The Crew 2 Review – The Ubisoftiest Game of them All
The Crew 229th June, 2018
One day I'm going to find a Ubisoft game that where I don't use the line "That Ubisoft Game" or point out the fact that [insert new Ubisoft game here] is just the same as every other, maybe just with a different mode of transport and a change in the palette. The Crew 2 is not that game and is just as bland.
Imagine a huge, stellar sized asterisk at the site of that statement. Why? Because there is something about The Crew 2 that leaves it captivating, though somehow tedious at the same time. Where else can you fly from one end of continental US to the other? Then, while flying around Lady Liberty or Mt Rushmore, magically transport into and drop down in an Aston Martin Vanquish? Only in one of my very vivid and imaginative dreams, that's where. Usually Emma Stone is in the passenger seat too. But I digress, more on The Crew 2.
How many followers have you got on
Twitch busywork activities. The game is all too obsessed with reminding you of this fact by constantly blurting out that you need to get more followers for your social media. None are, of course, namedropped.
What's somewhat surprising, considering the online nature of the game, is the focus on solo play. Every single race can be performed by yourself. All of the activities, from jumps, speed traps, aerial acrobatics, it's all going to be done by you and you alone. Indeed, even playing online and seeing other people, the interaction you have with them is minimal to non-existant. The game is one that, like a single player offline game, you're going to be racing against AI unless you actively choose not to.
Of course, Ubisoft wants you to form a crew. It will help justify the always-on nature and the fact that it's all part of the games as a service system. Don't you dare park up to make a cup of tea or answer the telephone. The game will gladly boot you out for being idle for a couple of minutes. As you can also expect, The Crew 2 also features a premium currency that helps you buy new cars at a much more affordable price compared to grinding in races. For example, a car will cost less than a fifth in the premium currency than it does the regular currency.
It would be easy, then, to cry foul play and dictate that The Crew 2 is a pay to win game considering the always online nature of it. In what is a world first, I'm going to defend Ubisoft. "Not so", says I, with yet another huge asterisk. Why? Well because there's literally no difference between vehicles of the same class, once they are ranked up. Oh sure, a Lamborghini Huracán will vastly outclass a Mini Cooper to start with. Once upgraded - upgrades dropping from completed races, challenges and such - they all max out at the same performance level.
I may sound like I'm pretty far down on The Crew 2. Strangely, I'm not. There's something undeniably impressive about a game that wants to fit the whole of the core landmass of the United States in it. Even with the sheer size of the game, it's even more impressive that the loading time in-game is literally non-existent. You can fast travel from Seattle to Miami and the game will impressively plonk you down, no questions asked.
The rather bland and samey nature of these cities is what helps matters. Sure, some of the core buildings that make a city are there, otherwise, it would be too jarring. The same applies to a lot of the countryside. You can't have Vegas without the strip. You can't have the black hills without Mount Rushmore. You can, strangely, have San Francisco without Alcatraz. Strangely, the number of landmarks have shrunk compared to the first game. It's all a little too samey though.
I have a sinking feeling that Ivory Tower knew that travelling around the US in The Crew 2 would be boring. Why? Because of the aforementioned fast travel. You don't need to have unlocked a part of the map. You don't even have to be within the same side of the country as a marker to fast travel there. Despite the fact that cities can look a little uninspired and even the countryside can, in what can only be an act of god, move from blazing sunshine to snow in a matter of seconds, the game really does look good. The only real problem is that the game has a real problem with texture pop-in. At least the animals don't seem to have this issue.
What is an issue, however, is the driving. When the driving in a driving game is an issue, you know you've got a problem. I use this term a little loosely because the actual driving of a car is entertaining. Being able to switch between a car, boat or plane at the touch of a button is also an exceptional feat of wizardry. This is where The Crew 2 is at it's most fun, letting you just play around with the multiple modes of transport at your fingertips.
The problem is that bikes, boats, and planes are all a chore. Even cars have a problem when it comes to collisions. Hit something at the wrong angle and you'll bounce around like a ping-pong ball and some pieces of scenery that shouldn't be able to stop a stiff breeze, such as a thin post, will instantly stop your car travelling at 300+mph. More annoying is the fact that vehicles seem to be magnetically attracted to obstacles. It's particularly annoying in a race where you've been leading for 8+ minutes, you ping to the side and even when you reverse, turn away from the obstacle, the vehicles just outright refuses to let you go.
Almost everything just feels wrong too. Planes are sluggish and detection of surroundings is pathetic, particularly when the game demands you have near misses or fly at a low altitude. Boats are just a little too floaty, apart from when you actually want them to feel that way after a jump. Then you just land like a sack of rocks, while AI vehicles actually jump further while going slower. As mentioned before, the best vehicles are the cars. They feel like arcade racer cars from two generations back, lacking the handling, weight and difference featured in titles like Forza Horizon 3. It is, still, joyous to speed down a long, straight road, taking in the sights of a city or the wilderness.
When you launch The Crew 2, it has the gall to state "start your story" instead of start the game. Why is this such a bad thing? Well, that's because there is no story beyond "win the races and make the peoples love you". You encounter a few voiced and named foes on the way, but frankly, there's so little characterisation and meaning behind it, what's the point? None, beyond enjoying the vehicles, that's what.
So what of the events, challenges and tasks? These can be entertaining, but with a large caveat. The Crew 2 features one of the most egregious uses of rubber-banding in a racing game. It's a core element in the genre to keep races interesting and challenging when used correctly. However, here, no amount of skill actually makes a difference. When implemented correctly if you are that much better than the AI, it will still show.
What is worth pointing out is the AI of random vehicles on the road. Beware, fair racer, because these are your most fearsome opponents. I can't tell you how many times I've had near misses or actual collision with a car that just decided to change lanes at the last second, blocking me, who's travelling at an insane speed. Evidently, these have never heard of looking through your wing mirrors before changing lanes or turning.
However, in races outside of defined racing tracks (Laguna Seca, The Giants) you'll rarely find yourself more than a couple of seconds in front of the AI. If you happen to get even ten seconds ahead, you'll see supercharged opponents speeding up to you. Their vehicles will suddenly go 5-10% faster than their maximum speed - until they've caught up of course. It's strange that I never encountered this on actual courses compared to racing around the streets of the US. The racing isn't too difficult though, despite the fact the game blatantly cheats to increase the challenge, you'll still likely win.
Once you've won, you'll find drops for the vehicle you're using in that event. These drops are perfparts (performance parts) that are equipped into one of seven slots to incrementally increase the performance of your vehicle. It's a tacked on system that actually acts as a huge detriment to the game. Why? Because of the previously mentioned fact that all vehicles eventually reach the same performance level and the difference is then negligible.
The Crew 2 is ambitious, that much is certain. No game, bar such as Grand Theft Auto, offers so much variety in methods of transport and what you can do with them. The problem does come with the fact that there is very little to actually do. You've got races, challenges, and sightseeing, sure. There's the whole of continental United States to travel around and explore, but absolutely no reason to do so. Frankly, the game is boring, at least it gets that way.
Boring is essentially a core issue that plagues every iteration of That Ubisoft Game. Whether you're in a car, on a horse, on a boat or assassinating your way through Bolivia. It may be slightly more entertaining than other titles, there's still the issue of too much pointless busy work. Worse of all, there's little reason to ever become invested in even the core activities, bar progression for progression's sake.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
You can purchase the game on Amazon.
The Crew 2 is an impressively large game with a lot to do. Cars, planes and boats, travelling the USA is fun. The problem is that almost everything else ends up feeling the same and, eventually, boring.
- Excellently huge and varied map, full of points of interest, to tour around
- Swapping between land, sea and air at the touch of the button is a great feature
- Huge variety of different disciplines to race through
- An abysmal story, for what there is of one, that has far too much pushing of the in-game social media
- The huge (250+) number of challenges that litter the map end up merging into each other and just get boring
- Terrible physics, particularly with collisions and the feeling of boats and planes, in particular, are bad
- Loot system actively removes any joy in collecting vehicles, eventually capping them all to the same performance level