|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Ivory Tower|
|Release: June 29, 2018|
|Players: 1-7 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Lyrics|
by Lucas White
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?