Three and a half years after Ubisoft and Ivory Tower launched a new franchise in The Crew, we have the game’s sequel. While at the surface The Crew 2 might appear to be quite similar to its predecessor, Ivory Tower has been listening to fan feedback from the original, and the franchise has been stripped to its core and rebuilt around a new system. The map is slightly larger, but you may not notice the differences immediately. The leveling system is similar in that the vehicles upgrade the same way, but there’s now a much larger emphasis on end-game continuation of gameplay. The Crew 2 is fresh and new, so let’s take a cruise around the United States by car, boat or plane.
The Crew 2 kicks off with the introduction of the Live XTREM (pronounced extreme) Series which pits you against three other racers on the streets of New York, before sending you into the water in a speed boat and then finally hitting the skies in a plane. The game does an inception world-bending effect when it switches vehicle types which was honestly a surprise the first time it happened (we played through the beta quite a few times on different platforms), but unfortunately the inception effects are only for the first race. It would have been amazing to have the powers to bend the world for photo mode, and also amazing to see it utilised in other races and open-world events, but perhaps it was too hard for Ivory Tower to program.
Photo mode in The Crew 2 is actually an astonishing feat, allowing you to rewind several minutes of your gameplay to pinpoint the exact moment and angle that you want to take your shot. The screenshots are then taken in stunning 4K resolution regardless of what resolution you’re playing the game in, and you can really get some great shots of the United States as you play around in the huge open world. Photo mode came with its own bugs though, and if you’re wanting to capture the skids, smoke, dirt or snow that your vehicle kicks up while smashing around corners, you’d better rewind well past the point where you’re wanting to take your photo, otherwise you’ll find the effects are happening in reverse and the photo will look like your vehicle is going in reverse.
The map in The Crew 2 acts quite similarly and actually lets you zoom all the way in to first person view, anywhere on the map. The rate the game can load different parts of the map is impressive and you can easily see what the weather is like in Chicago, zoom out, then zoom in on New Orleans to see what’s going on there. You can also follow other online racers by doing this, but unfortunately you can’t easily drop in on them. Fast traveling in The Crew 2 works by selecting an activity, and if there’s no unlocked activity nearby then you’re going to have to make a bit of a journey to get there. The easiest way around this is to push on with the career as that’s where you’ll unlock literally hundreds of new activities and, therefore, fast travel points.
There are a handful of XTREM races where the game will switch vehicles during the race, but the bulk of the game falls under working your way through four disciplines: Street racing, Pro racing, Offroad & Freestyle. Street racing also includes drifting, drag races and hyper car trips across the map. We accidentally embarked on the coast to coast race while testing out The Crew 2 with our Thrustmaster TX Ferrari 458 Italia Wheel, and figured why not do the whole race with it, but more on the wheel later. The story of The Crew 2 develops throughout the four disciplines as each one has its own rival that you must beat once you’ve completed enough events. The story and voice acting that goes along with it is all extremely cliche and at times annoying, but doesn’t take away from the actual content and the reason you’re playing the game.
Offroad racing offers you rally raid, rally cross and motocross. While the rally cross mode has joker laps it seems Ivory Tower doesn’t know what they’re actually for, as usually the joker lap was a shortcut and not necessary to take to win the race. The motocross was a bunch of fun though and the tracks that have been created for the career are very well thought out. Freestyle mode is where stunts become a priority and whether in a monster truck building points (yes, it’s included in the base game of The Crew 2!), jetting across the water and taking cheeky shortcuts over land in a jetsprint boat or proving you’re the best pilot in America with some vicious plane aerobatics, Freestyle mode will have you coming back for more. Reaching Ultimate (70% complete) in these two disciplines will also unlock the helicopter and hovercraft respectively, which are big game changers for the way you can tackle the open world.
Lastly, the Pro racing discipline is where you’ll fine tune your corners and plan your race with precision using the fastest vehicles on land, water and air. Arguably the hardest discipline, pro racing doesn’t leave much to chance. Touring cars like the Ferrari 488 GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and our pick the McLaren 12C GT3 will make you forget for a second that you’re playing a massive open-world game as you lock down inside one of the many race tracks available across the map. While the race tracks are based on real-world tracks, we found a lot of them were fairly sub-par, particularly Laguna Seca. The Crew has always been about Ivory Tower’s representation of the United States though, so we weren’t expecting 100% accuracy.
All four disciplines have headquarters that you can travel to and walk around in, seeing other players too. Here you can show off your outfit and meet people via the session chat. You can also view all vehicles for the different race categories, as well as check out and test drive the Ultimate vehicle for each discipline. There’s no more car yards and tuning shops – this is it in The Crew 2. It’s far more simplistic and we think it’s better. The other place you can walk around in is your home in Miami which you’re given at the start of the game. Unfortunately there’s only one home in the game. It does expand however, as you progress through your career you’ll unlock three other floors where you can display several of each vehicle type.
Apart from the races, you’ll also find skill and photo challenges. Skill challenges can vary from a water slalom to an aerial stunt chain to a huge drift to a speed target, while photo challenges are usually fairly simple such as taking a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, although some can be a bit more tricky and require a certain time of day and a particular vehicle. Completing these challenges will reward you with fans and bucks, so you’ll be wanting to tick as many of them off as you can while you progress through the career.
While bucks are used for exactly what you’d assume: purchasing vehicles; fans are important for leveling up your main character. As you work your way through the career you’ll eventually reach Icon level which is where the end-game leveling starts. A whole experience system unlocks with the use of Icon Points which are awarded every time you level up your Icon level. Don’t worry, you won’t be maxing out your Icon level any time soon – there are literally 10,000 levels to work through. Every 10 Icon Levels you’re awarded a random epic piece of loot, while when you reach the first few hundred Icon Levels you’ll unlock some of the fastest cars in the game. Ivory Tower has done very well here to keep gamers playing The Crew 2 much longer than its predecessor, and it will be interesting to see how other players level up as more content gets released over the next year.
Whenever you complete an event you’re given loot. What you receive varies greatly and slowly works towards making your vehicles faster and handle better. The loot now drops in the world and you usually have to drive a few meters forward to collect it, but don’t worry, if you miss any then you can retrieve it in a mailbox at a discipline HQ. Loot can also be rewarded for performing well in the open-world skill challenges, though drop rates are very low. There are also Live Rewards that appear randomly on the map. A radar helps you pinpoint the location which at first might seem a bit daunting but once you realise the Live Rewards usually stand out (or if you’re like us and just hit the skies) then you’ll be finding them quicker than you can say “more loot please”! Loot is used to boost your vehicle’s performance, and there are seven categories that vary depending on the vehicle type.
Traveling around the open world in The Crew 2 is a blast. With all the different types of vehicles, there’s a niche for everyone and it’s great to have an amazing variety. Never before have we experienced anything quite like smashing through the streets of Las Vegas only to jump into the waters of the (pretend) Bellagio Hotel in a boat, and then transitioning into a plane and leaving Vegas in style. There are some unforgettable moments that you can craft in The Crew 2, and if you live in America or have ever been there then they will be even more special.
Unfortunately, when it came to the actual competitive racing, we noticed a severe amount of catch-up to the point where races almost felt more like Mario Kart. You have to be super careful which, in a game where freedom is a prime objecting and taking risks is a given, the penalty for not being careful can be quite severe. There were several races where near 90% completion we’d hit an obstacle and end up coming last. Perhaps The Crew 3 could use a rewind feature popular in other racing games. There is also the issue of needing a constant connection to the Ubisoft servers. If you live in Australia then chances are you experience internet drop outs, and we were disappointed to be mid-race in a single-player event only to have the game completely exit back to the start screen. This was without a doubt the worst thing we came across in The Crew 2, and although it’s understandable that you need a connection for multiplayer and in the open world, it should not affect single-player races at all and just seems like either lazy or overly-protective coding. Speaking of lazy coding, the Nitro (NOS) coming out the back of your vehicle accelerates your vehicle even when reversing. Go figure.
Enough about the ugliness though, as where The Crew 2 shines is its vehicle. The vehicle models look sensational in this game and are paralleled only by current track-racing games such as Forza Motorsport 7 and Gran Turismo Sport. The future of open-world racing games is very promising if The Crew 2 is setting the standard for vehicle models. The environments on the other hand are a bit of a mixed bag. While the water looks sensational with rapid flowing rivers and bumpy ocean waters, other parts of the open world are left looking like the original game. The sandy desert biomes were quite disappointing, and the off-road snow physics left much to be desired.
The buildings in The Crew 2 look quite nice up close, but unfortunately the game suffers from a horrible draw distance issue. Given some vehicles can travel at close to 500KPH, one would hope draw distances were taken in to consideration, but unfortunately (we suppose due to maintaining framerates and load times) even when you’re just a few hundred meters away from a building, they would often look like a muddy mess. In one particular race we were traveling through a tunnel at 350KPH and thought the exit was ahead as we saw clear daylight, only for the next part of the tunnel section to load. This was very disappointing given we were playing on Windows PC and had all the settings on maximum. Hopefully Ubisoft and Ivory Tower release patches in the future that allow us to extend out the draw distances and put some pressure on our PC parts to make the game look how we feel it deserves to look.
While The Crew 2 is always online, we found it difficult to speak to other players that have been enjoying early access over the past few days. Most players were too busy working on their career mode to even notice us bouncing back and forth in front of them, and many would fast travel away before showing any signs of life. Hopefully as the game progresses we will see more of a community feel to it, as the title of the game (and several of the achievements) suggests that you should be playing it in a group. For now though, the experience we had in The Crew 2‘s early days was mostly single-player.
Lastly, we decided to plug in our Thrustmaster TX Ferrari 458 Italia Wheel and put The Crew 2 to the true racing sim test. The wheel settings in The Crew 2 are fantastic and allow full customisation to accommodate for however you want your wheel to handle. While the default settings were a little unresponsive for precision driving, it didn’t take long to have everything set up well and get on with racing. Fortunately the bulk of The Crew 2 is land vehicle based, so having a good wheel to cruise around with definitely pays itself off.
While The Crew 2 is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, it still has some fundamental issues that need to be sorted. Typically, Ubisoft and Ivory Tower will most likely work towards patching a lot of the issues mentioned throughout this review, and similar to our Ghost Recon Wildlands review we may end up eating our words in the coming months. We can only review what is put in front of us though, and after extensive testing of the beta across all platforms and then playing around with different controller types and settings on the full game on Windows PC, we are confident in our score of 3.5 stars. The Crew 2 is a solid package at launch that will keep you entertained for countless hours. While the main career can be completed in around 15-20 hours, the end-game Icon leveling system will keep hardcore fans going for a long time. Hopefully as the game gets its new content patches (proper hovercraft events are coming in September), we’ll see a lot of fixes applied and The Crew 2 can shine as one of the best open-world racing experiences available.
We reviewed The Crew 2 on Windows PC using an EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW GAMING graphics card and had no issues maintaining a steady 60 frames per second in 1080p with all settings on maximum.
- Shiny vehicles - A great new direction for the franchise - Huge amount of end-game leveling
- Ordinary draw distances and building textures - Basic story to the point of wondering why it’s there at all - Some lazy coding and day 1 bugs that will hopefully get patched soon.