We feel like we’ve been had. The first The Crew game was incontrovertibly a driving game, offering up a scaled down version of the entire USA for street racing, offroading and multiplayer road trips. For The Crew 2, which is out now on Xbox, Playstation and PC, Ubisoft has snuck in other modes of transport, including boats, planes and even a rogue hovercraft. Congratulations to the sole hovercraft enthusiast who’s reading this; finally, someone listened.
Depending on your militancy towards four-wheeled transport, the addition of water and air vehicles either adds welcome variety to the game or cruelly forces you into performing an aerobatics routine or manhandling a jet boat when you’d rather be smoking tyres in a supercar. To be clear, if you want to progress and earn in-game cash in The Crew 2, you will at some point have to dip your toe in those other disciplines.
That variety’s necessary though, to make up for the areas where the game hasn’t changed at all. The map of the USA for the sequel is almost exactly the same as the first game. It’s still an impressive achievement and perfectly scaled to evoke the feeling of a road trip as you cruise between cities, but if you spent any significant time with the original, it’ll be as familiar as your morning commute. Particularly if your morning commute happens to also be between New York and Los Angeles.
That familiarity also means the structure of the game has had to change, too, and it feels a lot more like a conventional racer. Gone is the feeling of exploring and ‘opening up’ the map, even for newcomers to the series, and instead the career mode leaps around the country like an electrocuted flea. You’ll get to see all the major landmarks within the first couple of hours, sure, but The Crew 2rarely feels like it’s making the most of the huge game world at its disposal.
The benefit is that the events themselves feel far more handcrafted than before. Instead of just plotting out a race route from the available roads (or waterways), they’re each a memorable, uniquely designed challenge. Powersliding Kris Meeke’s 2017 Citroen C3 WRC around the Grand Canyon in the snow was a particular bucket list highlight, as was a 40-minute miniature Cannonball Run in a Ferrari 458 Speciale.
On paper, The Crew 2 is almost certainly a better game than its predecessor, but it’s definitely lost a little of the quirky, exploratory charm the first game had. We reckon the most fun you’ll have with this game is after you’ve finished the career mode, just striking out with a bunch of friends in multiplayer and just wasting virtual petrol. Just don’t be the guy who shows up in a hovercraft…