way to in­dulge the sin­gle great­est achieve­ment here: the land­scape. With planes as an op­tion you never have to rely on fast trav­el­ling be­tween lo­ca­tions un­less you’re short on play­ing time.

You can stick to the clas­sic Route 66 trail, or forge your own coast-to-coast path. Maybe you want to avoid the coasts al­to­gether and nav­i­gate through the cen­tral states on a north-to-south route or cir­cum­nav­i­gate the whole map (should you have the time).

The charm of mov­ing away from the set tasks only lasts for as long as the views stay fresh and un­fa­mil­iar, though. At some point you run out of new sights to see and you need to win events in or­der to progress in terms of fill­ing out your garage and mov­ing up the leader­board of rac­ing fame.

It’s here that op­por­tu­ni­ties start to feel missed and it’s dif­fi­cult not to come down hard on The Crew 2’s lack of in­ter­est­ing pre­de­fined events. The events are split be­tween dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, each of which acts to group to­gether rac­ing con­cepts that vaguely align with one an­other in terms of their tone and com­mu­nity.

The Pro Rac­ing events are all about com­pet­ing in the fastest boats, planes and cars the game has to of­fer. Freestyle fo­cuses on style over flat-out pace, ask­ing you to mas­ter stunt planes, mon­ster trucks and jet­sprint boats. Then there’s Street Rac­ing, featuring drag races, drift com­pe­ti­tions and il­le­gal con­tests through­out the cities, and Of­froad events based largely across the map’s wilds.

At first the op­tions seem wide-rang­ing and in­ter­est­ing and there’s a lot to pick and choose from, set­ting up an ex­pec­ta­tion that you can fo­cus on the events you like and ig­nore the rest. In such a way you can de­fine what kind of game you want to play and see.

How­ever, that’s not re­ally the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion. Street races, and their ap­pli­ca­ble ve­hi­cles, aren’t dif­fer­ent enough from one an­other to war­rant you fo­cus­ing your en­ergy on mas­ter­ing them over any of the other avail­able op­tions.

Within each ve­hi­cle type a car’s top speed might change, but the han­dling model is too con­sis­tent across the board to en­tice you to want to spend time learn­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of each of them. Fly­ing a plane is noth­ing like a driv­ing a car, of course, but even here you’ll have got­ten to grips with all of the avail­able de­tails within a cou­ple of ses­sions in the cock­pit.

The Crew 2 isn’t try­ing to be a sim­u­la­tion and shouldn’t be at­tacked for a lack of re­al­is­tic han­dling mod­els, but with so many ve­hi­cles to choose from it feels like a missed op­por­tu­nity to have so lit­tle by way of unique per­son­al­ity in­jected into its show­room line-up. You in­stead find your­self fo­cus­ing too much on the de­sign of a car’s chas­sis and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing paint job to give it mean­ing.

If the ve­hi­cle and event op­tions had even 20 per cent of the va­ri­ety and ap­peal of the of­fered en­vi­ron­ment then this would be a game that might earn a po­si­tion along­side the Forza Hori­zon se­ries as an open-world racer of gen­uine in­trigue. In­stead, things have been played far too safe here for The Crew 2 to cross the line as any­thing other than an op­por­tu­nity lost.

You need to take risks to earn re­wards and, un­for­tu­nately, The Crew 2 fails to do this. Worse, it fails to let its play­ers take any risks within the con­struct it of­fers them.

VER­DICT

The va­ri­ety and di­ver­sity of ve­hi­cles is im­pres­sive on pa­per. Mon­ster trucks, dirt bikes, rally cars, su­per cars, drag rac­ers, drift rac­ers and 4x4 trucks are all present, but the ex­pe­ri­ences avail­able from them aren’t as in­ter­est­ing as the length of the ve­hi­cle list.

Per­form­ing ac­ro­bat­ics be­tween sky­scrapers is fun for a while, but the lack of in­ter­est­ing tasks built into the con­cept is dis­ap­point­ing.

de­tails Pub­lisher ubisoft De­vel­oper Ivory tower PSN Price £49.99 Play­ers 1 (1-8 on­line)

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