When Ivory Towers’ The Crew launched back in 2014, the team set out to try and fully realise an open-world, MMO-styled racing experience. And, in a sense, that venture worked to varying degrees, though the lack of content and any real differentiation from other racers at the time meant it failed to maintain a hold of most of its players. So the sequel’s announcement was a bit of a surprise to say the least, given the performance of the original. However, having had three hours of hands-on time with The Crew 2, I came out mostly impressed with what seems to be a fascinating evolution of the series.
The Crew 2 is all about freedom. It’s about travelling across a huge open-world — that being the USA — in a multitude of ways, participating in a slew of different events and competing against friends in the process.
What changes up the formula, of course, is the fact the game has you chopping across counties and cities in a variety of different vehicle types this time around. From cars, to motorbikes, to planes — The Crew 2 places a heavy focus on giving you the choice of navigating the world however you see fit.
Right from the off, I liked this change. Having the ability to make your way across the USA in a multitude of different vehicles immediately distinguishes The Crew 2 from other racers, as it’s a more open experience and attempts to cater to a lot of different crowds in the process. Racing through the streets of New York was noticeably different to tearing it up in an off-road buggy in the Grand Canyon, and in this sense the game seems to hammer home the point that The Crew 2 is for any kind of racing fan. That said, this is also where I noticed one of the game’s biggest issues.
During my opening hour, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the handling on any of the vehicles were fine-tuned enough for my liking. Cars don’t handle anywhere near as well as they do in Forza, and flying planes felt rather lacklustre as they strip away the edge of having to navigate tight corners and deal with oncoming traffic. Likewise, boat racing was fairly slow (save for a chaotic race around tight corners in Las Vegas), and it all felt a bit off. I suppose this can be a difficult issue to address when you’re incorporating so many different types of vehicles into a game, though I’m hopeful some more work will go into this prior to The Crew 2’s June 29 release.
With some time I did get used to the way vehicles move though, and after an hour of getting to grips with the handling I was enjoying myself.
There are four core disciplines in The Crew 2: street racing, off-road, freestyle, and pro racing. And these disciplines are at the core of every event you play through in the game. The street racing discipline activities, for example, set you up with races like cross-city events and drift challenges, whereas the freestyle discipline has you participating in score-based aerobatics work in a plane. Each feels noticeably different from one another, which gives a nice sense of variety to proceedings.
As you level up in The Crew 2 — in turn getting more XP and followers — you’ll unlock more things to do, more events to interact with, and more vehicles to purchase. I managed to make it to rank 3 (which is known as ‘famous’ in the game) during my preview session, which gave me the ability to buy some fairly nifty vehicles and try out a selection of different types of races related to each discipline. Activities range from air races to drift challenges, and each felt like a good progression from what I’d played prior.
Unlocking new types of races as you progress through The Crew 2 should hopefully make the game continue to feel fresh, though I’m worried about how much content’s actually in the game at the moment. Having already made rank 3 (out of 5) within three hours of play time, I’m curious to see what the developers have up their sleeve for end-game content and the like. Obviously it’s going to take some time to get through every event on offer, but it definitely came across as if there wasn’t a whole lot of content on show here.
Further, I noticed there weren’t too many races unlocking each time I’d levelled up a discipline. It looked like only two or three discipline-specific events would unlock, which felt noticeably limiting in terms of what I could do in the game.
Say I really wanted to hone in on doing drift challenges, for example. To be able to participate in these challenges I need to reach the second rank in the game, buy a car for the discipline, and then jump in from there. However, during my preview session all I could find correlating to this specific race discipline were two events. Having levelled up again, I unlocked more races for the general street racing discipline, but I didn’t notice any new tracks for drifting unlock. Because of this, I ended up playing through the same sets of drift challenges more than a few times, which got boring quickly.
I really hope that there are more events scattered around the region when the full game launches, because only having a couple of events per race discipline feels noticeably lacklustre. I understand that the game wants you to experiment with different vehicles and events, but having two to three events per race type just rubs me the wrong way. It feels like there’s a real lack of content here, and it actively pushes away players wanting to focus in on specific disciplines, in turn levelling up their vehicles in the process.
On that topic, loot is also a central factor in The Crew 2, and you’ll be presented with a barrage of it at the end of every race you participate in. Loot can be used to improve and upgrade your vehicle, and is tied specifically to the vehicle you used in an event. This means that if you want to upgrade a car to its full potential, you’ll have to continue to use it across discipline races.
It looks like you can use micro-transactions to aid your progress in this endeavour if you feel like spending money, though I’m unsure of what exactly they do as of yet. I did notice a section for buying currency on the menu screen, and can only assume it’ll go into fundings for purchasing vehicles and loot. Whether or not this will have a drastic effect on how multiplayer matches will play out, we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t notice any major difference in how my car performed after upgrading it quite a bit in multiplayer matches I had with other journos at the event, though there certainly could be something going on there.
It might not be the most anticipated sequel to make its way to store shelves in the coming months, but most of what I played in The Crew 2 was good. I really like the game’s direction this time around — incorporating a selection of different vehicles to use rather than just sticking to cars — as it adds an extra dimension to the gameplay that most other racers don’t offer. And in that sense, it’s unique enough to differentiate itself from the crowd.
I am worried, however, about the lack of refinement in the handling with any of the vehicles on offer, and how much content has been piled in for the game’s initial release. These qualms can only be answered when the game launches, though, and I’m hopeful Ivory Tower and Ubisoft have done enough to give the game the push it needs — there’s certainly a lot of potential here.