Let’s just cut to the obvious, a traditional road racer this is not. The Crew 2 has gone to considerable lengths to stand out in the crowd and grants players freedom others can not. Need For Speed won’t let you morph into a plane on the fly, and Forza sure as heck won’t be seeing you slew a boat through an intricate system of rivers that courses throughout Motornation, the fictional city that condenses the ‘greatest hits’ of Americana and pop culture into a single map.
The Golden Gate bridge is there, Mount Rushmore is said to be in-game and you can even hit up the brightly lit strip of Las Vegas if that’s what your soul desires. But the one thing that is abundantly clear from the get go is that freedom is the name of the game here.
I began my demo with a little bit of free time to work over my car and see what it could do. I started on a long stretch of country road, so I jammed the trigger down and opened it up. Safe to say, I got ahead of myself and expected a little too much from my vision of becoming the Vin Diesel of The Crew 2. Instead of sending my car down the bitumen on its hind wheels like a rearing horse, I sent it into the trees and crashed spectacularly.It was at this point I decided that perhaps the road isn’t for me. It can be long and weary sometimes, so why not take to the skies? With a simple click and hold of the right stick, you can instantly, in real-time, morph into a new category of vehicle. The options I had available to me were air, water and, of course, car. Going into the menu to admire the collection of vehicles you’ve got also allows you to tag favourites so that it’s indeed those vehicles that appear on your selection wheel when changing mid-ride. In a matter of seconds, I ascended through the leafy green canopies of Motornation’s gorgeous forestation and found myself soaring higher than I ever could before in a game like this.
Seeing the city from above like this gave me Grand Theft Auto vibes, though without the street crime. It’s a more wholesome place to be.
Before too long, I decided to test what might happen if I activated my speedboat from a great height. Sure enough, I plummeted to the open water below, sticking the landing with perhaps no regards to realism, but who wants that in a game where being creative and racking up points is the name of the game? It was at this stage, a developer strolled over to me and demonstrated the game’s live replay feature, which is set to grant players the opportunity to trim and edit their very best moments to share with friends (and the world). The feature captures your most recent ten minutes and even features a chart at the bottom that spikes whenever you’ve pulled off something that game regards as cool. It’s a great, intuitive feature that’s sure to yield many a highlight reel.
I was then placed into a series of events with the gentleman across from me, which allowed the developer to show off the crew functionality and how quickly you’re able to seamlessly hop into events with your friends.
First came a really neat motocross event which saw us tightly winding through a man-made off-road track, boosting to catch air off of jumps all the while. This was a whole lot of fun. I didn’t think to ask whether tricking was a possibility as my mind was geared on winning. The lead changed throughout as I constantly tried to unearth the Crusty Demon in myself, managing to land on my head after a regulation jump. Fortunately, holding the two bumper buttons places you straight back into the action, so there’s no punishment or cool down for trying to race boldly, as I do. With that win in the book, we moved onto a drifting event.There’s a fair bit of nuance to drifting and, I must admit, I hardly mastered it in the brief few minutes I had to play with it. While I fell a long, long way short of the objective goal of 1,000 points, I also found myself going the wrong way through the course. Because these events aren’t ‘races’, per se, this didn’t matter, as the only goal is to rack up points by coercing your car through bends while avoiding blockades and road signs that are littered on the road to kill your combo. I wish I could have spent more time here if only to avenge my poor performance, but alas, it was on to the final event. A grand prix.
This event was one of the highlights of the hands-on for me. The course wasn’t terribly windy so there were long stretches of road that really let us go for it. I clocked over 400km/h through one stretch. It was so fast I damn near felt my hair blow back in real-life. It’s more traditional and it shows that, despite all of their whacky changes, The Crew 2’s heart still definitely beats true and that good honest racing is alive and well.
The Crew 2 releases in March 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Press Start is attending Gamescom 2017 as a guest of Ubisoft. This does not prevent us from covering titles exhibited by other publishers, nor does it hinder us from providing honest impressions about Ubisoft’s show line-up.