Ubisoft is one of the best developers around when it comes to creating a world, condensing a real place down and capturing its essence, whether it’s the raw nature of Bolivia or the teeming tech hub of San Francisco. The Crew 2 is its most expansive map yet, rendering the entirety of North America.
You are free to drive, fly, and sail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas before cruising and nitrous-boosting all the way to New York. These impromptu drives are the best thing about The Crew 2, but they are always accompanied by a nagging feeling that something is missing.
Only the major cities towards the edges of North America exist in this world – the middle of the map is full of empty roads, fields, mountains, hills, deserts, salt flats, and other procedurally generated terrain. This isn’t what I mean by emptiness, however. No. The Crew 2 is lacking the features it sorely needs.
You can drive around America with your pals, but you can’t carve out a route and race them along it in-game. To do that, you both need to set the exact same waypoint and stay in communication to see who gets there first. It feels like a big oversight in a game where the world is so impressively grand.
Likewise, you can only race against friends if you’re in a crew, and even then it’s against AI instead of other online players. You can never race against a stranger unless you get them to join your crew. It’s not only a missing feature, it’s confusing.
It’s a shame because The Crew 2 is one of the most feature-rich racing games I’ve ever played. You can take part in boat races, you can twist and dive through the air in a stunt plane, you can tear across a muddy track in motocross events, drift around the wide roads of LA in street races, gun around trick courses in a monster truck, you can spit mud at the crowd in rally cross, and loads more.
Any racing discipline you can think of is present and correct, and you never feel bored because of the sheer variety on offer. On the flip side, because there’s so much here, the quality of these events is inconsistent.
Motorbikes veer off at the slightest provocation and feel like you’re riding the slimmest bumper car ever made, and the physics of many of the vehicles just feels wrong, like you’re somehow detached from your surroundings.
Then there are races where you carve your own path through checkpoints, through the bayou, down hills, and cross-country – these feel great because of a real sense of speed. Street races are also good – at least when the game isn’t sending you up ramps and across rooftops, which is something that sounds fun on paper but doesn’t work with the weirdly stiff physics model.
The Crew 2 is at its best when you’re taking in the world and doing your own thing, but even here the game falters. Pull up the map, pop a waypoint down, and it won’t be long before the Twat Nav sends you off the road and towards your objective in a perfectly straight line.
Yes, you can transform into a plane, a car, a bike, or a boat at any time, but the waypoint navigation should take into account whatever vehicle you are in, instead of sending you to New York across a train track when you’re driving a muscle car.
Even the tone jumps all over the place. This is a game that lets you fly around in a plane, turn into a car mid-air, and slam down into the road without losing any momentum at all. This is a game where you drive up to loot boxes, collect shiny crates, and equip colour-coded parts to your vehicle – a caRPG, if you will. Listening to the serious, overexcited dudebros in the cutscenes, you wouldn’t know.
Everyone sounds like the guy you would kick out of a party because he turned off the music and started playing Wonderwall on his acoustic guitar. “Duuuuude, you found some loot. Let’s rock this mud!” Please die.
I found myself skipping the cutscenes just a few hours in because they were so unbearable, but there are some unskippable ones and the even the race commentators make you want to heabutt your television.
Here’s the thing, though – Ubisoft is the master at salvaging games. I’m putting it in writing: The Crew 2 will be an incredible racer in a year’s time. It’s just not there right now, and it’s a shame. It’s full of potential, packed with a dizzying amount of variety, and you can’t help but be impressed by the massive world you inhabit. Unfortunately, The Crew 2 is just too inconsistent to fully recommend.