I’m reviewing The Crew 2 on Xbox One X and I’m starting off with something that may come as a surprise to some: I have not yet played Forza Horizon 3. This means I’m not in any way influenced by that similar racer and it will thus not impact my rating.
As usual I’m starting my review talking about the story, but I really wish there wouldn’t have been a need. While The Crew 2 tries to introduce something of a plot, it never amounts to anything more than “become the best”. The moments where the game forces you to watch these cutscenes are easily the worst parts of the game. Take the intro in this video as an example:
The story’s main focus is on beating the 4 champions representing each of the “families”:
- Tio Marquez (Street Racing family)
- Tucker Morgan (Off-road family)
- Clarence Bishop the Third (Pro Racing family)
- Sofia (Freestyle family)
To earn the right to challenge them, you have to beat 70% of the events in that category, which can take you quite some time (this is by no means a short game). While I like this set-up, most of the presentation just didn’t hold up. It’s like getting an awesome present, but it’s giftwrapped in old newspaper.
On rare occasions the banter mid-race did get pretty amusing but this was more of an exception than the rule. Sometimes you also get a graffiti/street art style presentation shown and these are the polar opposite of the story segments: they look great and unlike the character interactions, don’t make your finger gravitate towards the B button to skip.
Visuals & Audio
It’s been a long time that I’ve seen such a disperse in graphical quality as is the case in The Crew 2. Vehicles look great, there are some decent looking weather effects and there are even racetracks that looked especially appealing because of their night-time lighting effects.
It all seems to depend on your location on the map though: are you near an event or a race, then usually the environment will have gotten some extra polish and attention. Looking at this snowy backdrop with the water splashing up makes for a rather pretty pic. Take special notice of those mountains in the background for later.
If you’re freeroaming on the other hand you have a lot of texture pop-in. Buildings and terrain in the distance can lack a significant amount of detail. The mountains in this image look like they’ve been copy pasted from a few console generations back. (It’s especially offensive when you’re flying around in a plane)
The people at Ivory Tower had one idea I found rather interesting: incorporating the photomode into the gameplay. You can earn followers and credits by taking specific shots. There’s A LOT of customisation options present so you can even change the time of day and the weather, resulting in some interesting shots.
But now and then it’ll ask you to take some pictures of the wildlife… And let’s just say the creatures didn’t receive the same level of detail as any of the vehicles, often looking like cheap plastic toys.
What does deserve a heap of praise is the soundtrack: I can’t remember the last time I played a racing game and immediately felt inclined to purchase the songs I’d been hearing. The Crew 2 has a few extra long races and the music does help to take the edge off the prolonged concentration requirements. I daresay it even makes cruising through the american countryside without any real objective enjoyable!
While the meat of the game is obviously found in racing vs AI opponents (no online versus multiplayer available yet), The Crew 2 offers plenty of things to do across an impressively sized map. The entire USA is your playground and most of the landmarks are present, albeit on a smaller scale. The Sequoia National Forest, the Salt Flats, the Everglades and more: They’re all accounted for but you can drive across them in a few minutes. I think this is a good decision however: it avoids having even more repetition than is already present and you can travel from the New York to San Francisco in about 40 minutes.
That map has some of the fastest zooming I’ve ever seen in a game too. You can go from the screenshot above to street-level in just a few short seconds, anywhere on the map. You’re free to drive or fly to the next point of interest, but I found myself using the “Activities>Travel To” option from the menu most of the time.
It also served as a clear indicator of which races I’d already beaten, how far I’ve progressed in a certain event family and which ones would be feasible for the current level of my car (more on that later). You obviously get to race cars, bikes, planes and boats but there is plenty of variation to be had. Even the races themselves do a pretty decent job at this: Jumping off the Hoover damn or a skiramp, boatracing through the Las Vegas canals…
Here’s a list of other possible activities:
- Speedtraps -> pass a point on the road driving above a certain speed
- Escapes -> drive away as far as possible from an expanding zone
- Slalom -> pass markers left or right as indicated
- Stunts -> beat a certain score
- Acrobatics -> fly through hoops and angle your plane as indicated
- Drifting -> beat the set amount of points
- Dragraces -> beat the time, in a dragracer (requires accurate shifting)
- Freestyle Acrobatics -> follow instructions or perform freestyle trick combo’s in a plane
- + a few more
All of these events contribute to your overall progression: You gain a small percentage increase in the family of events, you’ll get additional followers (which unlocks new events) and earn money. The most addictive reward to collect however, are the upgrades. After beating a race you earn some loot which you can equip to increase your vehicle’s performance level (which is used to indicate if you’re ready to handle the opposition). The reward is random: you have regular green drops, uncommon blue drops or *Epic* pink ones of which the latter two come with a few minimal status boosts.
It can be pretty addictive to try and increase your car’s PERF level, but it only applies to one specific vehicle which demotivates you from trying out new cars in a category. If you feel like you’re doing bad, you can always just grind it out to uncrease your level as if you’re playing a racing RPG.
Another, less reliable way to get upgrades is to find the LIVE caches hidden around the world. The idea’s great, but locating them with the built-in compass is far more difficult than it should be. It indicates how close you are on the minimap, yet only works when moving and doesn’t really tell you in which direction to head. You’re better off doing some extra races to be honest (Time vs reward). Luckily you can’t buy any with real world money, so that avoids any backlash it may have gotten for being “gambling”
Speaking of the minimap, I’m afraid it’s time for some complaints: The Crew 2 has no racing line whatsoever. There is no indicator of where to go besides some traffic signs here and there (which are only present in races) but even with those you’ll still make countless wrong turns or end up on the wrong side of a guardrail, often costing you the race. It creates an unfun experience where you have to constantly look at the tiny map to see where you’re headed. There is no rewind function (only an option that puts you back on track, usually in last place). And EVERY race happens between checkpoints, so while you can take some shortcuts here and there, you can’t just boost to the finish in a straight line.
Keeping your eyes trained at the minimap like a maniac isn’t exactly the way to go either, as not spotting an obstacle in time is an easy road to Reset-Town. It’s rather difficult to determine which objects you can just plow through and which ones will stop you dead in your tracks. The game also has some of the worst rubber banding I’ve ever seen in a racer; keeping the 7 other cars at a close distance behind you like a hivemind at all times so a single slip-up will put you dead last.
When you’re in last place, the AI suddenly shifts down and spreads out so you can overtake them one by one. I’ve often found that being in first place for the majority of the race is no guarantee for success when some random park bench can suddenly “blue shell” you out of nowhere. I lost the 40 minute hypercar race to this combination of elements and I WON’T be attempting it again! The shorter races can also offer some challenge, but with the increadibly quick reloading of a race, I was never too bothered by those.
Something that puts The Crew 2 apart from any other racer out there, is its vehicle selection. I’ve mentioned many times before how you can also do events in planes and boats, but the XTREM events (and the boss-races) seemlessly transition between them midrace which makes for a pretty neat experience. The BIGGEST shame of all in the entire game though, is how ONLY the very first and very last event you play have that awesome Inception-like worldfolding effect from the trailer.
The technology is obviously there. It baffles me that they didn’t play this out more than they did as it could have been the ONE gimmick that lifted this game above other racers. It’s just such an awesome thing to behold and then they left me hungering for it.
The Crew 2 isn’t afraid to try some new stuff, but it should have spent a bit more time looking at established racers to avoid making obvious mistakes like having us eye the minimap too often. The random hitbox detection and unforgiving AI can also be a cause for frustration, especially in the longer races. It may be flawed, but there’s a ton of content and the base game is still fun to play , so I’m still recommending this to fans of the genre.