The Crew 2 review
Big world, small ideas
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.
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)