In Crew 2, colliding head first with another car or clipping a building with a plane is no big deal. Vehicles barley take visible damage and after a quick reset the music keeps pumping and the race goes on. If it wasn’t obvious, Crew 2 doesn’t treat racing too seriously. Its arcade style gameplay doesn’t let realism get in the way of fun, making for a highly accessible racing game. However those looking for a convincing racing experience will likely find themselves tuning out of Crew 2. While the large open world and varied selection of events means there’s still fun to be had, the game’s non-committal approach to racing is not going to satisfy many.
Wisely dropping the goofy and woefully underwritten story of the first Crew, developer Ivory Tower let the racing do the talking in Crew 2. The objective of the game is to complete events across multiple disciplines on the land, air and sea to build up a follower base. These events are spread across four key disciplines: street racing, off-road, freestyle and pro-racing. As your follower count increases, so to does the amount of events available for you to take on. If you complete enough events you can challenge a rival to be named champion of the discipline.
It’s a simple enough progression system that makes Crew 2 easy to dive in and out of. This works in its favour as the game’s lighter approach to racing is clearly aimed towards a more casual audience. Most of the races are fun and easy to get a handle on, while still offering a fair amount of challenge particularly in the latter stages as tight winding tracks and elemental obstacles create some by the skin of your teeth victories.
However, the highly touted ‘Fast Fav’ feature that allows you to instantly change between vehicles is a game-changing ability reduced to an afterthought in Crew 2. Its use is limited to only a few events and in these instances the game auto-switches vehicles for you at predetermined points. The only time when you have control over the ability is in free roam but there’s no real reason to use it outside of races making it a mostly negligible feature. Besides, the ease in which switching from a plane to a vehicle can result in your car getting stuck in a building or part of the landscape only furthers the reasons not to use it. As interesting as the ‘Fast Fav’ ability sounds on the box, its implementation leaves much to be desired.
Furthermore, players who like customising what’s under the hood will be disappointed with Crew 2’s lack of customising options. Vehicle tuning is basic to the point of frustration. When you complete events, you unlock higher-level loot that increases the performance of your vehicle. The generic nature of the loot means that replacing vehicle parts means simply comparing the ratings of different items and picking the one that has a higher number. There’s no skill involved in tuning your vehicle and having to scroll through the menu screen to equip higher rated equipment after every event just feels like time wasting.
In terms of the game’s scope, the box art boasts the ability to race all across America’s major cities and landmarks, however what it doesn’t mention is that there’s little incentive to explore the map. Events can be selected from the menu screen, and you can automatically fast travel to the location of any race. While this proves timesaving, it also means that Crew 2’s giant map can remain largely untouched.
The size of the map also proves a strain on the game’s graphics. Urban environments look bland and building textures are rough at best. Yes you’ll recognise major landmarks such as the White House and Times Square but you’re more likely to pass them by with indifference rather than excitement. While racing, the backgrounds tend to meld into a blur of colour but slow down for a moment and their lack of detail becomes evident. The natural landscapes fare better with some rather pretty environmental effects but its quantity over quality in Crew 2’s giant, empty open-world.
Crew 2 also continues a strange trend of games requiring an always-online connection to play but offering very little justification as to why. You can buddy up with players and create crews to break records but the lack of PvP races at launch means Crew 2 is largely the same as a single player experience. There’s lots of content to take on, with normal and hard difficulty settings for each race, but you’re more likely to pass by another player and head off in your own direction rather than team up. Ivory Tower have already announced some long term plans to add PvP and some further features later on in the year, practically spelling out that Crew 2 is best picked up at a discount sometime down the line.