The Crew 2

The Crew 2 is a road trip that isn’t worth tak­ing yet.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

It’s the roads be­tween cities where The Crew 2 shines. Those great swathes of high­way that curve through deserts, snake through canyons and cut through forests. Here the game’s scale, ar­cade han­dling and speed co­a­lesce into some­thing thrilling – es­pe­cially if you have a cou­ple of friends with you. But it’s a feel­ing that doesn’t last, be­cause out­side these bliss­ful mo­ments the game is de­ter­mined to sab­o­tage the pu­rity of its driv­ing with an end­less pa­rade of bull­shit.

The Crew 2 is an open world racer set in a mas­sive, con­densed ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the con­ti­nen­tal United States. To give you an idea of its size, it took me 46 min­utes to drive non-stop from Los An­ge­les to New York City in a Fer­rari 458. It’s a vast and var­ied set­ting, and it’s un­doubt­edly the best thing about it. There’s fun to be had in just aim­lessly driv­ing from state to state, watch­ing the scenery change around you, vis­it­ing fa­mous land­marks. But the game gets im­pa­tient when you do this, in­sist­ing you fo­cus on earn­ing fol­low­ers in­stead: the pri­mary met­ric of your suc­cess in The Crew 2.

Fol­low­ers are earned by winning races, per­form­ing stunts, driv­ing dan­ger­ously and dozens of other ac­tiv­i­ties that send the counter tick­ing up. As you play, a cast of ob­nox­ious, hor­ri­bly writ­ten char­ac­ters are for­ever buzzing in your ear about how rad you are, how many fol­low­ers you have and how

many more you could get if you take part in this awe­some event, dude. The di­a­logue is as­ton­ish­ingly bad, and the whole thing comes off like a des­per­ate at­tempt to pig­gy­back on con­tem­po­rary youth cul­ture with­out re­ally un­der­stand­ing it.

It’s just va­pid, treat­ing in­ter­net fame like it’s some­how the peak of hu­man achieve­ment, and the con­stant, cloy­ing val­i­da­tion of ev­ery­thing you do, no mat­ter how ba­nal, is ex­haust­ing. But here’s the thing – it could have been in­ter­est­ing. What if, as well as earn­ing fol­low­ers, you also lost them? So ev­ery failed stunt, crash and spin-out ac­tu­ally counted against you, and you were con­stantly at war with your­self to main­tain your fol­low­ing. That would have at least given the so­cial me­dia con­cept some bite, rather than it just be­ing an ar­bi­trary num­ber that in­creases to make you feel good about your­self.

It’s on the road away from all this em­bar­rass­ing ‘how do you do, fel­low kids?’ noise where The Crew 2 comes alive – par­tic­u­larly in the way it lets you seam­lessly tran­si­tion be­tween land, sea and air ve­hi­cles on the fly. You can be scream­ing along the high­way in a su­per­car, be­fore trans­form­ing into a plane and tak­ing to the air, then chang­ing into a speed­boat as you fly across a river, land­ing safely in the wa­ter. It’s im­mensely fun be­ing able to switch your mode of trans­port on a whim, how­ever that en­joy­ment is tainted by the fact that, driv­ing cars aside, the ve­hi­cles just aren’t much fun to drive in The Crew 2.

DIRT POOR

The mo­tor­cy­cles, par­tic­u­larly the mo­tocross bikes, are frus­trat­ingly stiff to con­trol, with com­pletely rote physics. Fly­ing in planes feels slug­gish and laboured, with a fee­ble sense of speed. And the boats are un­re­mark­able, fail­ing to cre­ate a con­vinc­ing sen­sa­tion of mov­ing through wa­ter. None of the ve­hi­cle types (well, ex­cept for the mo­tocross bikes) are ter­ri­ble – they’re just un­der­whelm­ing. But they do have their mo­ments, such as navigating a plane through the snaking rocky cor­ri­dors of the Grand Canyon or back­flip­ping a Har­ley David­son off the top of Mount Rush­more. It’s a shal­low thrill, how­ever, and I found my­self spend­ing as much time in cars as pos­si­ble.

The Crew 2 is not a great driv­ing game, but the cars are far su­pe­rior to ev­ery other mode of trans­port. The ar­cade-style han­dling is smooth and re­spon­sive, but has none of the won­der­ful, weighted nu­ance of Forza Hori­zon. The cars all feel vaguely the same, and the physics are car­toon­ishly bouncy, like your chas­sis is made of hard rub­ber. But when you hit those long desert roads, which seem to go on for­ever, it’s hard not to feel a rush of ex­cite­ment. This is where the size of the map earns its keep, giv­ing you miles of road to tear up and a pow­er­ful feel­ing of trav­el­ling across a great dis­tance.

The cars are far su­pe­rior to ev­ery other mode of trans­port

Go­ing on cross-coun­try road trips with friends is eas­ily the most fun I’ve had in The Crew 2. But if you want cred­its to buy new cars, you’re gonna have to take part in some events. This is the game at its most ba­sic, with all man­ner of check­point races to take part in, as well as dis­trac­tions such as drag races, aerial ac­ro­bat­ics and mo­tocross com­pe­ti­tions. I do like the off-road races and how they let you choose your own path to each check­point, but oth­er­wise this is stuff I’ve seen and done in a dozen other (and far bet­ter) open world driv­ing games.

Cheap tric k

The AI is mad­den­ing, too. You can drive per­fectly for two laps, only to make one mi­nor mis­take and see the rest of the pack im­me­di­ately rush past you. It’s some of the most ob­scene rub­ber-band­ing I’ve en­coun­tered in a rac­ing game out­side of Mario Kart. There’s also a hi­lar­i­ously jar­ring loot sys­tem that lets you up­grade your car with new parts. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ‘rare ex­haust’ I found that gave me an ut­terly mean­ing­less 0.07% boost to my fol­lower gain. But up­grad­ing doesn’t ap­pear to give you any edge over the AI, which al­ways seems to ad­just to your cur­rent specs, ren­der­ing the whole ac­tiv­ity fu­tile.

If you’re in a crew you can en­ter these events with friends and race against them. But this, amaz­ingly, is the ex­tent of mul­ti­player in The Crew 2. You’ll see other play­ers in the world as you drive around, but they can’t be chal­lenged to a race, un­less you go to the trou­ble of invit­ing them to your crew first. There’s no lobby sys­tem either, mean­ing you can’t race against strangers on your own. Even if you start an event in a crew, the other rac­ers will be AI. GTA On­line has this fig­ured out, so why doesn’t a £50 on­line-fo­cused driv­ing game? Ubisoft says a De­cem­ber up­date will add PvP, but it’s be­wil­der­ing that it didn’t launch the game with such ba­sic mul­ti­player func­tion­al­ity.

There are other is­sues, too, such as the way­point sys­tem that some­times just plainly re­fuses to snap to any roads. Un­less you’re grind­ing events, some of the best ve­hi­cles are out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive – and of course there’s a cyn­i­cal mi­cro­trans­ac­tion store­front to tempt weak-willed play­ers into spend­ing money on them. And de­spite an ad­mirable at­tempt to make the game more charm­ing than the gloomy, self-se­ri­ous orig­i­nal, it’s com­pletely de­void of per­son­al­ity. I think The Crew would ben­e­fit from hav­ing no story at all and fo­cus­ing en­tirely on the driv­ing, which should stand tall on its own with­out the player be­ing forced to be­come an in­suf­fer­able In­sta­gram star against their will.

It’s a shame, be­cause there’s a huge amount of po­ten­tial in The Crew 2. The scale of the world is quite ex­tra­or­di­nary, and be­ing able to warp to the other side of the con­ti­nent nearin­stantly is im­pres­sive on a tech­ni­cal level. Crest­ing a hill at night on some lonely desert high­way and see­ing the neon glow of Ve­gas far in the dis­tance is a mo­ment I won’t soon for­get. And I love how you can share these mo­ments of dis­cov­ery with friends. The ten min­utes I spent in a plane do­ing loops through the legs of a gi­ant cow in Wis­con­sin with my friends was way more mem­o­rable than any of the tepid race events, and I feel like the game could have leaned into the co-op side of things more.

The PC ver­sion of the game runs well on my GTX 1080, and oc­ca­sion­ally looks stun­ning – at least from a dis­tance. There are some re­mark­able vis­tas to be found here, but the world doesn’t hold up to much scru­tiny. The cities, which in­clude San Fran­cisco, Dal­las, Wash­ing­ton DC, and Chicago, are boxy and un­con­vinc­ing. The light­ing is of­ten flat and life­less, and there’s some fairly se­vere pop-in when mov­ing at high speeds. The ve­hi­cles look great, but their fi­delity is at odds with the world around them. It’s one of the most vis­ually in­con­sis­tent games I’ve ever played, which I sup­pose is a side ef­fect of cre­at­ing a world this large. It’s clear where the cor­ners have been cut.

And what’s with the snow? Some­times the world will be blan­keted in it – and I mean the whole world. So that means you’ll be carv­ing through pow­dery snow as you drive through the usu­ally sun-scorched Mo­jave desert, and the Hol­ly­wood sign will be cov­ered in it. Even in a game where you can trans­form seam­lessly from a plane into a boat, this is weird. Lo­calised weather ac­cu­rate to each re­gion would have been cool, but this shot­gun ap­proach to cli­mate is bizarre. Al­though, ad­mit­tedly, there is some­thing quite striking about see­ing the Las Ve­gas strip trans­formed into a win­ter won­der­land.

The first Crew im­proved af­ter a se­ries of up­dates, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if the se­quel re­ceived the same treat­ment. But right now this is a full-price game re­leased by one of the big­gest pub­lish­ers in the world, and I can’t rec­om­mend it in its cur­rent state. The lack of mul­ti­player op­tions is in­ex­cus­able and, on a more fun­da­men­tal level, the driv­ing isn’t as fun or re­fined as it should be. The Crew could be some­thing spe­cial, but Ubisoft doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. I’m will­ing to give it a chance af­ter a few up­dates, but un­til then I’ll stick to Forza Hori­zon.

It’s one of the most vis­ually in­con­sis­tent games I’ve ever played

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