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In The Crew 2, you play as an up-and-coming racer who’s looking to make it big by earning followers on social media. You do this by completing races and earning favor with various factions, each of which embodies a different kind of lifestyle and focuses on different racing types. As you climb your way to the top of these various groups, you earn more followers, which in turn unlocks more activities for you to compete in. Completing these activities gains you money and loot, which you can spend on brand new cars and new cosmetics. It’s obvious that the name of the game is variety, but does The Crew 2 spread itself too thin?
Get Followers or Die Tryin’
The Crew 2 is pretty light on story, but it does its best to fuse narrative into the structure of the game. You start off by selecting from a few premade characters and begin your story as a fresh face in the racing scene. You arrive at a racing event, hoping to earn more followers and brand recognition. Your early success in the tutorial leads you to join four different factions spread across the continental United States. You’ll gain favor in each faction by completing events which in turn gains you more followers and fans. The whole central theme of the story seems to be one big popularity contest, with each insane stunt netting you more and more rabid followers on an unnamed social media.
When it comes to the actual story, your involvement in each faction is essentially the same. Your character is there to move up the ranks and become the new champion. Each faction has a current champion, who is either liked or more usually despised by the person handing out your missions. Your ultimate goal is to take on the champion and win their flashy and exotic “Ultimate Vehicle” for your own collection. You’ll often start races or engage in activities simply by selecting them from a menu or running into them during free roam driving. Besides some pretty bland voice over in between races, there’s not a lot of connection between the characters and the gameplay itself. All told, most of the story in The Crew 2 feels a bit like an afterthought. It’s not exactly bad, it’s just not as cool as it could have been.
The Spice of Life
The theme of The Crew 2 is variety, so you’ll have your hands on a good number of vehicle types during your time with the game. The moment to moment driving is a bit more realistic than something like Burnout Paradise, but still firmly arcadey. To give you a general idea, every single vehicle has a default nitrous button from the get-go. The realism of the driving comes into play when comparing how different vehicle types feel. Motorcycles feel vastly different from trucks, boats and planes have their own set of controls, and you can often feel the weight or lightness of a car after a few seconds of driving it. Some vehicles are simply just more fun to drive than others, but that will ultimately come down to your personal preferences.
In my opinion, The Crew 2 would have been a bit more fun if they went full arcade with the controls. Crashing can be exceptionally punishing, and I often felt like I was being discouraged from going ultra fast as my car would fishtail from underneath me. The Crew 2‘s expansive map is more conducive to high speed and wacky joy rides, but you might have to spend some time finding the right car for it. The base driving in The Crew 2 is functional and often enjoyable, but they don’t quite nail it.
The effectiveness of offering such a wide variety a vehicle types only pays off if the content surrounding it is good. Luckily, The Crew 2 has plenty of fun events that you can participate in by joining the four different factions in the game. Each faction is unique and details a different mindset or sub-sect within racing culture. For example, there’s the off-road faction, a collection of outdoorsy hunter types whose events contain things like motocross and rally races. There’s also the pro racing faction, who hosts air races, powerboat events, and touring cars. The street racing faction is pretty self-explanatory, including a variety of street events like drifting, drag racing, and more. The freestyle faction balances things into the more wackier, with events like aerial acrobatics and monster trucks.
When you’re not choosing from one of the many events, it’s often enjoyable just to free roam. Exploring the map at your leisure is made infinitely more enjoyable thanks to a quick switch feature that allows you to switch between vehicle types at the whim. At any point, you can instantaneously switch from either a boat, car or airplane. This means you can take off of a ramp in a Porsche doing 120 miles an hour, switch into a helicopter and do a barrel roll, and then fall out of the sky while transforming into a boat and landing in a nearby bay. By allowing you to string together long freeform combos, The Crew 2 can often feel like a big vehicular playground. The game’s world is designed to encourage this kind of gameplay, with big ramps jutting out of the environment for seemingly no reason. I found that the wide open stretches of countryside were pretty cool for experimenting with fun and wacky high-speed antics, whereas the cities were more suited for intense and precise aerial excursions.
Besides treating the map of the US like a big game of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, there are not a ton of things to do within the world itself. You can find collectibles by use of a radar mechanic, which give you upgrades for various vehicles. There’s also a laundry list of photo opportunities, which appear randomly across your screen when triggered. This encourages you to go into photo mode and try to pick out something in the environment. The photo opportunities are a fun excuse to screw around in photo mode for a few minutes, but besides that, they’re not much more than a distraction or a quick way to earn some experience. There are a number of smaller skill events littered throughout the map, but these often follow the same formula. You’ll often be slaloming, racing out of a city as fast as possible, or performing aerial tricks.
The Number of Success
All of the events and activities are tied into your overall fame level. Winning events nets you followers, steadily increasing your experience bar to the next level. The first few same levels will unlock new races to compete in, but after about a dozen hours, the number means little more than your experience level. Each car that you own also has an associated experience level, which you increase by equipping different parts on to each car. You’ll often get the most valuable parts from winning races, so it makes sense to complete them in a checklist fashion. Subsequent races have higher recommended car levels, and you’ll need to keep your car upgraded and as fast as possible if you hope to compete.
Plainly speaking, The Crew 2 is a pretty tough game. AI controlled opponents have a ridiculous amount of rubber banding, and can often dodge out of the way of any obstacle within milliseconds. As the player, you are not afforded the same amount of leeway. There’s no rewind feature to speak of; only the ability to place your car back on the track when you mess up. This will cost you precious time, and it will often be quite difficult to catch back up. This isn’t a huge deal in short events like street races and rally cross, but can prove to be a huge issue in things like hyper car and endurance races. There’s nothing more frustrating than reaching the end of a 20 minute excursion only to be overtaken and spun out by an unfairly difficult opponent.
America, the Beautiful
The car models and lighting effects look spectacular, and it’s easy to often get distracted by a particularly beautiful vista or cool looking camera angle. The opening mission features some really cool and stylized tracks, feeling like they’ve been pulled out of the movie Inception. The Crew 2 sets the bar pretty high early on, but it never quite reaches that level of creativity again.
The pleasant lighting and enjoyable views are offset by some blunders in the map, but that comes with the challenge of trying to recreate the entire United States. While there are other cars and pedestrians who roam cities to keep things feeling alive, the game often feels vastly underpopulated. There’s a sort of emptiness to the game’s world that makes it look hollow. It’s absolutely picturesque at points, but the beauty is a bit skin deep. If you’re not flying off of handcrafted ramps in sections that were obviously made for you to drive around, things can look a bit lifeless.
However, you may not be paying attention to the environment all that much as you’re speeding through it at breakneck speeds. Thankfully, the game looks pretty damn good while in motion. As you fly through small towns or coast down long interstates, it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic nature of the open road. Since the different car models look so good and crisp, it’s easy to admire then get tunnel vision. Unfortunately, the quality of the environment will mostly depend on what kind of system you’re playing on. Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, and high-end PC users should have no qualms with the visuals. Standard console players will definitely experience a good amount of pop-in, screen tearing, and a lack of detail. At some points, I was floored by the look of the game. At other times, it felt like an Xbox 360 title with noticeably improved textures and lighting.
The Bottom Line on The Crew 2
Overall, The Crew 2 delivers a plethora of content that simply does not skimp on variety. Regardless of your preference for racing games, The Crew 2 will have something that you will enjoy. Unfortunately, it spreads itself a bit too thin, leaving the experience feeling a bit hollow and with a lack of focus. It’s fun to explore the expansive world and partake in fun and often creative events. However, the weak story and occasionally annoying narration give you little reason to care. The content here is fun and enjoyable, but there’s a noticeable lack of polish on the experience overall. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just not the blowout sequel that Ubisoft was toting it to be. All in all, the main story progression will take you anywhere from 25 – 50 hours.
At its best, The Crew 2 is an uproariously fun and exciting racing game that has enough variety to keep you interested for hours upon hours. At its worst, it’s a dull, boring, and unfairly balanced collection of distractions. For me, The Crew 2 is a game that’s best played in bite-sized pieces, or less seriously with a group of friends. If you’re looking for a virtual playground to race, sail, and fly across, The Crew 2 does this well. If you’re looking for a meaningful story, a replacement for Forza Horizon, or a highly realistic experience, you’ll be sorely disappointed.