When Ubisoft released The Crew in 2014 I was hopeful that it would be an enjoyable open-world racer that took the best parts from the Need for Speed games of yore and fused it with modern storytelling and the enjoyment of cooperative online gaming. Although it wasn’t without its flaws, The Crew provided an entertaining enough trek across America such that when a sequel was revealed in 2017 it got my wheels spinning with anticipation. Sadly, Ivory Tower’s second take on the series is a mostly stale and lifeless affair, with few enhancements and a new story that has about as much point as a pet rock. Boat racing is a nice addition though.
It’s no Rapid Racer, but it’ll do
The Crew 2 uses the majority of the foundations from its predecessor and tweaks them for mixed results. However, the biggest departure is found in the game’s narrative. The original Crew put players behind the wheel as Alex Taylor as he looks to seek revenge for the death of his brother and take back the throne to the motor empire that his brother built. It was cheesier than a chicken parma from your local on pot and parma night, but it embodied that cringey and predictable action that has made The Fast and the Furious such a household name. The Crew 2 shoves that premise in its boot and drives to the highest point in America and throws it from the summit in an attempt to wash its hands clean of cheesy past.
This time around you play as an upcoming racing superstar in four racing disciplines; Street Racing, Pro Racing, OffRoad and Freestyle. It’s much more personal with players not assigned a prefixed character, however there’s a distinct lack of reason to care, with the story so wafer-thin and the dialogue so terrible it’s a wonder why they even bothered to include it at all. Without a narrative of sorts The Crew 2 feels like any other racer; work your way up the ranks to become the champion. Why? Because why not? It’s a basis that suits racing simulator games, but for a game whose wheels are bogged in arcade racing mud, there’s no point of difference other than the open world.
Which is why Ivory Tower has introduced different vehicle types. Players are no longer limited to two or four-wheeled vehicles and can take now take their talents to the open seas with powerboat racing and to the skies with aeroplane freestyling. As a lover of Rapid Racer, the inclusion of powerboat racing is particularly cathartic for me, as it’s been an itch I have wanted to scratch for many years, and aside from tearing up the streets in a Porsche (re-living my Porsche Challenge childhood), the speedboat races were my highlight.
Shoot for the stars as the hottest upcoming driver in America
The closest I’ll get to a modern day Porsche Challenge
Free roaming in a plane is a whole bunch of fun
Quick, McDonald’s breakfast finishes in two minutes
The aircraft events however were my least favourite. I’ve never been much of a fan of aeronautical sequences in games, and even games like Battlefield I’ve always loathed being forced into a cockpit. In The Crew 2 the plane events are mostly freestyle challenges (there are timed races also), where you must perform trickery to earn enough points to complete the event. I often found these events tedious, with the game frequently failing to register that I had performed a trick (such as a loop). In The Crew 2’s defence, flying a plane in free-roam is rather fun. Whether you’re dodging and weaving between buildings or pretending your Dan Bilzerian’s private pilot flying from Las Vegas to Miami, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
One of The Crew 2’s biggest boons is its Fast Fav system, which gives players the ability to change classes on the fly. You can be flying one moment and doing a burnout the next, it’s one aspect that Ivory Tower has excelled in, and the ability to seamlessly switch classes only encourages players to mix it up.
Driving across the country has always been one of the highlights of The Crew. Whether you’re going out for a solo Sunday stroll or a road trip with your mates, joyriding from coast to coast in The Crew 2 is perhaps more enjoyable than it ever has been thanks to the bevy of vehicles available for your driving pleasure. The only downside (again) is that the world feels barren a lot of the time. Though, when you’re fanging it down the middle of downtown New York at 350 km/h in a Red Bull Formula 1 car you don’t really have much time to check out the sights.
The handling of the cars is simple; it’s the kind of game that you can pick up and go for a spin without really needing much time to get adjusted, the same goes for boating. Flying may require a touch more practice but all in all, you’ll find yourself at ease behind the wheel within no time. In a further effort to emphasise the game’s newfound fun image, players will bounce off of cars and buildings instead of the epic crash scenes from the original. If you’re driving fast enough and hit something you’ll still reload from a checkpoint but gone are the Hollywood style crashes. If you enjoyed The Crew’s Wild Run DLC you’ll enjoy the OffRoad events, but the street races are where the racing shines.
You can be flying one moment and doing a burnout the next, it’s one aspect that Ivory Tower has excelled in, and the ability to seamlessly switch classes only encourages players to mix it up
Much like in the original, players earn better parts for their cars once they complete an event. However, this time around instead of being able to instantly equip any new parts, players must go into the menu to do so, a rather annoying feature given how seamless the previous method was.
Visually, The Crew 2 has been polished up to current-gen standards, with the majority of locales looking the part. It makes for a good excuse to play around with the game’s Photo Mode to try and take that postcard-esque shot or intense action shot. The game’s notorious rubber-banding is still present, although less prevalent, and the game still suffers from texture pop-ins and a lack of draw distance for AI vehicles which can often pop right in front of you at high speeds.
The game’s other major selling point is its multiplayer, which feels a little wishy-washy. Players can team up and tackle the campaign as one supercrew, or you can road trip together. The issue is that there is little to no incentive to do so aside from the social benefits and the fact that events become easier. There are leaderboards that you can climb, but there are no PvP modes yet (Ivory Tower has said they are coming…in December), and there’s no real way to interact with players you see in your map aside from inviting them to join your crew. Plus you still cannot play the game offline despite being able to play the game solo.
From a place you’d rather be
The Crew 2 feels like a whole new game, as if its predecessor never existed. It’s bigger and bolder, but not unequivocally better. I know critics and players generally panned the original’s story, which is a bit of a bummer as I quite enjoyed the C-grade crime drama, but I feel a lack of interest without it. However, its biggest problem is that it tries to improve so many facets at once that it hasn’t managed to excel in any. Over time it might improve to a game that captivates the masses of casual racers, but how will long will it remain on the track before it’s in the pit stop for good?
Reviewed on PS4 Pro / Review code supplied by publisher