Games Review: The Crew 2 (PS4, 2018) is a fun ride, but fails to transform the genre into anything new

The Crew 2 immediately presents itself as a different kind of racer, drawing on its arcade-like mechanics of the past, while infusing they with new mechanics encouraging transformation and an even bigger variety of vehicles to choose from, across the land, sea and sky. Seems like an improvement right? Well, not exactly. While The Crew 2 doesn’t do anything terribly, i fails to utilise it’s engaging mechanics into a consistent experience that leaves me feeling like while The Crew 2 has a ton to offer, it ultimately felt like a giant missed opportunity.

As previously mentioned, The Crew 2 adds a new set of vehicles to choose from in the form of boats and planes, while extending the range of road vehicles to motorbikes as well. While the story is admittedly thin, consisting of you choosing from a selection of pre-made cookie cutter characters as you take over the racing world across a condensed version of the U.S. But given the huge list and variety of vehicle types, I found that overall gameplay was king, and this alone drove me further (pun intended) than the story ever could.

The game play itself is fun in its own right, opting for a more arcade like style of racing, which admittedly fits the style The Crew 2 beautifully. Tie this together with the ‘Fast Fav’ system, allowing you to transform on the go, these mechanics immediately bonded together in a way that felt intuitive and downright fun at times. While police chases seen in the first game are strangely absent, I couldn’t help enjoying he feeling of tearing through the skies only to drop down into a nearby lake as a boat to hit a ramp and transform back into a car while keeping the same momentum. It honestly feels THAT cool. Once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t imagine playing any other way. You are encouraged to do things in style, which keeps you on your toes, as your moves gain followers, which can then gain you greater cash rewards in the long run for completing each race.

The Crew 2’s open world acts as a condensed version of North America, which admittedly pops thanks to some bright colour palettes and impressive lighting effects. However after spending a certain amount of time in the world of The Crew 2, I found myself running into dead end alleyways in where building connected in ways that made such little sense, you could swear you were being cut off on purpose. The bland shop fronts and billboards don’t help with characterising the world in such a way that makes it feel natural and lived. I understating this is a licensing issue in itself, but more could have been done as far as delving into the finer details which take you out of the experience from time to time. However, as a condensed version of North America, it can be noted that the open world does offer a variety of terrains and environments to suit various races, and while there’s no dynamic weather system here, blazing down a snowy mountain in a 4×4 one minute, only to tear up the sand in a dune buggy makes for some fun and varied races.

The Crew 2 offers up a variety of race types and vehicles to choose from, which keeps things exciting for the most part. However, it’s the lack of certain race types which I had the biggest problem with. Through all my time spent with The Crew 2, I could only find a handful of races which actually utilised the ‘Fast Fav’ mechanics in a single race, similar to GTA V’s transformation races. This seems like the biggest missed opportunity as far as pure mechanics go, as it’s one of the single things that sets The Crew 2 apart from the rest. While these races are present at least somewhat, deep and detailed customisation options are not. Presented to the players in the form of loot crates, which are mostly won after each race, players can access new parts for vehicles. While these parts are easily eqiupped, it may be a little to easy. Simply clicking on newly acquired parts as they are magically administered to your vehicle seems shallow to the point where customisation becomes a numbers game in which certain parts are of a higher rating, which you would naturally want to add to your vehicle. I understand that this simplified upgrading system works in such a way which keeps in tone with the arcade racing tone of The Crew 2, but while there exist similar games such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted that utilise upgrades in such a detailed way all while keeping the lighthearted fun the mechanics then imply.

Multiplayer on the other hand, or the lack thereof is a real issue in The Crew 2. For a game that is always online, I found myself playing a single-player game. Even in the menus, the game tries its hardest to direct you to single player events and races, in which cooperative play seems like an afterthought. Sure, it’s there, but the fact that I barely came across any other racers in the open world failed to remind me that I was actually playing a multiplayer game. And while co-op is available, competitive play is not. Well at least not for the moment. Ubisoft developers Ivory Tower have stated that PvP servers will be coming in December, this seems like an awfully long wait, and I honestly worry that this game might not be so relevant by then, which is a shame.

Overall, The Crew 2 does what it does totally fine, and even outdoes itself at certain points. However, what it does well, it simply doesn’t do enough of, as the lack of original ideas cause it to sink into the ever expanding genre of racing titles, in which identity is a must. The Crew 2 has plenty of it, but due to a bland city, repetitive races and lack of PvP servers at launch, I find it hard to truly love this game as much as I wanted to. Thanks to the solid game play mechanics I enjoyed my time with it, but I’m just not sure how original it felt in order to keep me coming back for the long run. I guess we’ll see in December.

Score: 7.0 out of 10
Highlights: Solid gameplay mechanics, Fast Fav transorming system is awesome.
Lowlights: Bland open world and upgrading system, lack of PvP multiplayer at launch.
Developer: Ivory Tower
Publisher: Ubisoft
Available: Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC

Review conducted on PlayStation 4 with retail code provided by the publisher.