How The Crew 2 Is Taking The Best Of Ubisoft And Making It Its Own

The Crew 2 is a Frankenstein’s Monster of Ubisoft gaming, and I don’t mean that as a criticism in any way. In fact, it’s the hodgepodge of various elements that have been brought together for this sequel that are perhaps the best thing about it, and it’s rather telling that within about 15 seconds of picking up the gamepad and having the new features explained to me that I was creasing up in laughter at the sheer audacious brilliance of it all.

In essence, The Crew 2 is a strange lovechild of The Crew and last year’s winter sports bonanza, Steep. Where the first The Crew had the ambition and scope to transplant a racing game into a scaled down open world approximation of the United States, so many things didn’t sit right with me, from the handling model to the overly serious story tacked onto it. So for the sequel, they’re embracing fun and boasting a huge amount of added variety, as we saw with Steep.

At the heart of this is the ability to switch between land, sea and air vehicles quite literally at any moment, so long as you have the space to do so, borrowing Steep’s mechanic of switching from skis to snowboard and hang glider. It doesn’t matter if you’re hurtling down a busy city road, bouncing on the waves as you head down a river, or gracefully arcing through the sky in a prop plane, you can seamlessly switch from one vehicle to another. You’re now in a car plummeting to the ground, you’re now fighting to gain altitude in a plane, you’re in a boat that’s just grinding along the road and losing whatever momentum you’d built up to that point. It’s that last example that had me laughing out loud.

Simply put, it’s brilliantly freeing as you explore the game, and the same is true of the rewind feature in The Crew 2, which has also been adopted from Steep. At any time you can pull up the map and have a visual representation of your path through the game over the last 10 minutes, letting you see all the shifts between vehicles, the changes in height, and letting you rewind back to anywhere along that path. That’s something that was most important in Steep for letting you return up the mountain and try a trick again, but is admittedly less crucial in this game, where you can generally just drive back a few moments to before the ramp you were trying to launch off and give it a second go.

The overarching world is actually the same between the two games, with the same shrunken down rendition of the United States of America that you can easily drive from coast to coast in a single sitting. However, Ivory Tower have reworked some of the cities, and this focus on different types of transport has meant that they’ve reworked the back end of the game to let you to fly around in the sky.

Dotted around the map are plenty of races and events to take part in, and just as before, you can reach a race and then invite your friends to join you for it. There’s a clever little gated waiting area before each of these as the game quickly switches you to the appropriate vehicle and your buddies load in before you get down to racing. This demo only focussed on land-based events, with a dirt bike race on a KTM 450 EXC, a standard road race in a Nissan GTR, some drifting in a Mazda RX7 – I’m still terrible at drifting in racing games – and even a track race with an intriguing open wheel prototype that Ubisoft came up with themselves, with some ludicrously fat tyres.

Perhaps my favourite thing about all of these is that crossing the finish line doesn’t pull you out of the game and drop you to a waiting screen as the other remaining competitors cross the line, but in fact lets you keep on driving. You can simply race off into the sunset, and get your race results and rewards when you’re a mile or two down the road. It’s all a part of the seamless game that The Crew 2 strives to be, and it really works.

The first The Crew was a strange game, as it married a racing game to a very stereotypical Ubisoft open world and an over po-faced story. It wasn’t a particularly happy marriage. The sequel, however, is a much better match and borrows some of the best and most fitting ideas that the company have created in recent years, while also showing how far Ubisoft have evolved their game design this generation.

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  1. I think you’ve just demonstrated one of the problems with big companies spending silly amounts of money on new things.

    They end up having to make a sequel for people who didn’t like the first game to try and make some money. I liked The Crew, but everything I’ve seen about it’s sequel has failed to convince me it needed a sequel, or that it’s going to be any good. Ubisoft did the same with Watchdogs, although I’ll get around to the sequel to that someday.

    But then if some people like a game and most don’t, it makes sense to target that bigger market in some ways.

    • A big part of the change in direction is from the community feedback and the positive reaction to the DLC expansions which added more off road racing, for one thing. The Crew 2 keeps adding more completely different things to do on top of that, but Ubi have said you really don’t have to engage with that if you don’t want to.

      So maybe it’ll be a jack of all trades, but the way that those trades are so seamlessly brought together is spot on.

  2. I enjoyed the first game probably more than I should have given its issues.

    The switching mechanism sounds totally bizarre quite frankly, hopefully there’s a demo because I’d love to try it but I’m not prepared to drop $60. Especially after Watch Dogs 2, should’ve easily been an open goal, instead throws self to ground, gets booked for diving and destroys cruciate ligaments in both knees.

    • Check out the video to see it in action. It’s legitimately great as one vehicle warps out and the other warps in. You just decide “I want to be a plane now”, and you’re away.

      • That actually looks extremely fun and has potential to be tactical though I’m not sure Ubisoft will take it that far.

  3. Have they improved the handling model though? 2 minutes with the demo last time told me DO NOT BUY.

    They should go buy a copy of burnout 2. That handling would suit this game.

    What’s the point of the vehicle switch mechanic? Wouldn’t you just fly everywhere?

    Looks pretty though. It’s there a story?

    • I felt like I got on fine with the handling this time, though the dirt bikes were too twitchy.

      You’ll have events for planes and boats as well as cars and bikes, and yeah, you can get to wherever you want however you want. Driving to an event isn’t exactly the most riveting of gameplay experiences, after all, so I’m not sure you’d really miss that.

      No idea about a story, but I wouldn’t expect the dour gang stuff from the first game.

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