The Crew 2: Electric Boogaloo
Now that it’s a series, let’s talk about the core concept of The Crew , which perhaps is even more at the forefront with The Crew 2 . The elevator pitch is this: what if it is a racing game, but also open world sandbox? Also, literally, with a crew of your friends to get together on the reg and play around with? It sounds awesome on paper, as well as super ambitious, given the nature of open world projects. How can a game find an intersection between sandbox play and racing, which is much more focused and constructed by design? Should a game like this be more on the Forza end of serious, realistic physics or more like a Grand Theft Auto or Crazy Taxi where it doesn’t matter if you bump into things sometimes? Well, The Crew 2 doesn’t really try to find a balance, instead opting to just do both at the same time. It also tosses in boats and planes, to try and distract from the focal point, the shiny, red, street racing car front and center on the box.
The first problem with The Crew 2 is its motivating tools. This is the thing that pushes you to play beyond whether or not you enjoy the mechanics. Sure, driving across the United States, or rather a smashed-together, video game version of it, is pretty cool. But there’s only so much of that you can do without purpose. The Crew tried to go for a straight-up campaign mode, with a wacky story inspired by the likes of The Fast & The Furious . That didn’t go over well with the audience, so this time around Ubisoft tried something more streamlined. This time you pick a driver from a list, and you’re a racing hopeful. Then you pick a category, from street racing to a mix between land, air, and sea racing, and play various activities strewn across the map.
Each time you pick a new discipline for the first time, you’re treated to a cutscene in which a storied professional greets you, gives you a brief challenge, then a free starting car if you win. Then The Crew 2 opens up, and it’s up to you to more or less grind for the sake of grinding. There are interstitial cutscenes as you make your way up the various ladders, but they’re meant to be as brief and unobtrusive as possible. That’s fine, but they’re so generic and lifeless, it’s a mystery why they’re even there in the first place. As far as compelling the player forward, it is far from effective.
Speaking of grinding, that’s kinda the whole deal here. In order to progress, you have to build up your cars by winning loot boxes. To earn loot boxes, you have to win races. To win races, you need better, stronger cars, and to do that you need to win races. It’s a never-ending cycle, and buying a new car more or less starts you back at square run. All throughout The Crew 2 , you’re at the mercy of the loot boxes to make your cars better than useless. But you can only be so much better than useless, as you’re constantly at the mercy of both The Crew 2 ’s flawless AI and its confused physics.
This brings me to the second problem with The Crew 2 . Driving cars in competition isn’t fun! There’s no tutorial to speak of; the game just drops you in and expects you to figure it out. That’s fine, but it’s a real battle. Like I said earlier, The Crew 2 couldn’t decide if it was an arcade racer or a driving sim, and it tried to do both. So vehicles feel less like cars and more like giants slabs of metal with wheels that careen wildly across the map like the world is a giant pinball machine. All it takes is a single sharp turn or the right edge of an obstacle to ruin a race.
If you lose a moment’s ground to the competition, you may as well restart, because your chances of making a comeback are slim. So the early grind is a severely uphill battle as you learn how to tackle corners. (This includes barreling into barriers in order to maintain speed. Whoops!) This is on top of dealing with AI designed to handle every obstacle perfectly and the basic stats of your car you can’t improve without the random chance drops, which you need to get at least third place to earn. Sure, I could “git gud,” but it’s hard to do that if the game doesn’t give you anything to work with. Am I, as a prospective The Crew 2 player, supposed to just be able to jump in with extensive physics knowledge of cars, racing boats, and even aircraft?
It’s almost as if The Crew 2 knows it’s bizarrely difficult, as the key point of multiplayer seems to be giving players human cudgels with which to beat the AI into submission. You do this by inviting people to your “crew,” of course, at which point you can drive around the open world together (the actual fun part) or tackle the various races cooperatively. Since only one of you needs to hit a race’s win condition, you have a much higher chance of not getting screwed over because you didn’t take a sharp turn perfectly or you clipped the edge of a tree and came to an immediate stop. I mean, the game even has a “get back on track command” to get you out of impossible situations. The whole racing element seems like a bunch of wounds, and then a bunch of bandages applied in order to facilitate the barely compatible genre mashup.
So you’re grinding up your car collection with endless loot box spawning, and you’ve coasted around the open world with your buddies. What next? Well, there’s not much really. Live event races seem to rotate in The Crew 2 through, to give players unique challenges, but it’s just more racing against the dreaded AI. What about random people? When you boot up The Crew 2 , you go into a session with random players if you’re not playing with friends. You can invite the randoms to your crew or presumably get invited, but otherwise you may drive past one or two of them while you’re honking around or get in the mix on the leaderboards. There’s no option to say, just race people. There is no quick match option and no getting paired with random people automatically. You can’t even start a co-op activity and ask the game to set you up with people. It’s either have a crew or don’t, really.
I found myself struggling to “get” it, worried I was some degree of incompetent or something. But the more I thought about it, the more I feel like The Crew 2 doesn’t get itself, either. It wants so desperately to be an open world experience that can seamlessly become race-like events in a games as service-like multiplayer setting. But we just aren’t there yet, so the races exist in pocket universes where you and some friends can battle the computer or you can go it alone. Either way, you’re just grinding for the sake of it. Even the cool opening sequence, in which the world literally bends itself into a new state as you swap vehicles, doesn’t carry over to the game. You just press a button and morph to the other type, and perhaps fall with a big clunk from the air before driving off as if nothing happens. It’s like banging hot wheels together, if the rest of the cars in the box you aren’t playing with hate you. I was kinda hoping for a more mature Diddy Kong Racing with some more hardcore trappings. Instead, I got a headache from squinting ahead for turn arrows and playing with loot boxes.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
There’s too much going on for spectacular visuals, but they get the job done 3.0 Control
The boats and planes feel a bit better and are more easy to get used to. The cars feel like raging death machines instead of professional racing tools 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Car noises and licensed music. Weird, stilted voice acting 3.0 Play Value
There’s a lot to do, but a lot of it bleeds together and isn’t helped by the frustratingly perfect AI. Playing with friends should add some life, but only if you have a consistent group. Otherwise it’s down to how much grinding you can put up with 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best