The Crew was a very serious take on open world racing. While that wasn’t the worst idea in the world, it left Ubisoft’s ambitious project feeling somewhat dry. Sure, you could drive across America in a series of different cars, but the game was lacking much in the way of personality. This is the big change when it comes to the sequel, unsurprisingly entitled The Crew 2.
Much in the same way as Watch Dogs 2 attempted to have some fun with what it was presenting, developer Ivory Tower has gone for ridiculousness over austerity – and it’s a welcome change.
Focusing on the idea of amassing followers, because that’s just the era we’re living in, everything you do in The Crew 2 builds your reputation, with the overall goal to become a viral sensation. The more well known you are, the more disciplines and racing styles you can unlock – it’s an expected progression system simply centred around a concept with which everyone is familiar. Smash the world of social media and rewards are waiting.
It’s fair to say this can be a little too much at times, as ‘super cool dudes’ continue to fling buzzwords at you. Ultimately, though, this is just background noise. It’s the racing itself where things really stand out – and in this regard The Crew 2 seems set to be far more enjoyable than its predecessor.
Pre-order The Crew 2 (PS4) £46.00 at Amazon
Naturally, this is helped hugely by the fact that as well as cars, you now have boats and planes to abuse as well. It not only breaks up the game’s pacing, but genuinely demands a different skillset than when you’re behind the wheel of a Lamborghini. Given that the map here is huge – it’s borderline intimidating when you first see it – content isn’t going to be one of The Crew 2’s issues. There’s so much to do here, it could probably last you years.
All this would be for nought if it couldn’t live up to expectations, however. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. In particular, driving feels vastly improved , filling a void that appears to have been missing from the genre for sometime. While Forza and Gran Turismo continue to hammer home the more simulation approach to racing, The Crew 2 is more Forza Horizon in what it wants – and in that sense it’s wonderful. You still need to dedicate time to learning how each car handles, and getting too carried away will usually see you smash into a nearby wall, but it becomes exceedingly satisfying after a while; taking a corner like a pro can result in a genuine rush.
It gets better, too, thanks to the way in which Ubisoft has set out the environment with disciplines such as street racing. As each track is located within the open world, there’s no such thing as a barrier. You have signal points, naturally, but if you do make a mistake and veer off course then you just continue to fly forward. You’re still screwed in terms of winning the race, but it’s refreshing not to just career into some bricks and it requires a whole different mindset.
The different styles will change this up – especially if you opt for some touring car competition – but it’s undoubtedly the highlight of The Crew 2; and the more you progress, the better it gets. Calling it an arcade racer seems a little unfair, but it’s incredibly fun and far more interested in letting you get on with the more breathtaking part of racing than worrying about what gear you’re in.
As for the boats and planes, the enjoyment is still there– but the experience isn’t as crisp as as it is in a car. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination – and there are so many variants within each that you’ll likely find one you get on with more – but I did find myself wanting to drive. Anything else felt more like a distraction.
Nevertheless, it’s a nice addition since it breaks up the nature of the beast: if you do get bored of four wheels then there are options, and that’s important. Without it the burnout – no pun intended – would be a little too extreme.
There are also all the usual bells and whistles such as the ability to upgrade everything you own as the difficulty scales, and even driving around the world with no aim can be beneficial. Aside from the fact you can switch between vehicles on the fly – so if you want to just take to the skies in an aircraft, that’s more than possible with a touch of a button – there are dozens of challenges ranging from speed traps to simply taking photos of specific areas.
Pre-order The Crew 2 - Day One Edition for Xbox One £45.00
If a sequel is meant to take the original idea and just expand it as much as possible, The Crew 2 seems to have ticked many of the boxes for achieving that.
Throw in persistent leaderboards, meaning you’re essentially always in competition with both your friends and the entire universe, and Ivory Tower may be onto something here. Tonally it may rub some people up the wrong way, but to let that put you off would be madness.
If you’re looking for a racer that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also puts the time in where it counts, The Crew 2 could be it. It certainly has the potential.