The Crew 2 Review – PC

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I remember when the original Crew released a few years ago. The idea of hooking up with friends and racing around a compact version of the USA was intriguing and appealing yet somehow it never clicked. I started playing on the PS4 (this was before the Pro) and the unwieldy framerate made the game virtually unplayable. The PC version allowed me to muscle my way to 60fps but, nobody I knew was playing on the PC so the community racing element vanished leaving me with only a hackneyed attempt at a single-player story buried in what was clearly a multiplayer game.

Things are totally different with Ubisoft’s amazing new sequel, The Crew 2 created by Ivory Tower, and just about every issue I had with the first game has been addressed and so much more content has now been added. The Crew 2 returns us to a massive US map featuring all of America’s “greatest hits”; a compact version of the country where you can fly from NYC to DC in 2-3 minutes or race a super-car from Detroit to Miami Beach in less than 13 minutes. A lot of iconic locations are still missing – the game even calls out the fact that Alcatraz has vanished – but there are still enough landmarks to quell the sightseeing race fan in all of us. What other game allows you to race a Harley from Vegas to Yosemite complete with authentic scenery?

The game opens with a bang as you are thrust into the first episode of the Live Extrem Series; a high-energy reality racing show that encompasses multiple vehicle disciplines. In this first event you start in a car then switch to a speedboat, and finally a racing plane, all transitioned with Inception-style landscape folding upon itself. It’s a fantastic opening and really sets the tone for what’s to come. The flow of the game is clear and concise and based on a YouTube/Twitch culture. You race for Followers, which act as XP to increase your fame to eventual Icon status with several tiers along the way. Boosting your star status unlocks new race disciplines such as Drift and Drag Racing, Motocross, Powerboat, Rally Raid, Monster Trucks, Air Racing, and Gran Prix circuits.

With more than a dozen disciplines, each offering dozens of events and seemingly countless instant challenges, the map quickly becomes a cluttered mess of overlapping, multicolored icons, and thankfully there is a nice filtering system in place to thin the task list. Even so, it can be difficult to find a specific event, especially when some icons actually represent multiple races that you must first select and then scroll through. There are icons for the various Race HQ’s where you can shop for cars, check your cargo container mailbox for any missed loot, and check your standing on the leaderboard. Additionally, you have a Home icon where all of your vehicles are on display as well as a place to customize your driver wardrobe. Owners of the Gold Edition also get a second home on the West Coast.

The Crew 2 skipped the story this time, so basically you are just dropped into a map that continually fills with new events as new disciplines are opened up. Your only motivation is to rise through the ranks of stardom, amassing a huge stable of cars, planes, and boats, and slowly upgrading them to stay competitive as the stakes and the difficulty increase. Each event has a recommended Performance number, and it is best to have a car that meets if not exceeds that ranking.

There is a great deal of customization available, both in visual upgrades such as liveries, custom paint, and body mods, but things get really serious (and surprisingly simple) with the intuitive Performance upgrade system. There are numerous categories of upgrades based on land, water, and air types, and slots with available upgrades always flash, so you know you have something new. Parts are color-coded by rarity and the higher the number the better the performance. Installing a part will instantly tell you the pros and cons of that part with green and red stats and some parts have an Affix perk. Think of this as a buff that can boost your followers, nitro, grip, or even boost your scoring. These Affix buffs are indicated with tiny icons in the corner of the part that can be clicked on for more detailed information.

For those who enjoy collectibles there are dozens of photo ops scattered about the country. Some are location specific like parking your car at the top of the pyramid in Vegas and snapping a pic or getting a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, while others pop-up as the moment occurs, like snapping a pic of a nearby Condor or a Coyote. These photo ops will spontaneously pop-up as you explore the map, and you can add them to your to-do list. Some photo ops might require a different vehicle, and you can always switch to any of the land/water/air vehicles with a click of the right stick. Be careful…switching to a speedboat at 3,000ft might not end well.

One interesting element that plays into the Photo Album is the fact that the game is recording a 10-minute history of everything you do. This is represented by a dotted travel line on the map that you can go back and forth using the D-pad to find that epic moment in a race and snap a pic or just watch a replay from any of several camera angles. Speaking of cameras, the game offers several chase views as well as bumper, hood, and amazing cockpit cams with detailed instruments for all the vehicles, and the sensation of speed when using any of the non-chase cams in fantastic.

The Crew 2 really nailed it this time with its multiplayer integration. At any time you can go into the Roster menu and invite any online friends into your current crew. Being a part of a crew not only boosts your radar when trying to located loot box Treasures, it also means you don’t actually have to win an event to earn the rewards as long as somebody in your crew does. When not in an event everyone is simply free-driving around the map but once the crew leader picks an event and drives into the pre-race paddock, invites are sent out. Once they accept they are instantly brought into that same paddock and switched to the appropriate vehicle for that event. This is also the time to choose any other eligible vehicle in your garage if you don’t like the default.   If someone on your crew hasn’t unlocked that discipline they can still participate, but are given an entry level vehicle.

There are some fun little offline competitions you can engage your friends in like setting various speed, jump, and stunt records then challenging them to beat your score. You’ll be notified each time you start the game if someone has beaten your score and are offered the chance to reclaim the record. The map is littered with triangle lightning bolt signs indicating various Skill challenges. Simply passing through these symbols in the world in the appropriate vehicle will activate that challenge, and if you beat it you can earn race bucks and a spot on the leaderboard.

Speaking of race bucks, there is a dual currency system in place in The Crew 2. As you play the game you will earn Bucks (in-game currency) that can be used to purchase vehicles and visual upgrades for those vehicles and your driver wardrobe. There are also Crew Credits. I started with 10,000cc and “purchased” 30,000 more by redeeming 40 Uplay points, but after that if you want more you are going to have to spend real money to buy various sums of CC. While I typically despise in-app purchases, nothing you can buy will really affect actual gameplay. Outside of actual car purchases, it’s all cosmetic. When making any type of purchase you can select which type of currency to pay with.

The Crew 2 looks amazing, especially when it comes to the vehicle modeling. Naturally, when trying to fit the entire USA into a 30GB game certain sacrifices had to be made in both what to include and just how well to represent it. Flying over DC you will certainly see the major landmarks; the same with any other well-known city. It was curious that some famous locations were given generic names. The iconic NASA assembly building in Florida simply said SPACE on the logo. While the game played well at 4K resolution on my 1080ti card it often stumbled to reach 60fps, especially in flight with long draw distances. Lowering resolution to 1080p and cranking the detail to ultra offered an unwavering 60fps no matter the vehicles or the complexity of terrain. The game gets even more stunning during the day to night transitions complete with majestic sunsets and sunrises, and flying at night looking down on cities and winding highways is breathtaking. My only minor quibble is the sudden season change to winter that blankets the ENTIRE country in snow. Drag racing in two inches of slushy snow and ice in Miami Beach is a powerful argument for climate change.

The audio for the various cars, planes, and boats was awesome; especially the throaty roar of the monster trucks. There is some cool narration from the Live show MC, but that’s pretty much it. The soundtrack consists of the usual assortment of contemporary tunes, most of which I subjectively disliked, but the default music volume was already pretty low. There does seem to be a bit of intelligence to the music selection as it pertains to specific events. When I did one particularly long Harley Davidson road race the game did play some appropriate biker rock and roll. Considering the focus on multiplayer, I was disappointed there was no built-in chat system for the PC version of this game, forcing my crew to use Discord to communicate.

The Crew 2 is perfectly playable with a gamepad and the controls feel remarkably responsive. While there are slight variations in the way cars handled this game is purely arcade. It’s nearly impossible to wreck and doing so only incurs a brief reset penalty. The game can also be played with a racing wheel and/or joystick, but again, given the arcade nature of the gameplay, breaking out all the sim hardware for this game seems a bit pointless.

There is so much to do in The Crew 2, especially after you have unlocked all the disciplines and achieved maximum clutter on the map, and more content is on the way. From now until next May we are getting two new vehicles every month and there are three major content updates coming in September, then Winter and Spring, adding new disciplines like a hovercraft, legendary loot drops, a PvP racing mode, and lots of other features to keep this game fresh well into 2019.

Admittedly, The Crew 2 might not be the most realistic racing game out there, but I challenge you to find any other game that seamless blends cars, boats, and planes – sometimes even in the same race – and presents it all in a coast to coast map of the USA that will have you cancelling your summer vacation to stay home and explore America from the comfort of your PC. Simply put, there is something here for everyone and it’s all great fun alone and especially shared with friends.

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