Posted on 06 Jun 2018 by L Coulsen

The Crew 2

The Defence

Developer: Ivory Tower
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action, MMO, Racing
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

The Prosecution

CPU: Intel A10 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce
DirectX: 11
Controller: Partial
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: Unknown
FOV Slider: Unknown
FPS Lock: Unknown

The Crew 2, as the name suggests, is the sequel to 2014’s The Crew. It was a rather flawed, but ultimately extremely fun game which was vastly improved by its Wild Run expansion a year later. So hopes were high for the sequel to continue on that same path. Hopes, however, are such transient, fragile things. Destined to forever be confronted by the bitter pill of reality, crushing them and grinding them to dust beneath an uncaring boot heel. The Crew 2 is a bit wank is what I’m saying. In short, it’s more of the same. Which you would expect to be a good thing, if not for the fact it’s more of the same problems, without being supported by the best bits. Well, kind of.

Actually, in a lot of ways, this does improve over its predecessor. There are more vehicles, especially given the inclusion of boats and planes this time around. The upgrade system is…actually, let’s come back to that. There’s now a choice of player character, rather than the one bland, if awesomely bearded, protag from the first game. There are on-foot sections when you enter your home base to customise your vehicles. The world looks really damned good, especially the water. All of these things are good.

But then we have things like AI rubber banding. This was  a problem in the original game too, leading to situations where, no matter how well you were doing or how good your vehicle was, other racers were always close enough behind that a single mistake could send you spinning from a healthy lead all the way back to last place. Previously, it was a frustration that, for the most part, just meant you had something slightly more interesting to do as you crawled your way back up the ranks. But now, it pretty much means, unless you race a perfect race, you ain’t coming in first place. Something which is, admittedly, offset by the game’s lack of emphasis on placing first. But let’s put it bluntly, it’s bollocks.

This was not a good time to forget my bungie cord...

The focus of your driving is now on being KEWL. Your whole purpose being to earn followers on social media. I am absolutely serious. This means you can completely mess up an event, like, have the worst race in the history of existence, and still walk away with a huge boost to your popularity if you do pull of some SICK MOVES along the way. Okay, okay, the game doesn’t actually put it quite like that, but you can practically feel that mid-90s, Liefeld-esque syntax seeping directly into your subconscious every time someone opens their mouth.

It’s actually a pretty good idea, something that I do quite like. On paper, it makes things a lot more relaxed, allowing one to focus on just playing he game and having a good time. But the above mentioned bungie cord cars strips a lot of that away when they all go zooming past you because you decided to do a trick, like take a jump. It doesn’t really happen all that much, because jumps tend to be in shortcuts that the AI ignores, but it happens enough that it becomes an irritation, which is honestly worse than the game being brokenly unfair. If I’m driving a fulled decked out Maserati, there shouldn’t be an off the production line Hyundai crawling right up my arse every second of the race.

Anyhoo. Speaking of decking out your cars, the parts upgrade system is both more and less complex. Where the first game had different parts that would increase some specs and decrease others, this time a higher level part is objectively better. With some tiers of them offering different presets that will favour acceleration over handling, or top speed over boost for example. There are then also, actual tuning options accessed via sliders allowing you to tweak things still further. It’s far from the depth of games like Gran Turismo, but it’s nice to see all the same.

Pink. Lots of pink.

Sound design is perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the game. Most of the cars sound pretty much exactly the same, which is a pretty big deal even for someone like myself who doesn’t care at all about cars. But the most hilarious part of all, is that cars make an honest to peanuts, 1980s action film punch sound effect when you collide with trees. I’m telling you, it’s that full on “thum” sound you’d hear in every Arnie film ever made. It’s just so weird. Meanwhile, most of the incidental sounds, like the slicing of water when you’re in a boat, they sound amazing. Really sucking you in to the experience.

Actually, the way cars handle is a similarly mixed bag. Other vehicles are generally fine, but cars somehow feel both too heavy and way too floaty at the same time. This is likely because they’re going for a more arcadey, pick up and play style of game, but the balance just isn’t quite right yet. Well, kind of. With a controller it’s pretty much the same as the previous game, but mouse and keyboard is a lot less refined than its older brother. There’s also, for now at least, no way to control planes with the mouse, which is disappointing because you also can’t separately bind their turning controls from other vehicles. As in, A will make the plane rotate to the left, rather than actually swinging the nose in that direction. Meaning you either need to use different keys to dolly, or deal with constantly pushing you nose up and down to turn. Again, only a minor thing, but still an irritation.

The plot is a lot more open ended this time around, with each of the vehicle types having their own sub-stories focused around you making a name for yourself within those respective “Disciplines”. It lacks a lot of the gravitas of the very personal story we had last time, which isn’t such a terrible thing. But the problem is that it just takes itself so darn seriously. So much so that it goes right past Go, does not collect its $200 and descends straight into unintentional parody. Let me put this into perspective. The Crew 2 is a game where street races have you driving across and jumping from rooftop to rooftop, whilst trying to earnestly ask you to accept that this is a burgeoning sport fighting for legitimacy in a world comparable to our own.

Mister Potato Head, is that you?

And this isn’t like it’s some underground racing club, setting all of these events up in secret, then hoping that enough hits on YouTube will stop the police from arresting them. They actually have all the permits to do this…somehow, but aren’t taken seriously by the world at large. So they’re pushing social media to get them more exposure and break into the mainstream. You. Drive. Cars. On. FUCKING. Rooftops. LEGALLY! Just let that sink in.

Basically, just as with its big brother, The Crew 2 is at its best when you ignore the game itself, and just cruise around the country having fun with friends. Though it, of course, is not even close to being a one to one recreation of the real world United States, it’s an absolutely Hugh Mungus worldmap. With a lot of little nooks and crannies and poetic license taken that you can just enjoy the scenery and while away dozens of hours. And honestly, that’s all you really need. I think, genuinely, as much as I love my tightly crafted narratives, that Ubisoft should just fully embrace the MMO aspect and just give us a playground with basic tools and let us just go play.

Add in things like the jumps and time trials dotted around the place, with the ability to make our own, and just do that. Leave out the asinine attempts at a serious narrative and just let us drive around doing ridiculous things we could never do in the real world. Or, at the very least, take a page out of the Need for Speed playbook and make the story so ludicrously over the top that we don’t have that disconnect between trying to be serious, but silly at the same time. The open world driving is already fun to do, especially with friends, so just stick to that and things will probably be a whole lot better for it.

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