Ubisoft’s The Crew wasn’t what one would describe as a big hit. It ticked a lot of boxes that needed ticking for a racing game of its sort, but it also came with some ideas that ultimately hindered the overall experience. Ubisoft being Ubisoft, undeterred, have set out to build upon that initial experience and make some much needed improvements and refinements. That’s one thing I’ll always respect Ubisoft for. They don’t give up easily. They’ll work with their communities to craft and fine-tune the content that they want to release. Does The Crew 2 step up to the proverbial plate? It may not be for everyone, but yes, yes it does.
Ditching the story structure of the predecessor, The Crew 2 adopts an overarching light plot that sits inline with what you would expect to see from Forza Horizon. The premise is simple. You take on the role of an aspiring thrill-seeking racer that needs to up their presence in the world. This is achieved through taking to the vast world and completing a truck-load of assignments in the hopes of raising your followers, which you’ll net for nearly everything you that can do. The light story may well be unfulfilling for some, but for me, I rather enjoyed the loose serving over something more ‘in your face’, à la The Crew or NFS Payback.
Collectively, this amounts to taking to the land, air, and sea of the compact United States. Gameplay consists of racing cars, motorcycles, planes and boats throughout The Crew 2’s open world. These races categorize a range of faction disciplines that will, once met, open up new opportunities and vehicles, as well as improving your social reach. That’s pretty much the fundamental gameplay loop on offer here. Events tend to range from drag racing, rival events, beating scores, standard racing and so on and so forth. There’s plenty to tackle and everything is on the table. It helps that the game is very accessible, which will appeal to returning fans and newcomers alike.
Once you begin earning cash and loot through the game’s pool of activities, it can then be spent on either upgrading your vehicles or buying new ones. Though, that dominant aspect of increasing your notoriety is the main foundation you’ll be chasing religiously. However you come into this game and however you decide to play it, you’ll always have something to see or something to ultimately work towards. There’s a few questionable design choices here and there, such as the lack of emphasized map activity, but by and large, I cant say that I ever grew tired of the formula, despite its somewhat open pace.
The Crew 2 also walks a fine line between arcade and simulation racing. The gameplay, or more specifically the physics, doesn’t lean too heavily on either. It’s arcade enough to please those that enjoy over-the-top racing, but not so much so that it feels all the way there. Players are free to travel to and from location to location, taking on any event that they wish to in whichever order they please. The option to quick-jump to an event is present, however, you can always gain more notoriety by manually driving there and fulfilling pass-by tasks along the way. Plus, you stand more chance bumping into other players.
The Crew 2’s mammoth world is shared at all times and there’s heaps of co-op and general opportunities by default. This will, later in the game, alleviate any issues with the more difficult challenges thanks to having other players by your side, but with that said, The Crew 2 isn’t overly tough to begin with. Once again, the progression system may not suit everyone’s taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nevertheless. The game is designed in such a way that you can either cut to the chase and get on with the content, or take your time enjoying the sights and additional tasks in between. The pacing, as such, is determined by you.
If you’re looking for a racing game that covers a wide variation of vehicles and types, set across a sprawling and gorgeously developed open world, The Crew 2 most definitely has your back. Moving onto the actual gameplay, the handling of each and every vehicle is top notch. Despite the game’s wide selection of vehicles across each type, I cant say that I enjoyed piloting planes anywhere near as much as taking to a motorcycle, car or boat. The planes feel really slow alongside the rest of the vehicle types, but thankfully, most of the air events revolve around completing tricks and stunts, so this is quite easy to overlook.
Ground vehicles and boats, on the other hand, handle speed fluidly and precise. The only problem I care to complain about is that of the AI. Several times did I skillfully clear a large gap between my racer and the AI opponents, only to see them gaining that same gap in an instant. Moments like this are disheartening and it can really feel grueling when you sink a lot of effort into a race, only to have it thrown under the bus because the AI suddenly turn into a bunch of angry T-800s. I haven’t witnessed anything as unfair as this since playing Beach Buggy Racing a few years back. It’s unfortunate, really, given The Crew 2’s ambitions.
Speaking more specifically about the customization in The Crew 2, this is very easy to digest. Vehicles can be kitted out in a range of different ways across performance and design. Customization can be achieved either at your garage or at the conclusion of an event, once you’ve nabbed that fabled loot. The loot in The Crew 2 has a rarity system that will boost the performance of your vehicle in different ways, depending on how rare the loot is. The rarer the loot, the better the upgrade. Throw in the fact that there’s a staggering amount of vehicles to enjoy (over 250 in total) and it’s hard not to appreciate what’s in the box.
When it comes to open world games, Ubisoft is certainly no stranger. We’ve seen some fantastic worlds from Ubisoft, and Ivory Tower certainly hasn’t bucked the trend. The Crew 2 offers a stunning and diverse world that easily rivals its peers, but its lack of padded content leaves a lot to be desired. I cant quite tell whether it’s the ability to fast-travel to and from events, or whether the sheer size of the world has been difficult to fill, but in any case, it did come across quite empty for the most part. That’s not to say that there’s a lack of content, but it certainly could have been implemented to better promote the free-roaming.
The Crew 2 is much bigger and much better than its predecessor. It’s not perfect by any means, but it does tick many of the boxes that it desperately needed to, nevertheless. Issues with the lack of map engagement and the T-800 AI to the side, The Crew 2 offers a robust and gorgeously detailed racing experience. It’s accessible, fairly deep, well rounded and thoroughly entertaining, for the most part.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.