Racing games are really not my forte: I’ve always preferred accelerating constantly and just letting the course direct me. Realistic driving simulators have never struck any chords with me, with their realistic damage models and perfect driving lines. Give me an arcade racer any day of the week though, and you’ll see me grinding around corners with reckless abandon. The Crew 2 falls firmly into that latter camp.
As a racing game, The Crew 2 is severely lacking. The AI racers are rather flawed, with whatever one comes out in front being significantly faster than the rest and the one at the back never hitting anything close to maximum speed. Most of the races early on are exceptionally easy, but then there are some events where it is basically impossible to catch-up.
The arcade physics don’t help with this at all. Collide with the other racers and you’ll bounce off in a random direction. If they collide with you, the same thing happens. Their cars are significantly heavier than yours, and while there are ways to change that it requires a lot of grinding to make everything fair. Driving around off-road also runs the risk of bouncing up in the air like a tennis ball, though fortunately the lack of vehicle damage means you’re not penalised by this unless you’re in an event.
The arcade driving does help with what The Crew 2 is best at: exploring America. Developers Ivory Tower have created a reasonable facsimile of the USA, filling their map with a huge selection of different landmarks and environments. Crossing the map from side to side will take about 35 minutes, depending how you choose to cross. Driving is by far the most pleasurable way, especially if you manage to find yourself on a country road around a mountain. There are sections of the road network that seem straight out of a Top Gear video.
That huge map isn’t empty, either. There are three families of events, each with four event types between them. Each event type has about a dozen scenarios and then there are the cross-event races, adding up to around 150 events. Add on to that the various skill events, which just exist out in the world, and you’re looking at another 100 things to do - not that you need to because just driving around is where The Crew 2 is strongest.
It’s all well designed too, with all the cities and environments across the states feeling and looking different. The smaller towns are effectively the same, though their purpose as a break in the wilderness means you tend not to spend more than about fifteen seconds in any of them. Even the motorways provide a great look at the surroundings, with most of them bridging over much of the environments they cut through. Even on low settings the game looks great, though I found the render distance was quite low and I saw a lot of objects pop-in when reaching the high speeds the game encourages you to drive at.
Progression works in a vaguely RPG-esque way, with you gaining followers after you do basically anything. Winning events gets you the most, but just driving at full speed and not crashing gets you lots. As you work your way up from a nobody to a racing icon, you gain access to more types of vehicles and different events. Once you’ve unlocked everything, you reach icon status - but that isn’t the end of the levelling. Icon is broken down into hundreds of sublevels, with each level gained granting a skill point. These are spent on upgrading the mechanical side of the game, which as I mentioned earlier just serve to make the game fairer.
There’s also two currencies, because it’s 2018 and AAA games have to include microtransactions. For the most part, you only need one of each vehicle type and The Crew 2 is liberal with how much money it gives you. I’ve only needed to grind to pick up a hypercar, though I do have enough to buy one of the cheaper ones - I just really want that Lamborghini. I’ve never been told about purchasing the second currency, though a few seconds of looking took me to the Uplay overlay and a menu to buy some.
Speaking of Uplay, my version of the game was directly from Ubisoft’s own platform and this brought a few issues for me. I am one of the few people who like the Steam controller, and it is my controller of choice on PC. However, despite saying that the game is compatible with the controller, the Steam controller does not work natively. After wrapping it through Steam and using a third-party application I was able to use my controller - that is until a few days ago.
I’m not sure if there has been an update to the game, or if there is something wrong on my system, but controllers have stopped working. My Steam Controller, two generic USB controllers and a borrowed Xbox 360 controller all don’t work, though they function fine in other games. It’s rendered The Crew 2 effectively unplayable for me now after about thirty-five hours of play, since driving with a keyboard is nowhere near as good an experience.
There’s also an odd contradiction in the game: It claims to be multiplayer and technically that is true. But, other players exist only as ghostly phantoms in the world and you can’t race against them. They add literally nothing to the game, but yet there is no option to turn them off and play the game entirely in single player. I think you can team up with friends, but I don’t know anyone else playing The Crew 2 so I can’t check that.
My favourite feature is the photo mode. You can perform tricks or stunts, and then use the photo mode to roll back time to catch the best angle. I’ve been using it more to pick up tourist shots of the different monuments, but I have a few nice shots of boats jumping over bridges and low flying planes. For some reason, they decided that the camera should be the hardest thing to control in existence in the camera mode, so getting those shots isn’t as easy as it should be. Add on to this the completely non-functioning video mode and the best part of The Crew 2 becomes a metaphor for the whole thing - promising and fun, but lacking.
I really like The Crew 2; it’s one of the best driving games I’ve played in a long time just in how it handles driving. Ivory Tower have forgone the trappings of simulation and made a game where the act of driving is the fun. The racing has suffered for it, but I think it’s made a more interesting game for it. There are just a lot of niggles I have with the game that stop me scoring it higher. It’s a shame that I’ve had the controller issue as well, especially since I haven’t seen it affect many people online. If Ivory Tower can fix the issues currently in the game, I can see this being a game I come back to regularly.
The Crew 2 (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
A great driving game, a poor racing game. Has some technical issues involving controller support and their idea of multiplayer is somewhat unusual for this genre. A game I would happily spend more time with, but can’t recommend highly in its current state.