The Crew 2 on PlayStation 4
Ivory Tower’s The Crew in 2014 had a ton of ambition in bringing a virtual rendition of the United States to the open world racing genre. Despite all this ambition, things weren’t quite executed with the same vigor, and ultimately its multiplayer component felt underbaked, and the whole thing lacked the level of polish players may have expected. While I’d love to say things are different in The Crew 2, they’re simply not, and it can be put down to one thing – it’s suffering from an identity crisis.
The Crew 2 doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. On the surface, its enormous open world and variety of vehicles almost make it seem like the perfect MMO racing game. Yet, when you actually dive into what’s here, you’re left with a mishmash of features that feel like they’re added in just to tick a box, rather than helping the series realize its ambitious vision. It’s something I wanted to bring up now, as many of my gripes feel like they could just be resolved if The Crew 2 focused on being great in either offline or online gameplay, not both.
In terms of story, things are pretty barebones in The Crew 2. You’re pretty much a nobody, and so you’ll need to prove yourself within each of these families by completing races and taking on your Rival in each to be the greatest racer ever. You’ll also take part in Live series events that combine the three vehicle types: car, aircraft, and boats as part of your rise to fame, which we’ll talk a little more about later.
There are four different families of racing, each with a number of varieties within. Street Racing includes the likes of Drift, Drag, and normal races on the streets, whereas Freestyle includes Monster Trucks, Aerobatics, and the Jetsprint. Off-Road and Pro Racing make up the rest of the families, and each of these do help to keep the gameplay fresh. But this is where things start going wrong.
Racing was rarely ever fun in The Crew 2. Its AI suffers from serious rubber-banding, to the point that you can be miles behind, only to catch up with them in a couple of minutes, only for them to be right up your ass regardless of how perfect you drive up top. Sure, you’ll still win races due to the fact they slow back down for you, but there’s nothing satisfying about it.
I was either frustrated due to how impossibly fast the AI was going (in no world can an Abarth 500 trounce an Aston Martin Vanquish), or bored because my car was upgraded so far over the recommended level that there was no competition. There didn’t seem to be any in-between for the difficulty of events, and while they all have hard options, The Crew 2 would have benefited greatly from a wider array of difficulty settings to tweak and fine tune your experience. Combine this with handling (particularly in cars) that just feels a little too spongy, and some questionable track design and you’ll find yourself spinning off track time and time again as the AI all take the corners with expert precision. That being said, there is some variation in how different cars and vehicles control, but it’s certainly not on the level of the Forza series by any means.
It was after my first error during a race in The Crew 2 that I noticed the lack of a feature which emphasizes all of these issues. With rubber-banding, cheap AI, and spongey handling, I’d have at least expected some instance of a ‘rewind time’ mechanic a la Forza would have alleviated a ton of my frustrations when playing through The Crew 2’s races against the AI. A means of leveling the playing field so to speak. There is no rewind feature, though, and so 35 minutes into a cross-country hypercar event from New York to LA when an AI driver shunted into the back of me at 180mph and sent me veering off the road, I aborted the race and never looked back. The rewind feature would have made completing some of The Crew 2’s trickier and longer challenges far less of a frustrating grind. Why it’s not in the game, I’m unsure, but when Forza Horizon is offering both single and multiplayer racing at a high standard, and is still able to implement this feature, I question why it wasn’t enabled in just single-player challenges.
The Crew 2’s biggest problems come from these questionable design choices. Its environments and character models still look a little dated. Granted Ivory Tower’s map is enormous, but it feels empty. I never felt the urge to go and explore in between races, and when I did, I quickly found myself just opening up my map for the next event, and using the fast travel option to skip there immediately within seconds. It’s a convenient feature, yes, but another which plays into this notion that The Crew 2 doesn’t know what it wants to be. Why even have this enormous world if a fast travel option to every challenge is available from the get-go and is the first option in the list? Surely you’d want to give players a reason to slowly uncover and explore more of the United States, almost like its predecessor did, albeit in a horribly corny story. But it had players covering a ton of ground as they continued on their adventure regardless. I soon slid into a habit of simply fast traveling to an event, completing it and rinse repeating.
This is particularly disappointing considering The Crew 2’s new additions of air and sea vehicles to the roster. I’d have liked to have seen missions or challenges that specifically required you to switch between vehicles in order to make it to the next family headquarters. Instead, the only time The Crew 2 plays into its headline new features are in Live Series events, and there’s only six of them including the tutorial.
In that sense, The Crew 2 is best being seen as an enormous sandbox that you and your friends are best off creating your own fun in. Co-op challenges and races are all well and good, but outside of doing the same ones you’ve already likely done solo, there’s no PvP multiplayer other than laying down a waypoint and telling your crew that the last one there’s a rotten egg. There are the skill challenges, too, such as slaloms, speed traps, radius escape games, and more to complete dotted around the map that’ll earn you bucks to buy new vehicles with, followers to raise your Fame level from a nobody to an Icon, and loot to upgrade your car.
The upgrade system in The Crew 2 is largely the same from the first game. You’ll earn a new engine or brakes with a numbered rating and a rarity color. The higher each of these are, the better your car will perform when that part is equipped. AFFIX parts grant additional perks and bonuses when equipped, but may not offer the best performance. This adds a trade-off element into how you upgrade and tune your car. Plus, for serious motorheads, there is a Pro Settings option which gives you a ton of sliders for adjusting things like Traction Control, ABS, ESP, and brake power.
Arguably my biggest gripe with The Crew 2, however, came from a number of performance issues and bugs that severely hindered my experience. The skill challenges in my game glitched out entirely and would never appear after I completed just a handful. If I drove to a spot on a map where a challenge icon was, the challenge start simply did not appear. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the game, turning my system off and on, rebooting the game, all to no avail. I can only assume I’m part of an incredibly small percentage of players who will suffer from this, but this did eliminate a chunk of the gameplay, and even made progressing and upgrading my vehicles to compete in the later events near impossible without simply redoing races I’d already completed. Add in the fact that I had vehicles and parts of the environment pop-in literally seconds before I crashed into them in some instances, and some severely long load times and The Crew 2 just feels like it lacks the polish it really needs to compete with the Forza Horizon series for the open-world racing crown.
The Crew 2 still isn’t fully delivering the ambitious open-world racer that Ivory Tower nor Ubisoft wants the series to become, and I can’t help but feel it’s because it’s trying to accommodate both the single-player and multiplayer camps. Its single-player content, while fun, lacks any real impact due to its literally non-existent story, and its the absence of any PvP feels like a massive missed opportunity. If you’re willing to accept The Crew 2 for the buggy, unsure of itself game that it is, there is some fun to be had, but its lagging far behind the competition at this point.
Score: 3/5 – Fair
For more information on how we review games, check out Twinfinite’s review policy here.