There have been a couple of Ubisoft franchises where the first entry shows promise only to end up receiving a mixed reception. A sequel is then released that addresses the shortcomings of its predecessor and is touted as the game the original should have been. Watch Dogs 2 is a recent example of this and 2014 saw an ambitious new IP in the form of an open world racing game called The Crew, which fell into this category. It was an enjoyable game, and as someone who normally doesn’t touch racing games, I had a blast with it when Calling All Units was released. Despite how fun some multiplayer matches could be and how cool the idea of having free reign of a virtual United States was, the overall experience felt tedious when playing without friends despite how many favorable elements it possessed.
This brings us to the upcoming sequel The Crew 2, which strives to do everything the original did right except bigger and better while addressing the weaknesses, like any good sequel should. The map of the United States has been completely rebuilt from the ground up and it’s possible to drive from Florida to Seattle if one desired to get away from where it is hot and rains all the time to where it is cold and rains all the time. The scale is about one tenth the size of the real country, so it will still take several hours in real time to make this trek. Thankfully fast travel is an included feature.
The biggest change that comes with the The Crew 2 is the increased variety of vehicles. No longer is the player limited to strictly wheel-based ground travel as the sky and sea are now open to explore in boat and airplane. What’s great about the travel variety is the player can choose their mode of transportation on a whim. A sea, land, and air vehicle can be selected as a favorite and the player can swap to these vehicles without pausing the action to deal with a menu. This opens up the freedom to do some truly boneheaded things, like switch from a boat to a car while in the middle of a lake, or switch to a car when flying a mile above a dense forest. The car wasn’t actually damaged in the landing, and I was able to drive away from the landing immediately, just like in real life. Switching from boat to car resulted in just teleporting to the nearest land area.
Based on the previous paragraph, it’s obvious the development team for The Crew 2 decided to forgo an ultra realistic driving simulator in favor of creating a fun game. The virtual United States has had some creative liberties taken with them, which largely included adding many naturally occurring ramps throughout the world. This can be used to pull off some ridiculous stunts for the sake of pulling off a ridiculous stunt, such as driving top speed off a ramp and then switching to a plane before hitting the ground, only to fly over a large body of water and become a boat that falls from the heavens into the gentle waters below.
Aimlessly driving around the country and taking death defying jumps can be fun, but structured challenges do provide more defined activities. The brief time with the build only presented a handful of different events, but it was just enough to show that there won’t be a shortage of stuff to do since we have the whole country at our disposal and I hadn’t left the New York area. There was an air challenge where the player has to fly a plane through some wings, which is made trickier by not only just having to fly through the wings but also have the wing alignment match the alignment shown on the rings. There were a few races I took part in. One was a drift race which was based on who can reach 1000 points first through demonstrating better skill of controlling and maintaining drift. The other races were more typical dashes to the finish line. One was an F-1 race inside a track and another was on an off road track. The third race was in a pick up truck, and this didn’t have a track at all, but was a race through the woods. There was a finish line, and with no defined track, the path to complete the race was up to the player.
The Crew 2 remains true to the spirit of its predecessor and the addition of aquatic and aviation vehicles vastly increases the variety of gameplay options, especially since the consequences of recklessly combing these three modes of travel in real life are nowhere to be found in the game. The races and other challenges seem similar to what was in its predecessor, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as The Crew was indeed good. With the new additions shown in the demo build today and Ubisoft’s track record of having a strong sophomore effort, it’s possible The Crew 2 could be the game that lives up to its predecessor’s potential.