When The Crew was released in 2014, critics almost universally labelled it as an average, hollow, racing game that had trouble keeping up with the likes of Forza or Need For Speed. These criticisms haven’t scared off Ubisoft though, who has in the past stuck with their games and let the developers give them another shot. With that said, the French development studio Ivory Tower is back in the driver’s seat with The Crew 2 and is hoping to leave a lasting mark in the racing genre.
The Crew 2 is yet again set within an open world environment, that is a scaled-down version of the United States. As a new racer on the scene you’ll need to gain followers to expand your fanbase and earn money to fill your garage with a range of different vehicles to race. There are four types of racing families for you to participate in, including Street, Off-road, Freestyle and Pro. Within these categories, there are a number of vehicles that you can jump into to complete the various races and challenges thrown at you. These range from street cars to performance super cars, speed boats, motor bikes, off-road buggies, stunt planes and more.
Stevivor had the chance to play the first few hours of The Crew 2, kicking off with a racing challenge featuring three vastly different vehicles. First we blistered through the streets of New York in a Porsche 911 GT3, following it up with a ride down the Hudson River in a M31 Powerbody performance boat, before taking to the skies above Central Park in a Zivko Edge 540 aerobatic plane. In-between each vehicle transition you get this Inception style shift, where the world starts folding in on itself. It’s something that was teased in the CGI reveal trailer back at E3 2017, but in game it’s very slick when you first see it happen.
From here the world of The Crew 2 starts to open up and you can begin to get behind the wheel of whatever type of ride suits you. If powerboats are something you’d rather spend the next few hours competing in, then you’re more than welcome to just do that – the game doesn’t force you into a specific vehicle once you’ve learned the basics. After you complete races you’ll start levelling up your character and unlocking other activities around the United States. The live map in The Crew 2 allows you to zoom in and out of regions to get a good look at the courses and what events are on offer. The game allows you to take to race in some of the United States’ most iconic locations.
During our playthrough we tore up the bitumen in New York, Arizona, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco and more. You can fast travel to a race’s starting location from the live map, or if you feel like it you can roam around and drive yourself to the start line. The option is totally up to the player as they can instantly switch between vehicles on the fly. A lot of fun was had on my part changing into a speed boat while hundreds of meters in the air and just dropping into the middle of a busy street. But if you want to do it properly we were told by the Ivory Towers developers that it takes about 40 minutes to drive from one side of the map to the other, which gives you an idea of the scale of the environment.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Crew 2 is its loot system, which sees items drop for you after finishing certain races. This gear will let you customise several performance parts for your vehicles to give them better handling, power or top speeds. Sometimes gear will also have extra benefits; for example one of my rally cars had purple epic tyres that increased the nitro refill speed by 16%. The only way you can pick up loot is through the game’s activities and events; there won’t be a way to buy anything through microtransactions, which is great. What we aren’t sure of yet is how this gear will affect the online matchmaking system when going up against other racers around the world, and how the game will account for this, if anyway at all.
The Crew 2 is shaping up nicely from what I’ve played so far. Racing titles have been a bit hit or miss over the last few years, but with games like Forza Horizon 3 setting a super high benchmark in the genre, it’s hard to say when we’ll see something come close to that. We’ll have to wait and see how handles once it’s been let out in the wild.
The Crew 2 will be available on Xbox One, PS4 and Windows PC from 29 June.