Preview: The Crew 2

When The Crew was first announced by Ubisoft and it was revealed that its creator – Ivory Tower – comprised of many of the key members from Eden Games (makers of the criminally underrated Test Drive Unlimited games), we were genuinely excited. Fast-forward to 2014 and The Crew unfortunately fell for many of the trappings of modern-day open-world games, from its gang war plot to the quantity-over-quality approach to missions.

The good news is that The Crew is brought to us by Ubisoft, the publisher famous for underwhelming (somewhat) with Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs and then proceeding to blow our minds with Assassin’s Creed 2 and Watch Dogs 2. And that wonderful trend looks set to continue with The Crew 2, thanks in no small part to the some of the care-free essence of TDU finding its way in.

The change of approach is apparent right off the bat. The Crew 2 isn’t about climbing your way up the pecking order in some underground racing scene, or avenging a dead friend/relative. It is quite simply about racing, putting on a spectacle, and having lots of fun doing it. The game is broadly divided into four disciplines – or families, as they are referred to – and you can choose to focus on the one you like or quadruple-dip in all of them. The latter approach is recommended, at least early on, as some vehicle types and certain missions are unlocked once you explore each of them.

That brings us to the big new addition. If you like speed, The Crew 2 doesn’t restrict you to the road, or even to land. As you unlock all the families, you will gain access to not only two- and four-wheel vehicle types, but also – new to this game – boats and planes. The addition of speedboats and planes are welcome and racing or even free-roaming in them is surprisingly fun.

Outside of racing, you can also choose to free-roam around the game’s scaled down rendition of the continental US across land, water and air, thanks to a nifty mechanic that lets you seamlessly and at any point switch between the three vehicle types. Just a click and push of the right thumb stick an you can go from car to plane or plane to boat in the blink of an eye. Seeing it in action is a thing of beauty and it’s also one of those rare features in games that are so much fun that its easy to spend hours just fiddling around with it.

What it also does is open up many possibilities for crazy stunts and highlight-reel moments, from jumping off a ramp and taking to the skies, to switching from a plane to a boat hundreds of feet in the air and free-falling into a river below. With the large and varied landscape available here and the instant vehicle switching. But while this instant switching is a ton of fun, it remains to be seen how many of the game’s missions actually make use of the mechanic. Many of the missions we played involved a specific vehicle type and while there were also events that involved switching, there didn’t seem to be too many of them.

That being said, the events in The Crew 2 do feel far better in terms of overall quality. The previous game didn’t really have too many memorable missions, but here, most of them feel handcrafted and there’s a real sense of effort having been put in to take advantage of the location where the events take place and making each event feel different.

Those looking for an all-out arcade racer may be in for a surprise because the vehicle handling – across all types – does require a fair amount of caution. It falls somewhere between the forgiving controls of Forza Horizon 3 and the somewhat more stern driving model of Driveclub. You’ll need to put thought into how much speed you carry into turns when in a car, while boats are affected by the choppiness of the water and the speed at which you’re travelling. The only anomaly is the dirt bikes which feel oddly arcady and toy-like to an almost unrealistic degree. Overall, this is still firmly in arcade territory though and with the game’s returning customisation mechanics, you should be able to tweak vehicles to your liking.

The Crew 2 is shaping up to be the game we had hoped The Crew would have been. It removes the clutter, places racing at the centre of the experience, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. You still have a massive, varied and beautiful open world as your playground, only now with plenty of more toys to play around with. What could possibly go wrong?

The Crew 2 is set for release on 29 June, 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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