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Preview

Early Impressions From The Crew 2

Racing in America.

The Crew 2 begins in spectacular fashion, merging from road race to boat race and air race with landscape morphing Inception style transitions. It’s an exhilarating opener and really gets your blood pumping, but then the game begins properly and it slams the breaks on. The next hour or so is spent unlocking the various disciplines, each of which is run by a Fast and Furious style ‘family’ and are tied together in a flimsy and implausible story in which you become a star racer in every vehicle in the United States.

You have the freedom to pick the events and races you want – you can even ignore an entire family, if you want – but the main goal to unlock new vehicles, classes and races is to gain followers through race wins, pulling stunts and, for some reason, taking pictures of the local wildlife. The idea of chasing ‘likes’ made me feel a little uneasy; just this morning I was reading an article written by a young person who said they felt worthless if their Instagram pictures weren’t getting enough likes and the game reinforces the idea that you need validation from unseen individuals just to be special.

But enough the questionable morality, what’s the game like? The main car racing is good with well designed courses through the cities and American landscape featuring plenty of jumps and shortcuts to learn. It’s arcade racing so you can bash into opponents and bounce off walls with little consequences, although the steering is a little heavy. The plane and boat races are less exciting as they lack the same manoeuvrability and you’ll mainly be trying to make a straight line for the next checkpoint, but it’s the motorbikes that feel the weirdest. They retain the same arcade sensibilities as the other vehicles, meaning you can slam at top speed in to a rock and you’ll just bounce off rather than fly over the handle bars, but the handling just doesn’t sit right and is far too twitchy in comparison.

Like all Ubisoft open world titles, there is an awful lot to do. Aside from the main races there are challenges such as Escape, where you have speed away as far as you can before an AI opponent catches up with you, or stunt challenges in the planes. You can find these by zooming in on the map or by pootling along in Freedrive anyway in the game’s version of America. Freedrive also lets you swap vehicle classes on a whim, which leads to immensely satisfying moment where you’re speeding through the streets of New York, seamlessly transforming into a plane in the middle of Times Square, flying betwen the skyscrapers and then transform into a boat and drop a hundred feet down into the Hudson river. Freedrive also lets you make up silly challenges for yourself, and as I type this my husband is trying to land a powerboat on top of the Empire State building.

However, with a game that has so much to do, the huge map can still feel weirdly empty. Large portions of the map are just big, empty spaces filled with rocks and trees, begging for an event or challenge to run through them. While you could argue that does accurately represent the U.S.A., it doesn’t make for a interesting game. Out in the country the graphics look good, but driving round the suburbs you appear to racing in child’s toy box; some houses are little more than a cube with a roof and they repeat regularly. There’s also some pop-up in the game. It’s not hugely distracting when racing on the ground, but when you’re in the skies shadows and objects flicker in noticeably. You can fly above a street at night time and watch the street lamps pop in one at a time.

The game is always online which is also causing a few problems for me. At the end of every big race it seems to be contacting servers and you have to sit and wait as diagonal bars slide across the screen. I have watched those bars for a couple of minutes in some cases, and given up on other occasions and reset the game. There’s also no options for graphic settings, and when night falls I can barely see the front of the car on my top end HDR 4K TV, let alone where you are meant to be racing, I hope they patch in an option to TWEAK the brightness very quickly.

There’s a plenty to do in The Crew 2, perhaps too much, it does feel unfocused and suffers from the usual Ubisoft open world game problem of your map having a billion icons over it. That said I am having a lot of fun jumping between the different event styles and picking things at random to try out. If you’re playing the game ‘properly’ and focusing on the main events you will eventually build enough likes (ugh) to enter the Live Extreme events. These long races automatically swap disciplines, similar to the game’s opening, so you may start in a power boat, then take to the skies, followed by a little off-roading. These are by far the best races in the game, but as they are so long if you screw up badly you have little chance catching up.

Despite the small niggles I’m enjoying the game so far, I hate playing by the rules, so if I can veer off the course and cut a huge off without any penalties, or side slam an opponent in wall and bounce off him to get round a corner faster, then I’m a happy boy. The option to skip the dreadful story makes me even happier. The tedious cut scenes and voice overs have the most annoying ‘bro’, and he can go take a running jump in to that nicely rendered Hudson river I mentioned earlier, as can the irritating grungey soundtrack.

We’re working toward a full review of the game later this week, but first impressions of The Crew 2 are generally pretty good, outside of a number of smaller problems that can hopefully be patched out. For me it’s not a game that I can mainline for several hours at a time, but it’s one that I will be dipping into for an hour of racing, or just to mess about and trying to lodge a powerboat in the top half of the fake Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.

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10 Comments
  1. MrYd
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    Good old Ubisoft. They seem to take a list of all the things people comment on, good, bad or both, and randomly make changes for better or worse to each thing. Seemingly trying to make a game which 1 single person somewhere will love. I’m not sure if that’s a better tactic than “change all the things the people who didn’t buy the last game didn’t like”.

    Based on the beta (which is presumably very similar to the full game)…

    First game looked quite nice at times. So make the sequel look worse.

    Too much to do! Let’s remove lots and leave big empty spaces. That don’t look as good.

    The story was too serious and simultaneously silly for a racing game. So let’s effectively do away with the story completely, and find the worst, most annoying voice actors we can to read some stuff.

    Cars handled badly. So let’s make them worse.

    What have they actually done that justifies it being a whole new game, rather than “planes and boats” DLC for the first? I guess they’re at least handling DLC in a decent, modern way with all the free stuff coming. Not like the first where they tried a “buy the DLC to continue using some features of the base game” trick.

    Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 09:37.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      I disagree with you on practically every point there. The car handling is improved over the first game, and they built TC2 after seeing how well the less serious expansion packs were for the first game. The more open “do what you want” structure is much better than the crummy plot of the first, even if the voice actor is annoying (but as TC said, you can skip it), and considering how they had to overhaul the engine and fill in all the parts of the map to enable planes and off roading, that’s a big enough step for it to be a full game and not an expansion.

      Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 10:25.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        Maybe they improved the handling since the beta? But it was definitely worse than the first game when I tried the beta. Or maybe I’m fine with the handling in the first game (and other games) and the handling is just different enough to confuse me into thinking it’s a bit rubbish.

        You don’t disagree that it looks significantly worse than the first game then? (Again, that could have improved since the beta) Particularly in cities where I was sometimes sat there wondering “maybe things are just being a bit slow to load, being a beta, and if I wait a few seconds, things will suddenly look nicer”

        And as for that switching between planes and cars nonsense. I was hoping you could be flying along and magically turn into a car which would fall from the sky, land, and let you zoom off into the distance/nearest tree. But no, it doesn’t work like that. Probably not surprising, really. But a car cannot fall from the sky and land as if nothing was wrong. Kind of works the other way, I guess. And a car turning into a boat is probably not going to end well in most situations.

        There was still something fun about picking a destination as far from where you are as possible and just driving there though. So maybe I’ll pick it up when it’s cheap.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 11:00.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        No, the beta you played will be near identical to the final game. If you didn’t like it, don’t bother with the full game. My experience comes from the last few months before launch where the focus would have been polish and bug fixing.

        I got on well with the car handling in this. At launch for the original, handling was just bad and sluggish, here it’s still weighty but more responsive – I believe they overhauled the original for the expansions.

        I didn’t say anything about visuals. I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison.

        And you can switch from plane to car or boat in midair and then plummet back to earth. I did that plenty of times at preview events, and TC said he did the same above. If they’ve added fall damage, that’s news to me.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 12:12.
      • camdaz
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        There’s no fall damage to vehicles except from visual scratches. Paint damage is the only damage there is.

        It’s very handy being able to change vehicle type on the fly. If you’re
        On the ground exploring or travelling to somewhere then come across some water you can change to a boat or plane which saves you trying to find a bridge. I wish they would add a fourth option to the quick change options so you could have a favourite on-road and off-road vehicle.

        I found the handling in both the closed and open beta just about identical to the final game, which is much better than the original game.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 13:24.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        Every time I tried turning a plane into a car in the beta, it went horribly wrong. Landed in places I shouldn’t be. Or water. Cars are not very waterproof. I know this from experience.

        And if the cars handle the same as in the beta, then that’s a bit disappointing. I found they handled worse than the first game. But that may just be because it’s different and I’m not used to it. I was crashing into walls and missing turns all the time. Pedestrians were not happy about it. Even less so once I realised they weren’t happy and spent 10 minutes tormenting them.

        That’s at least one thing that was fun then.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 14:56.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Well that’s the risk you run unless you switch closer to the ground or are a whizz at calculating your speed and trajectory from a ridiculous height.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 16:51.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        That’ll be it then. I should be able to calculate my speed and trajectory from a ridiculous height. I have a degree in physics. Should be simple.

        However, if you’ve ever seen a physicist try and play pool, you’ll know what’s likely to happen. Well known fact that physicists are terrible at pool, despite it being theoretically easier for them. Last time I saw a bunch of them try anything physical, everyone got drunk and someone ended up in a lake, but none of the sporty things happened how they should. Though there was that guy who could play the bongos.

        Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 17:00.
  2. camdaz
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    I’m enjoying the game and think the handling of the vehicles fine. The bikes are a bit twitchy but once you get used to them I find that the off-road ones are better than the cars for tasks where there are no set routes.

    The most annoying part of the game is when you put the console in rest mode then ‘wake’ it up you don’t start exactly where you left off (like every other game I’ve played) but start at one of the home bases. So make sure you finish what you are doing before leaving the game.

    Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 10:17.
  3. Dan Jones
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I really enjoyed the first game, there were some issues (handling took time to get used to), but the exploration, variety to the vehicles and events, scale of the map was pretty interesting. Looking forward to trying this one out with the added planes and boats!

    Comment posted on 02/07/2018 at 21:35.