The cr ew 2

For Ubisoft’s hugely am­bitous racer it’s a case of planes, grow­ing pains, and au­to­mo­biles

Games Master - - Contents - Phil Iwa­niuk

Is it a boat? Is it a plane? Wait, it just turned into a car and fell out of the sky… What’s hap­pen­ing?! Get ready for the most free­dom-filled driv­ing open-world game ever, where even your ve­hi­cle doesn’t fol­low the rules of the road… or physics.

Ivory Tower would have you be­lieve that this is a rac­ing game about three dis­tinct dis­ci­plines: cars, boats, and planes. But it ac­tu­ally goes deeper. So deep, in fact, that af­ter a few min­utes in­side its in­fec­tiously thrill-ob­sessed world you won­der whether the devs haven’t thrown in Seg­ways and conga lines for good mea­sure. Bl­itz­ing the Pa­cific coast high­way on a su­per­bike at F-Zero speeds. Fly­ing un­der Golden Gate Bridge up­side down in a stunt plane, pupils pin-sized with con­cen­tra­tion. Nar­rowly miss­ing rock af­ter rock in a sprint boat, then trans­form­ing into a Citroën WRC car with a tap of the right ana­log stick when dry land ap­proaches. If you can dream a par­tic­u­lar mode of trans­port tear­ing up a patch of Amer­ica, you can make it hap­pen in The Crew 2. And if this was all there was to it, just a sand­box of ve­hi­cles and a huge world map, it would still be a very good game.

And af­ter lis­ten­ing to a few ex­citable voiceovers bleat­ing about gain­ing more so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers in ca­reer mode, the thought does cross your mind that it might even be a bet­ter game. Grat­ing as the tone can be, though, it’s bet­ter suited to an ex­pe­ri­ence such as this than the first Crew’s bizarrely gritty re­venge yarn. In­stead of an­other un­der­cover cop ca­per for the se­quel, Ivory Tower wisely em­braces a more light­hearted ap­proach and builds a quasi-nar­ra­tive around the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of rep­u­ta­tion and fol­low­ers – think Forza Hori­zon with a few more ex­cla­ma­tion marks. It does the job, and nar­ra­tive was never go­ing to be of tremen­dous im­por­tance in a game where the world folds in half as you change from a car to a plane.

Tune-up

Speak­ing of im­prove­ments on the first game, let’s talk han­dling. It was a no­table weak spot be­fore, lack­ing re­spon­sive­ness; that sat­is­fy­ing squir­li­ness of hold­ing a car right on the limit through a cor­ner. And it’s bet­ter now. Def­i­nitely bet­ter, and def­i­nitely im­pres­sive for the range of

ve­hi­cle types it sim­u­lates. But, as a by-prod­uct of the many ve­hi­cles avail­able here, slightly un­even.

Street rac­ing, tour­ing cars, bug­gies… any­thing with four wheels, re­ally, feels just mar­vel­lous to con­trol. There’s some top-notch con­troller feed­back pro­gram­ming and sound de­sign go­ing on ev­ery time you get be­hind the wheel, lend­ing a deeper sense of con­nect­ed­ness to the car than the orig­i­nal could ever of­fer. You do have to take down the trac­tion con­trol quite a bit to un­leash it, though: on de­fault as­sist set­tings, with the car prac­ti­cally driv­ing it­self, it feels stiff and un­sat­is­fy­ing, like a sand­wich you for­got about then tried to eat upon find­ing three hours later. We imag­ine.

Boats… Well, boats are as en­joy­able as it’s pos­si­ble to make boats, we sup­pose. In the ab­sence of real twists and turns (be­cause you’re in open wa­ter) the chal­lenge and grat­i­fi­ca­tion is in­stead found by pick­ing ul­tra-ef­fi­cient lines be­tween way­points and gun­ning it with the left stick cocked back for a touch ex­tra speed. Highly rub­ber-banded AI does its best to make the rac­ing close, as in other dis­ci­plines, but it can’t match land events for sheer en­joy­ment. While they might lack in high-oc­tane com­pet­i­tive jostling, how­ever, boats make a fine mode of vir­tual tourism trans­port. Jour­ney­ing up the east coast from Florida to New York, dy­namic day/night cy­cle rolling through mag­i­cal dawn to cos­mic night, you’re glad of aquatic trans­port’s in­clu­sion.

Tak­ing to the air is a real plea­sure in free roam mode, too. The de­tail of the world be­low you scales very well at higher al­ti­tudes, re­tain­ing the at­mos­phere of each lo­ca­tion, weather scenario, and time of day. The stunts you pull – loops, knife edges, fly­ing up­side down and at low al­ti­tude – feel lim­ited af­ter a cou­ple of hours, but the scenery’s al­ways there to keep your in­ter­est. Then there are the bikes. These feel like they’ve spent the least time in Ivory Tower’s game-bak­ing oven, thrilling and pre­pos­ter­ously be­haved in equal mea­sure. Street and su­per­bikes are sheer dumbed-down fun at 180mph, par­tic­u­larly with the first-per­son cam­era. Dirt bikes, how­ever, just don’t feel quite right yet. Their turn­ing cir­cles and in-air be­hav­iour, along with rider an­i­ma­tions, look and feel un­nat­u­ral and a touch work-in-progress. That’s rea­son­able at this stage, of course: the game’s lit­er­ally a work in progress.

It’s a liv­ing

Few games of­fer this many trans­port types, and none do so with the added deal-sweet­ener of swap­ping be­tween them mid-race. We’d ex­pected that The Crew 2 might make more of that fea­ture

“there’s some­thing new and undis­cov­ered in the toy­box; some­thing to work for”

in its ca­reer mode, but multi-ve­hi­cle races were rare in the first four hours of ca­reer mode that we played, trig­gered only when we lev­elled up in pop­u­lar­ity. It feels more like a free roam treat than a core com­po­nent of ca­reer mode rac­ing, and frankly we’re fine with that.

Struc­turally, ca­reer mode works in a sim­i­lar way to the first game – event types are split by ve­hi­cle type and dis­ci­pline, and new dis­ci­plines are un­locked by gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity. Which you do by win­ning races, duh. Com­plete the first tier of street races and you’ll un­lock drift events (which fea­ture a fan­tas­tic han­dling model, some­thing very few games suc­ceed in with their drift modes). Nail the first few off-road buggy races and mo­tocross be­comes avail­able. In this way, it al­ways feels like there’s some­thing new and undis­cov­ered in the toy­box; some­thing to work for.

The cen­tral quandary of The Crew re­mains the same in this se­quel as in the first game, though: does it make full use of that fan­tas­tic – hon­est-to-good­ness fan­tas­tic – world map in its events? We haven’t played enough yet to make that call, but it’s ob­vi­ously been a big fo­cus for Ivory Tower, ev­i­denced by the breadth of ve­hi­cles and dis­ci­plines. And the worst case scenario is that you’ll have to look for the best jour­neys your­self, craft­ing road trips by drop­ping a way­point some­where and ven­tur­ing yon­der by land, air, or sea.

Street cars look beau­ti­ful in­side and out: should you ever ven­ture to use the cock­pit cam you’ll find high-de­tail trim. Give it a go, and marvel at your su­per-shiny car.

Routes for races are much more imag­i­na­tive than in the orig­i­nal, mak­ing bet­ter use of ver­ti­cal­ity and land­marks. It’s nat­u­rally mas­sively more ex­cit­ing.

We hope there’s a ser­vice sta­tion com­ing up some time soon – we’re dy­ing for a Wimpy and a bag of Percy Pigs.

Ubisoft’s tech­ni­cal prow­ess at build­ing vast open worlds shows through in ev­ery hori­zon – it’s a map you want to explore for ex­plo­ration’s own sake. The num­ber of li­censed cars is greatly ex­panded since the orig­i­nal – and li­censed bikes, boats, and planes join them in the garage. De­ter­mined to of­fer some­thing fresher than tired old ur­ban cir­cuit rac­ing, el­e­vated race lay­outs like this feel like a new chal­lenge. Seat­belts on, mind.

AI driv­ers might be rub­ber-banded slightly too much at this stage – they’re a men­ac­ing pack in your mir­rors through­out.

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