Ivory Tower
Ubisoft
Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

The Crew 2

review by 
Alan Walsh
June 29, 2018
Ivory Tower
Ubisoft

The Crew 2

review by 
Alan Walsh
June 29, 2018

I don’t love The Crew 2. I wanted to – there was so much potential. Cars, boats and planes across a vast open-world USA with several motorsport disciplines. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, it’s the execution of this vision that lets down The Crew 2. There’s a lot of potential in Ubisoft’s follow-up to its 2014 open-world racer, and whilst there’s several improvements that make it a much more enjoyable game, some of the issues I had with the original also made it over to its sequel.

The Crew 2 is undoubtedly Ivory Tower’s biggest game yet, and I appreciate all the effort that’s gone into it. However, for all its content stuffed into a buffet made specifically for gear-heads, The Crew 2 feels a little too rough on the edges with none of these disciplines engrossing me as much as I originally hoped they would. Whether it’s the repetitive, dull campaign events, the uninspiring progression system or the cheesy social media aspects, The Crew 2 falls a little flat– and this is seen right at the outset.

Welcome to Motornation America

The introduction to The Crew 2 feels rushed and cheaply produced with a repetitive voiceover who says “duuuuude” far too often guiding you through the game. It often feels like he never shuts up. Just please, please be quiet for five minutes! This opening segment sees you racing the Porsche 911 GT3 RS on the streets of New York City before powerboating through its coastline and taking to the skies above Central Park. It’s fun the first time you do it but having played through this section quite a few times now, it gets old – fast. It’s a stark contrast to Forza Horizon 3’s introduction, which is always fun to revisit and replay over and over.

The Crew 2 introduces you to each of its main ways to play in the first handful of minutes.

Whilst Forza Horizon 3’s first hour does an excellent job at introducing you to its open-world Australia and headlining features, The Crew 2’s is the exact opposite. You’ll be introduced to the various disciplines with dull, boring cinematics featuring cheap-style graphics and a mundane art-style. The voiceover lines for these aren’t all that great either, and you’ll probably want to skip them if you decide to pick up the game. 

The number of disciplines, however, is impressive and they range from the likes of Street Racing, Touring Cars and Monster Trucks to Motocross, Rally Raid and the Alpha Grand Prix (F1) with Drift and Drag tossed into the mix for good measure. Beyond land, there’s Jet Sprint, Powerboat, Aerobatics and Air Race. Oh, and even Rallycross and Hypercars are well-represented here too, so there’s plenty of choice and certainly something for everyone.

All the motorsport disciplines available in The Crew 2. There's quite the selection.

The ‘Live Xtreme Series’ are the headlining events found in The Crew 2 – but only five of these are featured in the game. It’s a missed opportunity because they combine multiple vehicle disciplines into the one race event – almost like a triathlon. But these don’t last long at all, and whilst the instant transforming between cars, boats and planes almost feels surreal at times, the unnecessary social media backstory behind it all acts like the game is trying to force itself to fit into modern, youth society.

You gain followers from progressing through The Crew 2 by simply finishing events or completing activities in its open-world, and you’ll rise the ranks as you become a motorsport sensation. Your fame level is determined by how many followers you have, and its endless progression system allows you to go from Rookie to Icon. Once you reach Icon status, you’ll be able to rank from Icon 1 all the way to Icon 999, so at least it’s a continuous system. It’s just repetitive and doesn’t manage to keep me hooked.

Instead of a story-driven narrative, The Crew 2 focuses on motorsports and social media.

This dull progression system also didn’t leave me too excited to play through the game’s campaign missions either, but thankfully it doesn’t take too long to unlock new events and earn more followers, considering almost all activities in the game rewards you with additional fans. However, all the fame talk in The Crew 2 is a little too much for me. Added onto the terrible voice acting and the lacklustre writing, it does leave me wondering how much attention was spent focused on this area of the game. Many will likely prefer it over the revenge-inspired narrative-driven storyline of the original game, however, I personally found myself missing it in The Crew 2.

In fact, playing through the game’s campaign event structure didn’t excite me at all. It’s bland, dull and repetitive nature makes it feel lifeless. Events mostly feel the same, despite the plethora of different motorsport disciplines, but I couldn’t help but be bored once I managed to finish an event or two in each. Street Races and Off-road events quickly became my favourites. I’d enjoy the stunt plane events too if the game managed to track stunts accurately without me having to repeat a roll or backflip several times over.

Each of the different vehicle classes and disciplines have their own unique handling nuances.

Vehicles handle well for the most part – it’s your standard arcade fair, but it is a noticeable improvement over the original game. There’s still a floaty feel on some of the cars, and the jet-skis often feel impossible to navigate, but for the most part, it’s accessible to the mainstream and easy to adapt. Planes are also fun to fly and simple to control, whilst the drift cars are easy to slide but difficult to master. Ivory Tower clearly took notes on fan-feedback from the first game’s handling system and made it better across the board.

The circuit races are also a nice treat for GT racing enthusiasts, and I enjoyed their short-form endurance racing-style, but the fact all the race cars sound like Formula 1 machines but made high-pitched with a vacuum cleaner thrown into the mix left me almost wincing. Using nitrous on these cars is a nice addition, as is taking them out into the open-world, but I hate the rubber-banding from the AI across all races – and it’s especially noticeable in these circuit events. One mistake and your competitors will overtake you fast, especially if you’re almost done the race. There’s also no rewind option either, so if you mess up, you’ll have to restart the entire race. For the event to be marked as completed, you need to finish in at least the top three.

The Crew 2 doesn't just feature modern race cars, but also vintage classic race machines.

One of the events I really enjoyed in the game came in the form of a classic Mercedes Benz SLR throwback race against other vintage motorsport legends. This one was a fantastic surprise and the racing actually felt quite decent for once in The Crew 2. You certainly shouldn’t come into this game expecting close, fun and competitive racing, but this event overall was excellent. It also rewards you with the car upon completing it. I love seeing classic automotive heritage being well-represented in Ivory Tower’s latest racer.

Some of The Crew 2’s other events are also surprisingly fun – with the stunts found in the street races leading to somewhat enjoyable and addictive gameplay. The same applies to Drag Racing, which is quite well-represented in the game. There’s wheelie bars, initial burns to get your tires warmed up, easy shifting mechanics, and excellent visual ques that guide you through the experience. If this applied to all the other disciplines in the game, we’d be onto something with The Crew 2. Unfortunately, the manual shifting buttons can’t be manually assigned, which means you’re stuck changing gears with the bumpers. How this isn’t even an option in the game is beyond me.

Explore A Vast Open-World USA

Outside of the official events, The Crew 2 offers a vast, explorable open-world USA to drive, boat and fly through. Most of the country’s well-known cities and landmarks are represented. Whether it’s New York and Los Angeles, Seattle or San Francisco, or Detroit and Chicago. Flying from one city to another before transforming into a car and dropping down onto the street leads to fun, addictive gameplay scenarios, but it also gets old. The buildings and landmarks aren’t too detailed either, and the lower texture quality of some assets in the game are immediately noticeable when playing in 4K on the Xbox One X. Unfortunately, HDR support isn’t present either, which is a shame as it would work quite well with the game’s skyboxes, lighting conditions and its 4K Ultra HD support.

The Crew 2's USA can sometimes look incredible. Other times? Not so much.

Boating through rivers and sea water looks quite spectacular though – the water physics are surprisingly quite realistic and visually, it looks great. The skies are also another highlight here, which can often look stunning. They’re always changing based on the time-of-day progression or when adapting to various weather conditions – from sunshine and overcast skies to rainfall and snowstorms. Flying from city-to-city in The Crew 2 is another treat as the weather and skies change and adapt to each other, but the low render distance and visual pop-in can be off-putting.

However, the variety of different locations to discover is immense. Cities, forests, towns, deserts, mountains, sand dunes, famous landmarks, canyons, rocks, quays, race tracks, and so forth, the list goes on and on and on. I’m sure diehard fans of The Crew and open-world exploration games will feel right at home here – there’s what feels like an endless amount of locations to discover. Driving from city to city is really where The Crew 2 shines, and these road trips are incredible – especially if you bring your friends along for the ride. It’s where The Crew had most of its ambition, and it’s clearly retained in its sequel.

Going off-road and exploring with your friends is the real highlight of The Crew 2.

Whilst some areas in The Crew 2 feel polished and pristine to high-quality open-world standards, others feel like they received little to no attention at all. Take the game’s depiction of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It looks nothing like the real-world track. Nothing. The track sort of takes the outline to it, but the flow isn’t the same and the surrounding scenery is completely different. I understand The Crew 2 isn’t trying to be a racing simulator, but I wish the developer took a more authentic approach when trying to replicate real-life tracks and landmarks. The Niagara Falls is another location that simply doesn’t hold up to its real-world counterpart at all.

Considering The Crew 2 uses the same map from the original game, albeit updated significantly, there’s not a lot of nuances to it that feel fresh and different to me. I entered the game feeling like I knew all its locations already, and whilst that isn’t exactly a bad thing, one must wonder whether the sequel is worth its full price when you can already drive through and explore open-world America in the original game, which has been heavily discounted over the years and even made free on some occasions.

The Live Map feature is almost like Google Earth within a game, but instead for The Crew 2.

I will say this much though, the live map zoom-in feature, which allows you to instantly get up and close anywhere in the USA is one of the best I’ve seen in a game yet. This cool feature allows you to see where your friends are currently at, where other players in your sessions are located, and where all the events and different landmarks are positioned. It’s a feat that I highly-respect Ivory Tower for and I’m sure the process of making this feature work so flawlessly wasn’t easy to achieve. You’ll likely make use of this a lot too, so I’m glad it’s up to speed. It also makes fast-travelling and finding new events a breeze too, which keeps you in the swift of the action.

However, the way events are structured does mean you’ll probably end up relying on this feature a bit too often, which means you’ll potentially end up not being able to truly appreciate everything Ubisoft’s Ivory Tower team has put into its reincarnation of America. Sure, it’s always good to be able to swiftly go from race to race, but when road-tripping across this world and soaking in everything it has to offer, it can change your overall outlook on the game. It makes you realize just how vast The Crew 2’s rendition of America actually is – it’s both a technical and design feat to say the least.

Driving the opposite way on a one-way street in Manhattan is certain to not go well.

Plus, exploring means you’ll get to see all the smaller details, such as the wildlife in the open-world that can be fun to either chase to take pictures with. There’s also unique side exploration activities, including hidden treasures and photo opportunities. You’ll also find pedestrians walking around city blocks but be warned – they’re not highly-detailed at all, and the way they’re forced to dodge your vehicle as you get close to them looks as awkward as it is funny. The Crew 2’s USA is certainly a testament to Ubisoft’s open-world design, but I do wish there was more to do in it. More unique, over-the-top events that inspire me as a player to make use of the game’s incredible line-up of vehicles.

Race on Land, on Sea or in the Air

At launch, there’s more than 250 vehicles from over 50 manufacturers in The Crew 2 – all of which are spread across cars, boats and planes. From the latest supercars and GT3 race cars to dirt bikes, monster trucks, powerboats and stunt planes, there’s a lot of variety on offer. More vehicles will also be added via the Season Pass and in free post-launch content updates. 

The Crew 2 features an eclectic selection of automotive rides and vehicles.

The Crew 2 also allows you to test-drive any vehicle in the game at no cost, and once purchased, you can use them in events and customize them however you desire; whether it’s performance upgrades, body-parts or liveries. I love how The Crew 2 allows you to switch between your favourite car, boat or plane at the push of a button – it’s very reminiscent of the character-switching feature in Grand Theft Auto V, with the biggest difference being how instantaneous it is in Ubisoft’s ambitious racer.

Vehicles can be acquired using the in-game Bucks currency, with some being made available for free by completing events. There’s also Crew Credits, an alternative currency that be both earned in the game and purchased using real-life money. As expected from microtransactions, the prices here can be extraordinary, but based on my own experience, I haven’t felt the need to dive into my own pockets yet to unlock vehicles at a faster rate. It’s worth nothing, however I’ve been playing The Crew 2 using its more expensive and premium ‘Gold Edition’ via a review code provided by Ubisoft, which gives you an exclusive line-up of vehicles made available right away to the player at no additional in-game cost.

Manufacturers represented in The Crew 2 include everyone you’d expect, such as Aston Martin, Ford, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and many more. There’s obviously no Toyota, which is a shame, but that situation doesn’t show any signs of improving for racing games anytime soon. Regardless, the line-up of vehicles is so diverse and immense in The Crew 2 you most likely won’t miss them. The speedboats and aircraft are also officially licensed, as are all the off-road vehicles, GT3 race cars, and even the monster trucks. There’s also an official Formula 1 race car from Red Bull in the form of the RB13, and yes, powering through the open-world USA in this monster is incredible. Want to go off-roading in an F1 car? Go for it!

Fancy driving an F1 race car down the streets of Las Vegas? The Crew 2 makes it a reality.

As you unlock more events in the game, you will notice your map starts to become cluttered, especially considering all the different street, off-road, sea and air events there is to complete. Thankfully, they can all be located under the pause menu with details on your completion. You can even play through events on a harder difficulty where you opponents have upgraded vehicles that are faster and more competitive. This is a welcomed addition for hardcore players and those who want to continue playing The Crew 2 well after its initial release, but it doesn’t solve the issue of the overall racing itself being lacklustre.

Impressive In Some Areas, Dull In Others

As mentioned, The Crew 2 has some impressive visual landmarks whilst falling short in some other areas. The urban zones can often feel a little dull, whilst the render distance when flying isn’t anything too impressive. The dynamic resolution implementation on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro consoles does hold up well on a 4K TV, but the texture qualify often isn’t there. Pop-in can also be an issue, but there is undoubtedly a visual spectacle element to be had in The Crew 2.

Monster Truck race arenas let you battle for dominace in these incredible machines.

Some of the forestry, canyons and off-road trails are some of the most graphically-pleasing elements of this game, and to be honest, it’s these rural areas that are some of the most enjoyable in The Crew 2 overall. Driving a Ford Raptor through the canyons and sand dunes is surprisingly fun. The audio, for the most part, is up to scratch, though some of the engine sounds are questionable – especially on the GT3 race cars, but I will say that the engine pops across all cars tend to sound excellent.

Whilst The Crew 2 can be played alone with all events easily doable in solo play, the best way to experience Ubisoft’s open-world racer is with your friends online. Co-op play is seamless and inviting friends into your crew is almost effortless. It just works. Setting up events is also a breeze and having an extra person at hand can be helpful in races, but it certainly causes the AI rubber-banding to even more of an issue.

Disconnects can also be a problem, and due to the game’s constant online requirement, you’ll be booted out of the game – whether playing in solo or co-op – after five or so minutes of inactivity. This is a real issue when you want to take a quick break or make yourself a coffee. There’s no real reason for this game to require a constant connection considering all the events and modes can be enjoyed by yourself in solo play, and when you look at how Forza Horizon 4 is handling its seamless transitions between online and offline gameplay, it doesn’t bold too well for The Crew 2 in this department.

Feeling lonely? There's usually always other players located somewhere in your session.

The Crew 2 also has other issues too, some of which appeared in its predecessor and still haven’t been fixed. These include random black-screen freezes, unlimited loading scenarios, and even frequent game crashes. Added to the random framerate dips that can sometimes occur, The Crew 2 is clearly in need of some additional polish. Considering how much Ivory Tower updated, enhanced and improved the original game, I’m hopeful The Crew 2 will be far smoother in the months ahead from now. I also hope the post-launch support results in each of the different motorsport disciplines being fleshed out and complete – giving me a reason to frequently return to Ubisoft’s expansive open-world USA.

Personalization That Stands Out

Another aspect of The Crew 2 I like is the inclusion of houses. Located in Miami, Florida, your house allows you to display your vehicles and customize your avatar. There’s a variety of different clothing options available to choose from, as well as motorsport suits and helmets. You can also walk around your home and as you progress further into the game, different floors will be unlocked that can be accessed via an elevator where you can display several cars, boats and planes. The Icon House looks absolutely stunning and gives you a reason to keep playing – it’s a nice touch overall.

Your in-game house becomes revamped as you rise the ranks and become more famous.

Vehicles can also be customized from your home with performance upgrades of different rarity and benefits – earned as Destiny-style loot from race events. I quite like this upgrade system because it makes The Crew 2 feel like an online car MMO RPG-style game with individual upgrades available across each car class. It works well and there aren’t any loot boxes either – it’s all earned from progression. However, you cannot add custom kits to change your vehicle class like you could in the original game, which feels like a downgrade. You can only purchase vehicles for each specific discipline, and some classes, such as Drift and Drag, don’t offer the widest amount of choice either.

Additionally, widebody parts can also be applied and these include bumpers, hoods, mirrors, side-skirts, and spoilers. You can even customize the interior colour. These aspects can be modified on all street cars, whilst the pre-made and custom liveries truly make your vehicle appear unique. The Sticker Editor, which is used for creating paintjobs, is extremely like the one found in Forza, where painters can make liveries and decals to share with the entire online community.

The ability to display vehicles the way you want them gives Test Drive Unlimited 2 vibes.

The Crew 2’s focus on creators can also be seen in its excellent Photo Mode and Video Editor tools. Photographers can easily curate the scene with the right time-of-day and weather conditions for their shot, whilst the Video Editor allows you to edit and share clips from the last 10 minutes of gameplay. These features have a fair amount of depth to them, and The Crew 2 even allows you to connect your YouTube account to easily publish videos online. Despite how bland and unneeded the social media commentary can be, this feature is undoubtedly a nice touch.

The Verdict

The unique creator tools present in Ubisoft’s open-world racer are a reminder of that fact that The Crew 2 offers lot of possibilities, but none of the game’s different aspects or disciplines reach their highest potential. Whilst I had high hopes and positive impressions in my preview, the full game hasn’t captivated me the way I expected after spending several hours with it on Xbox One X.

It's certainly flawed, but The Crew 2 delivers a lot of motorsport goodness in its package.

The Crew 2 is undoubtedly a neat package for the automotive and open-world obsessed, but it’s certainly not flawless to any degree. Just an open-world full of opportunities, but I wouldn’t buy it for the racing if that’s what you’re looking for from this game. Especially since the PvP online racing component, which was included in the original game from launch, won’t be making it into The Crew 2 until December as a free update.

Overall, The Crew 2 is a step above its predecessor – delivering pure accessible fun that’s held back by niggling issues, but a racing game that feels like it focused on the quantity of content rather than its quality. A massive, fun and somewhat addictive open-world arcade racer with dynamic time-of-day and weather conditions, excellent content creation tools and an intriguing Destiny-style loot system for vehicle upgrades that’s unfortunately held back by a dull, repetitive campaign with weak progression and repeated events, a lack of attention-to-detail, missing options and online modes, and just overall mediocre racing.

6
Decent
The Crew 2 delivers an open-world USA like no other with a vast line-up of vehicles and motorsport-focused disciplines, but it’s held back by weak progression, missed opportunities and lacklustre racing.
Alan Walsh

Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.