The Crew 2 was one of my most anticipated titles this year since it was revealed not too long ago. Who wouldn’t want the chance to venture across a massive recreation of the US via air, sea, and land? Ubisoft has really stepped up with their open-world games recently, with Assassin’s Creed becoming bigger than you would imagine and Ghost Recon Wildlands turning out to be a massive success with its huge and well-populated map. Ivory Tower’s The Crew 2 has gone bigger and ‘better’ in order to improve on everything from the original game to give us a more enjoyable overall experience.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some major changes to The Crew 2 over the original this time around – we have a new goal, new features, new rivals and above all, new methods of transport. However, there are some things I really enjoyed about The Crew which have been questionably changed in this game to popularise certain aspects that gamers are currently into – something I’m not too fond of. So, jump in your car, boat, plane, monster truck, or on your bike and let’s take a look at The Crew 2…
The Crew 2 has gone away from the ‘illegal street racing’ and ‘cops and criminals’ style of gameplay which we saw in the original game, a concept which I thought was done quite well, yet seemed too much like the latest Need for Speed games. Instead, we are treated to something Milestone have been doing recently with their games, such as Monster Energy Supercross – it’s all about the fame! You begin with zero followers on ‘social media’ and your ultimate goal is to take part in various events, earn more fans, take part in big competitions and become number one – via your social media stats.
It’s a format that has been used quite a few times due to the popularity of social media over the years as it’s an easy concept to relate too as everyone wants to be famous, right? Just like with any real, or pretend, sporting event, we are treated to a rather cringy announcer who loves to shout and describe exactly what’s going on a lot of the time. I love being told that the only thing that matters is how many followers I have and that there is nothing better than being number one – I’m sure kids won’t try and gain influence from that or become warped by the game’s point of view…
That being said, I really did begin to like The Crew 2‘s setting after a while. The ‘Xtrem Series’ Championships (that’s the name of the ‘show’ you are performing for) are rather fun to participate in, seeing your virtual followers go up and never down, is nice and the multitude of different vehicles over all the various transport types leads to an interesting and varied experience. There is nothing quite like flying really high then instantly changing into a boat and falling to earth only to land right next to a confused online player.
Are you in control?
Let’s first take a look at the actual control of the vehicles within The Crew 2 as it is a massive improvement over the original game. Not to say the original was bad, but this time around you can really feel the weight of each vehicle and operating them feels so much more satisfying. As previously mentioned, there are a vast array of different vehicle types for the various different events in which you will become enrolled within and each type has its own control style. For example, the planes will gracefully fly through the air as you perform tricks and close calls with the ground, the drift-cars are built specifically to drift, offroad vehicles handle mud and water really well, boats zip through the water, and monster trucks love playing in Tony Hawk’s skating park.
The big difference here is that you actually start off with a good vehicle (the first land, sea and air ones are free) with decent ‘parts’. In the original game, you would have to unlock the better parts in order to pimp out your car and make it much better than the shell you are given. However, that leads to unexceptional boosts within The Crew 2. Sure, you have rewarded parts that you receive after an event (if you win) and you can find them around the world, but you’re looking at 1-3% increases in certain areas and no visual changes. However, that extra little boost in various aspects of your vehicle could be the difference between winning or losing.
One such example is boat racing. I’ve had such a hard time trying to win that race as I always come in 2nd or 3rd and you have come in 1st in order to win (which isn’t the case on every event type). I’ve just reloaded my game, swapped in a few parts I picked up yesterday and I managed to win the event by less than a second. So, just like Tesco has always taught us, “Every little helps”.
Forget the map!
One thing that both excited me and disappointed me is the overall map of the game. At any point, you can simply press the touchpad and zoom out to see the whole map of the US. From here, you can also see all the events which are currently unlocked and set yourself waymarkers. “So, what is the issue?” I hear you cry. The issue is that there is no sense of progression in terms of exploration and curiosity. You don’t have a hidden world in which you must drive around to find the events hidden away or the ability to find random shops or NPCs who will help kit out your vehicle. You can literally select any event on the map and either set a waypoint, change the difficulty of the event, see the leaderboard, or simply warp to and start the event. Have a guess at what the majority of people will do – they will just warp there. The map is basically pointless, as impressive as it is.
I also found the map to be pretty confusing at times. It displays all the events you have completed and that are new with the only difference being a coloured animation on the ones which haven’t yet been completed. So at a glance, it isn’t always easy to see exactly what to do next. However, if you press ‘Options’ on the controller, to get to the main menu, you have a tab for ‘activities. From here you can see every single event you can participate in, which ones are locked and how to unlock them, where you can gain new skills, and where the main championships are. If you select an item from this menu, then you are taken straight to either the race or the shop to buy the required vehicle. Thus eliminating the use of the overworld map and giving you instant access to everything within a menu.
Personally, I’m not a fan of open-world racing games. I feel since the NFS series introduced it, a lot of other games which should have stuck to focusing on the racing have gone down this route and spent longer on the overworld than the events themselves. Now, Ivory Towers have put a lot of love and care into both the events and the overworld in this case, but the menu has everything perfectly listed which basically takes the large, detailed open-world and throws it to one side as a mere distraction or something to drive around in if you fancy doing nothing. I love the menu – I like racing games that give us a menu, we select what we want to do and we instantly start that event. In my mind though, the map no longer serves any purpose.
As pretty as a picture.
Remember how I said they have changed a few things around that I wasn’t too keen on, which were clearly to popularise certain mechanics? I’m talking about the photo-mode. Lets cast our mind back to The Crew and NFS, in those you had ‘photo points’ which were places you would have to find manually and then press a button to get a photo op. Some were based on real locations and some just because they were interesting. The Crew 2 has instead opted for a ‘screenshot competition’ mode. As you’re driving around, you will sometimes get a pop-up that says “photo opportunity nearby” – one such pop-up was about ‘something pink’. So I pressed the button and I was tasked with finding a Pink bird – Great, I thought, something to find and a collectable! Oh, how I was wrong… You basically enter into the games photo-mode and find the bird, then proceed to take a picture of it to get some followers and money.
Why would you get a gamer to stop what they’re doing and effectively pause the fast-paced racing game and use the camera mode to float around looking for various objects to take a picture of? It’s an interesting idea, but not for a racing game. I’ve also seen requests to take a picture of a pyramid, park next to another player and take a picture, do a certain trick and take a picture etc… I’m sure some people will like this addition but I just felt like it wasn’t necessary and was basically put in for those who wish to drive around the open world manually as there is literally no side missions, cops, things to uncover, or even many things to see. However, all it does it make it take longer to get from point A to B and pushes people into using fast travel instead.
Another thing that annoys me about The Crew 2 is the AI difficulty levels. It could just be me, but it seems, even on normal, that the AI is set to always be faster than you, no matter what. If you make a mistake and accidentally hit a wall – you may as well give up as you’re never getting back in front – hit Triangle to retry or quit (this took me ages to figure out). Also, regardless of how fast you can go, if you look behind you, you will always have the AI right behind you as if they are set to have the same stats as you at all times. It does feel a little like an unfair advantage to the AI and the only way to ensure a clear victory is to own more expensive vehicles, this results in you opting to want to buy a new vehicle often…
Money doesn’t grow on trees in this game – you may earn 15-20k in most events and about 100k in the main events. However, a new vehicle may cost about 200-400k for a decent one and then a few more thousand if you wish to visually customise it in your HQ. For example, I need a ‘touring car’ before I can enter a new type of event I have unlocked but I only have 148k cash spare – the minimum price of a vehicle is 248k and the one it recommends is 480k. That’s going to take me a very, very long time before I can even think about entering those events. However, don’t worry! you can buy it using ‘Crew Bucks’ which you can conveniently buy using real money. Now, I’m not a fan of Microtransactions and I never buy them, but when they are used as the means to obtain a new item that lets you play more of the game without grinding, that’s kinda where I draw the line.
A similar issue, albeit not one behind a paywall, is the ‘famous’ meter. Events are unlocked as you hit a new level of fame, including new vehicle types and modes. However, you gain about 2-4k followers in most events and more via the big events, if you win. The criteria of how many followers you need to level up are quite high, high enough that I was also replaying events just to level up the fame meter. It’s like fame doesn’t increase naturally, you are forced to go out of your way in order to push it over the limit by replaying things you have already done a few times. Thankfully, these can’t be bought with real money or Crew Credits, but it still requires a lot of grinding. So, technically, as you’re grinding for these, you will also be earning cash which means you may not have to buy any MTs after all.
Have a KitKat
Okay, so after writing all of the above I decided to jump back into The Crew 2 and see how much I could unlock within 5 more hours of non-stop gameplay. I was pleasantly impressed if I’m being honest. I had earnt over a million credits, bought 3 high-end vehicles which leave the AI in the dust as I zoom past them, unlocked over 50 new events by gaining more fame, and I was even rewarded another 20k Crew Credits. This is all without spending a penny on the available microtransactions. So my fear of “you need to pay real money in order to get the best things” has been addressed and put to rest. Sure, if you want the best vehicles in every race type then it will require a lot of backtracking and replaying of certain events. However, it is possible to obtain everything by playing the game and interacting with various things such as the photo-ops more often.
Bump and grind…
One final thing which I wasn’t a fan of was the physics. Some things have been improved like the weight of your car – you no longer fly through the air if you hit a jump, your car will come crashing down with a loud ‘thump’ just like it would in real life. However, to keep the stress on the servers light, a lot of compromises have been made to the general environments. Fences, hotdog stands, bus shelters, really small trees, and other small items will still smash upon impact, offering little to no reduction in your speed all whilst looking cool as the objects fly around the screen. Even though, if you’re doing a lapped race then you’ll notice on the second lap that everything you destroyed has magically been re-built. However, things like small walls, trees, some bushes and other objects which you would think a car could smash through, will stop you dead in your tracks.
This is a pain in the arse during gameplay if you accidentally hit a tree as it effectively causes you to lose any leadership you may have had. If we had the option to rewind gameplay, like a lot of modern racers do, then I wouldn’t take issue as you could rewind and fix your mistake, but you can’t. If putting yourself back on track took less than a second then I would forgive it, but it doesn’t – you have to manually hold both L1 and R1 for about three seconds to be placed back on the track, which usually results in you being in last place and about 5-6 seconds behind the person in first. See the issue here? If you don’t drive perfectly then you’re bound to lose, unless you still have a large portion of the race left to try and regain your lead.
So many things to see and do!
Onto positives now, as I feel I’ve covered everything I didn’t like and that I had issues with, the variety of events is great. You have 14 different events, each with its own set of vehicles and gameplay styles: Street (street racing, drifting, drag racing, long-distance hypercar racing), Offroad (cross-country rally raid, motocross, loose-surface rallycross), Freestyle (plane aerobatics, jet sprint boating, monster trucking), and Pro (power boating, air racing, touring cars, and Grand Prix). Not to mention the Xtrem championships which are usually consisted of a few styles rolled into one race. That’s right, think Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, where you would be driving around and then suddenly change into a boat or a plane and carry on with the race – The Crew 2 is very similar.
These Xtrem events are made up of three event types which are all tied together – so you may start off in a 5-6 minute boat race, which ends with you performing a jump onto land which will instantly change you in to your chosen motorbike. Then, after another 5-6 minutes, you will perform another jump and fall back to earth as a super-car. Using this beast, you will proceed to finish the race and aim to claim victory. These races last a lot longer than the usual events and one slip up can cause you to replay the whole thing, but these are the events which I had the most fun within.
It’s not all about racing through – the flying events will task you with performing tricks for points and even the ‘racing’ flying event has you simply flying through checkpoints which grant you a reduction in your time if you fly through the gate in the requested position/orientation. As I stated above, the monster truck event is basically a stunt park where you must do jumps, loops, and various manoeuvres in order to collect point tokens and obtain over a set amount of points to win. The amount of variety on display here is very impressive and is sure to keep you entertained as it delivers something for everyone.
Speaking of everyone, Crews are back once again (as expected). You can form a party with up to three other players as you explore and participate in various events together. However, the interactions and avaliable options are pretty limited at the moment. Ubisoft has advised that a player-vs-player mode is coming in a free update in a few months, but as of right now – there isn’t an option to initiate random impromptu events against your friends. If you don’t fancy joining a crew, there can be up to eight players within the same game world at a time – so you’ll regularly see other players in their various vehicles whizzing past you, or purposely trying to bash into you over and over again.
So, one last thing before I wrap this review up – the game looks gorgeous on the PS4 Pro. As you can see from the screenshots above off my 1080p downsampled TV, the game is a massive improvement over the already impressive The Crew. All the vehicle models are well designed and are a joy to operate, the environments are perfectly detailed and very interesting (even though they are pointless in the open world now as I explained above), and the events are all well thought out and offer a wide variety in both the look and feel of the game. Equally as good is the audio with its realistic vehicle sounds, it’s great rock soundtrack and the overall ‘fun’ atmosphere the game provides. Despite its annoyances and bad design choices, the game is a tonne of fun to play.
The Crew 2 is a hard game to critique. It has so many things going for it, from the diversity in gameplay, the plethora of available vehicles, and the overall fun and excitement it creates. However, it’s matched with equally disappointing aspects such as the pointless free-roam mode, the annoying photo-mode challenges, the indestructible obstacles, and the annoyingly ‘perfect’ AI. It initially feels like the game is ‘pay to win’ as you are unable to afford the better vehicles for the events you are entering. This is until you dedicate a few hours to the game and begin to realise that after a while the game will progress at the level you are, thus opening up new events and offering more money in line with what you need. There are things I like more about the original game than the sequel, but regardless – The Crew 2 is a lot of fun to play and it’s a game you can easily sink many hours into, even if you wish to play the game as a crew of one.
The Crew 2£54.99
- - Gorgeous graphics
- -Lots of different events, each with it's own set of purchasable and upgradable vehicles
- - A lot of things such as the car physics and controls are improved over the original game
- - Lots of fun to play and very exciting at times
- - The overworld map, while pointless, is very impressive and allows for almost instantaneous teleportation
- - The AI never seems to mess up and is always perfect
- - The initial few hours feel like a grind as you race in sub-par vehicles as you can't afford the good ones
- - The overworld free-roam no longer requires you to unlock the teleport points, making it useless as the menu is more efficient to use
- - Simple objects can ruin a perfect run if you slightly bump into one, the 'return to map' process also wastes many seconds when it shouldn't
- - Photo-mode shouldn't be used for anything other than photos. It breaks the pace of the game