It’s not that long ago I was reviewing the fantastic Onrush, but away from the power-ups, there’s still plenty of arcade action across America, especially now we’ve got The Crew 2 spanning from New york to San Francisco in car, plane and boat.
The first Crew title didn’t quite get the following it deserved, it covered a vast area, but barely pushed the user to utilise it and much of the landscape was left sparse and lacking in an authentic feel,
The Crew 2 increases the play space and puts an awful lot of land between its major cities, many area’s are well populated and detailed, whether it’s raining, damp or your cruising in across the waves in a boat the water effects are graphically pleasing time and time again and while there’s the occasional lack of authenticity especially in built up areas, I was more frequently impressed by the diverse range of locations I’d come across.
With a wide variety of cars, off-road vehicles, planes and boats which you can switch between quickly and fluently, you’re offered the choice to drive for half an hour through the often wilderness mid-setting, but it’s generally much easier to skip through the menu’s and jump straight to the next event.
You’d imagine a game that features all the way from the East to the West coast of America would have a wide selection of endurance races lined up, but fans of the long haul will be disappointed to know you’ll be looking if any race takes you more than 10 minutes in your first few hours with only one coming to mind after a few evenings play. Personally I like to keep them short and sweet, but I imagine others will be disappointed at the lack of endurance racing.
So if the Crew 2 isn’t doing a fantastic job of portraying the journey across America, why am I mentioning it in the same breath as Onrush. The simple answer is, because it’s still a really fun game, Controls fall in line with pretty much every other racer you might have had your hands on recently and handling of the cars is loose enough to look and feel exciting without being overly authentic, some vehicles are responsive and twitchy, others more sturdy but tougher to get round the hairpin bend at speed.
There’s a wide range of vehicles, all with tons of upgrade options both for performance and visuals and there’s some fantastic transforming races that switch between boat, plane and road but like the games play space, this works for both good and bad points.
Firstly the range of decal creation options is immense and a little effort will go a long way, It’s been a while since I enjoyed customizing cars like I did in Midnight Club 3 : Dub Edition, and while it’s a way off that level of customisation, there’s still plenty to change, without the complexity of titles like Forza. Sadly the layered menu’s don’t work well for performance upgrades, you’ll spend far too much time jumping back and forth just to select an upgrade that’s a few points higher with negligible effect and it’s a shame there’s no standard “Auto-upgrade” feature to allow us a quick path to get the best out of our vehicles.
Back to the transforming races and there’s just not enough of them, it’s great for exploring but I never felt myself forced to explore and instead kept jumping from one race to the next. The action on four wheels was my favorite, Planes work well but the controls sometimes felt a little awkward when quickly bank-turning to hit a checkpoint, and while the boats are generally great fun to use, they seem a little unpredictable when hitting the trailing wake of another boat. Sometimes you’ll float through the wake without as much of a judder, but others it’ll throw you off course at the worst possible time, build up enough boost and keep hitting the various jumps and you’ll soon catch up again, thanks to some pretty decent rubber banding that keeps events interesting without being too predictable or unfair. Another stumbling block is a tree, or maybe a fence as you’ll often encounter quite a flimsy looking obstacle that will stop your vehicle dead, while you’ll plough through or bounce off others, It’s not game-breaking, but it’s just another little annoyance which stops the game from really meeting its own high expectations.
Thinking back to titles like the aforementioned Midnight club and countless Need for Speed titles, It’s somewhat of a surprise to see there’s no police chases in The Crew 2 either, and all of the action seems to rest primarily inside the actual events, there’s a giant online open-world, and I’m sure fans of Test Drive unlimited will find enough to warrant their exquisite nature, but I just struggled to really embrace the outside world.
This doesn’t stop The Crew 2 from enforcing an always on, online system. Even if you choose to avoid other players, and “play alone” you’ll still need an online connection and relevent subscription. Sadly this seems a pretty bad move as TC2 doesn’t even manage a PVP system, instead there’s only online co-operative play, which is great for me, but many people want to race others and we’re told you’ll have to wait till Decemeber to do so.
The original managed online vs races from launch, and for The Crew 2 to force a 5 month wait on users, it all makes things feel a little rushed and those who don’t play online a lot (or buy Xbox Live subscription) will probably choose to wait for potential success and PVP racing before jumping into the Crew 2.
Thankfully there’s still plenty of reasons to pick up The Crew 2, especially if you have a few friends you want to team up with, the racing is fast, fun and thrilling, customizing the aesthetics of your car and joining a few friends on your journey through the events is worth its weight in gold and everything looks incredibly good across the board.
Sure there are areas where a little more work could have gone a long way, the improved story and presentation still doesn’t feel authentic enough to really get invested into, and while there’s certainly been some areas borrowed from titles like Test Drive Unlimited, I still found myself thinking about TDU or Forza Horizon as a better alternative. The Crew 2 is a very good, fun racing experience, but it’s holding itself back with a few minor annoyances.