Having played a slew of racing games throughout the years, I can always tell whether I’ll enjoy it within minutes of playing it. It is what makes the racing genre unique. Gameplay is so intrinsic to the overall experience; if the driving doesn’t feel right, more likely than not, you’ll want to stop playing. This brings me to Ubisoft’s follow-up to its open-world arcade racing series, The Crew 2, a game I’m not entirely sure I enjoy just yet. In my first hour of play, The Crew 2 introduces some interesting concepts but lacks in the area that is most important for the genre, gameplay.
When you begin a new game, you’re introduced to the variety of ways to race in The Crew 2. Street and off-road racing are the traditional styles you’re familiar with. Where the game differentiates itself from other racers is taking those races to the seas and sky with boats and planes. While I haven’t delved into these deviations in the open-world, flying and sailing were unremarkable. It does diversify the gameplay enough to feel different, but it was comparable to the driving.
The beginning of the game will also introduce you to the odd narrative The Crew 2 is telling. You and your friend have been trying to get into the racing scene but have yet to make a breakthrough. Luckily, both of you have garnered spots in an event sponsored by Live, the company you’ll become familiar with as you play. By completing this first event, the coordinator for the event says that more doors will open for you.
Narratives in racing games are inconsequential. It’s nice to know why racing is so infectious in this fiction, but it isn’t needed to enjoy the game. Games like Forza Horizon and Burnout Paradise do a great job of giving you a reason for racing while still placing driving in the forefront. The Crew 2 puts too much detail in every scenario. Any time you start an event, there is some tiny narrative detailing the world and characters that really don’t have any meaningful impact on the game. Knowing the specifics of who the best racer is or the legality of the races is insignificant. It doesn’t help that the dialogue detailing the world and the attitude the game is portraying is so cringy. When I heard the term “legendary badassdom,” I wanted to walk away.
My problem with the previous iteration was the driving itself. There were a lot of cool concepts, like using the entire U.S. as the game’s open world, but I never wanted to actually drive because it just felt off. The Crew 2 suffers the same fate.
The driving just doesn’t feel good. Everything from drifting to the sense of speed isn’t up to the standards of modern racing games. Even something as old as Burnout Paradise, which was remastered for this generation of consoles, feels tremendously better than Ubisoft’s open-world racer.
The courses add to that frustration. All the events are built within the open-world. As such, you are free to go about the race as you please; arrows are pointing to a recommended route, but you don’t have to take it. Usually, I’m all in on giving the player the freedom to approach a challenge their way but when the races are designed in such a way that going off the beaten path is a detrimental strategy that will almost always end in a loss. A simple fix for this could be moving the checkpoints a bit closer; due to how far each checkpoint is from one another, it’s hard to determine what the recommended route is. I always felt like I was guessing every turn I make.
I was looking more at the mini-map, since it highlights a trail for you to follow, rather than looking at the game. It’s a shame because it looks pretty good. In particular, the vehicles you’ll drive and fly are gorgeous. However, the visuals do falter in some aspects. The draw distance is pretty short (at least on a standard PS4). There have been times while I’m driving and a building or a sign would just appear out of nowhere. Also, there has been a lot of texture pop-in that can be a bit distracting. Save for those gripes, it does look great, especially the sunrise and sunset.
With the lack of modern arcade-style open-world racers, The Crew 2 is a game I want to enjoy. There is a great base here for an addicting racing game. The loot system, in particular, has this Destiny-like quality to it that makes me want to keep racing and garnering loot to increase my car’s “perf level.” Pairing that with a large open-world with plenty to do should be enough for anyone to enjoy. Unfortunately, everything good about the game is bogged down with corny dialogue, poor environmental visuals, confusing course design, and subpar gameplay. I’m hopeful but, as of right now, I’m not too impressed by The Crew 2.