In very late June, I discussed my first-hour impressions of The Crew 2, and it did not make for a good entry into the title. There is space for a great arcade-style racing game, and Ubisoft’s open-world racer has the potential of filling those shoes. Its giant map of the United States, a slew of racing styles, and a bunch of awesome licensed vehicles are all showcased give the game its own unique feel. Unfortunately, despite its ingredients, The Crew 2 falls flat bringing an absolute bummer of a racer to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
The overarching “story” of The Crew 2 is simple. You’re merely trying to find your big break at becoming a world-famous racer. Whether that be on land, air, or sea, you’ll participate in a variety of different races that will prove your worth within the racing community. As you partake in the various events provided to you, you’ll garner followers and cash to unlock more events and vehicles. It’s less a story and more just a catalyst for why a bunch of people is really into racing around the United States.
The narrative is inconsequential and forgettable. It never caught my attention and made me care about whoever my supposed rival was at the various posts. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is some of the most cringe-inducing lines I have heard in a video game. I mentioned it in the impressions but when I heard a character say “legendary badassdom” I wanted to turn off my PlayStation 4 for a little bit.
Speaking of the PS4, I played The Crew 2 on the PS4 Pro and, in most cases, it looks great. In particular, the vehicle models are gorgeous and almost on par with the Forza Horizon series. I think the latter does a better job with details inside the cars, but you’ll hardly want to be in the cockpit for this one. The only time I saw some questionable visuals were in city environments. Specifically, in Las Vegas, I thought the buildings looked pretty bland. That may be due to the goofy architecture found in Sin City, but I was never in awe when I was driving within city limits.
On the PS4 version, texture pop-in and draw distance seemed to be more noticeable in city environments as well. On occasion, looking ahead of the city streets looked pretty clear; then out of nowhere, buildings and bridges would come into view a few moments before I would be crossing their path. It did not affect my driving in any way, but it takes you out of the experience for that brief moment.
What did affect my driving was the mechanics itself. It just does not control well. In my first hour, I stated, “everything from drifting to the sense of speed isn’t up to the standards of modern racing games.” That was while I was using cars unlocked in the beginning. It does get a little better when you unlock better cars, but that notion is still prevalent even later in the game. The actual driving of The Crew 2 is not up to the standards of modern racing games, and that is an important facet of any game that focuses on driving.
Adding to that frustration are the actual courses. Due to The Crew 2‘s open-world environment, all of the courses are built within it rather than designed separately. That isn’t always the case for every open-world racer — plenty have excellent courses within an open-world — but it certainly can be to the detriment of it. Having an open-world may limit how well a course can be designed, and The Crew 2 perfectly exemplifies that. The courses never felt like they flowed well partially due to its design.
The real offender is the open nature of the races. Similar to games like Burnout Paradise, while there is a route that the game recommends you follow, you can cut through shortcuts or find your own way to the finish line. This would be great if the shortcuts actually gave me the advantage. More often than not, they were just alternate routes that would, in most cases, provide the opposition the lead.
In some of the more open races, it was hard to decipher what the best route was for getting to the next checkpoint. I always felt lost during races that attempted to take advantage of the larger areas leaving more frustrated than concentrated on the race. The checkpoints are just far enough away for it to be difficult to determine what the recommended route is without looking at the mini-map. It is a shame that the mini-map does have to be utilized so often because The Crew 2 does look great.
Behind some of The Crew 2‘s disappointing facets is a pretty great gameplay loop. Taking some concept from modern RPGs, after each race or challenge, you’ll be rewarded with gear. This gear will raise your vehicle’s “perf level” which would, theoretically, improve its performance. However, save for your vehicle’s top speed, it doesn’t feel like anything changes about the vehicle in a meaningful way. They still control as poorly as they did before.
All of this is encapsulated in a vast open-world. The map is comically large, especially since there is not much to do within it. A good open-world racer will keep you entertained, regardless of whether you’re in an event or just exploring. In The Crew 2, unless you’re participating in an event, there is no reason to explore the immensely large recreation of the United States. More often than not, I would just navigate the menus to find the next event and fast travel. There is no substantial benefit to exploring; you can maybe gain a few followers but not enough for it to be worthwhile.
It hurts to see so much potential wasted. The Crew 2 has a solid concept with its RPG direction and open-world arcade style but fails in too many aspects for it to be enjoyable. The base of every racing game is the driving, and if that isn’t serviceable then the rest of the game will falter. It can have pretty graphics and a fine gameplay loop, but I have to enjoy the moment-to-moment gameplay.
Sure, I can fly a plane as high as I can then drop from the sky as a car and continue my path to nothingness but the fun of that can only last so long. I wanted The Crew 2 to be the new pillar for arcade-style racers. Instead, we are presented with a missed opportunity.