The Crew 2 was released on 29 June 2018, and I have been having so much fun playing it, I put off doing this review until I had fully appreciated the game.
And fully appreciate it I have! What a fantastic game that almost lives up to my expectations. But… before we get into that…
If you are subscribed to our AIR Entertainment Youtube Channel, you would have seen this video uploaded some time back. If not, here is a recap of some of the initial gameplay compilation I put together… just for you.
So let’s start with my favourite section as a writer: The Story. The story in the Crew 1 was fantastic. You were Alex Taylor, whose brother is killed and you set off on a racing mission of revenge. It was an epic story that took you across the lands of the United States of America.
In the Crew 2… there is no story. Or not a linear one in the sense that drives you to some determined goal. You are simply a racer, come to the USA to prove you are the best of the crop. And that’s about it.
Which does not mean the game is bad. On the contrary, it is utterly amazing. The lack of a story gives you the freedom to tear some asphalt / sand / water / skies as you wish. And your main goal is to rack up as many virtual social media followers as possible. Even when you are at one of the Headquarters, there is a leaderboard based on number of followers.
And how do you gain followers? Well, there is a plethora of activities to do. Not only the main ‘missions’ but also some side activities. Even doing a barrel roll or loop during an air race will get you some more followers as they get excited by your stunts.
Which brings me to the core of the game: the Disciplines. Let me begin by saying that there are technically 4 classes of vehicles. You have your standard land motor vehicles, such as your cars, monster trucks and formula racing cars. Then the other 3 classes can be summarised in short as motor bikes, boats and planes.
But that abridgment will not do this game review justice. Since it isn’t that simple. There are the main four Disciplines, each with their own single Headquarters: Street, Offroad, Freestyle and Pro Racing.
Now I could leave it there and make you wonder what the fuss is all about. But I won’t. It goes even further than that, which is where the excitement comes in. In each Discipline there are further styles to unlock. As you rise from Anonymous to Popular to Famous to Star to Icon, you unlock each tier in each Discipline, making more types of vehicles available for you to buy with your hard-earned funds.
In Street, you return to the normal modes we have become so accustomed to over the years since Need for Speed: Underground. There is your standard public-scare street racing, your drifting mode, drag racing and finally hypercar which speaks for itself. In Offroad, you can Rally Raid, which is just a nice way of saying get in your suped-up LDV or scrambler bike and race over mountains and hills to your destination. Motocross are dirt bikes in a circuit, and Rally Cross are dirt cars in a circuit.
And now we get to the two new exciting disciplines. In Freestyle, you have Aerobatics where you take your Aero plane and do some tricks in the skies. Jet Sprint puts you in a small motor boat and usually sends you racing against time down some rivers. Monster Truck brings some fun back into racing, where you ride up massive skateboard ramps to collect coins that are mysteriously dangling in the air. Finally, in Pro Racing, Powerboat gives you a lovely race run on the ocean and massive water spaces, sometimes between large shipping containers or off waterfalls. Touring Car brings back my love for touring car race tracks, for which I am ever grateful. Air Race puts you back in a plane, but this time to actually race against others in the sky. Finally, the final of the final, Grand Prix, which is my favourite real-life sport of all time. You actually get in a Grand Prix vehicle or kart and race around a track.
Did you think that was it? Hell, I did. But no. Even without a story, there is still some form of a goal besides followers. As you rise in each rank from Anonymous to Icon, you unlock Live Xtreme events. And each time you complete one of these events, which I call the main missions, you unlock further discipline races to help you rise more in the ranks. Live Xtreme events are like triathlon events. You can start in a street race, ramp over a board into the lake to do a powerboat race, and then fall off a waterfall before transforming into a plane for an air race.
And still it isn’t done. Two more activities make The Crew 2 exciting. The Crew 1 did bring some interesting side activities, but this sequel blows this out of the water, so to speak. Each vehicle class has their own activities on the map. Cars can race away from a growing red circle to see how far you can get before it captures you. Boats and bikes have slalom events. Planes have aerobatic events. And so forth and so on.
And all while other real players are racing their own races around, under or above you!!
The final exciting addition is the Photo Mode. A bit like Assassin’s Creed Origins (also published by Ubisoft), you can now pause your screen and take a wonderful photo of your vehicle and your landscape. Except they have made it more fun. Sometimes while riding / sailing / flying, a message will appear on your screen to tell you that there is a photo opportunity nearby. It will also tell you what it is, like ‘Flight of the Condor’ or ‘The Golden Gate Bridge’, with small definition of what you need to do with that image. This will light up in green when your photo has the required items and tasks within them.
All in all… a game without a linear story has caused me to write the longest review about a game’s story. There is just so much to do, so much freedom and so many activities. I find myself playing for hours, just enjoying the fun of it and not caring that there is no real story. This game is simply pure racing joy.
I want to say the gameplay makes it so easy you can jump into any vehicle and just race, but that would be slightly misleading. Being so used to street racing, I had to get used to how bikes, boats and planes feel in this setting. And also there are many areas I remain frustrated with, that I think that is where we should begin.
Drifting is not as fun as I would like. Need for Speed and Juiced always did drifting right for me, but in the Crew 2, I have to work extra hard to get that car’s ass to swing. It took me about 9 tries before I passed the first drift race. And that is way more than I am proud to announce. On the flip side, once you get used to the drifting mechanics, you start racking up awesome scores, so it is just a case of becoming used to the game’s mechanics. Yet, it deserved a few choice swear words from me.
Braking and drifting into fast speed corners in street racing is also a major issue for me. It seems, whether I use the emergency brake or normal pedal, I just cannot get these fast cars to turn in. The AI don’t have this problem, who appear to easily swerve in at massive speed while I go hurtling into the closest building. This also took practice and some losses until I realised that simply taking your foot off the pedal and sliding against a wall is the better option. Basically, I’ve more frustrated that the AI can get away with moves that the game mechanics won’t allow me to replicate.
Which brings me to the NOS booster. My eternal foe in almost every racing game in the last few years. I miss how pressing the booster actually does something. And not just makes the AI car look like it is goes faster with you, even though they are not boosting. Yet let them boost, and they go flying past you. I can’t remember the last racing game where the booster actually sent me flying past the AI (I think it was the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted), where it actually feels like the function is worth using.
The Crew 2 feels like it has this same issue, even when you car’s performance parts are fully upgraded. The booster is only useful to regain your speed after crashing and you need to pull away quickly. For passing an annoying AI that you can’t overtake like the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies make you feel should happen… yeah, forget it.
And the above are about the only issues I have with gameplay. Everything else is splendid, and once you get used to the new vehicles you feel like a master of the skies and waters. There is one new mechanic that I really do love. The new use of the speedometer area. Not only do you see your speed now, but with planes and boats there is something else. For boats, there is a half moon around the dial. If you hold down on your left analog stick, you can push your powerboat into full power, thus bringing up a full moon. Push forward and you slow your boat right down for a quick hairpin turn around a rock.
Planes are slightly more complicated. The half moon bar actually shows your attitude. For those of you who do not know flight jargon (I wanted to be a pilot one day, but my chronic asthma killed that dream), an attitude indicator shows you how aligned you are to a virtual horizon. Simply, are you straight or not. This comes in handy when doing aero tricks like Knife Flight, Loops and Barrel Rolls.
The mechanics do not have enough faults to put me off playing it at all. The issues mentioned before simply make the game frustrating for someone like me who has to become used to them, and does not detract from how great the game really is.
I’m in love. These graphics are utterly superb. And the areas you can ride or fly through are really limitless. There is beauty everywhere, from the sprawling concrete streets, to the lavish green jungles to the vast gorgeous skies. Sometimes you just want to stay and take everything in.
Having said that… everything looks great at high speed. The one new feature that makes this game great is also its graphical downfall for observant okes (South African slang for guys) like me. When in Photo mode, you are able to capture all that wonderful beauty, like the eagle with the sunlight in my gameplay video. But then you look at the coyote in the same video… and there be something wrong with that creature. The fur looks pasted on and the movement is somewhat unrealistic. Yes these are the finer details that can be ignored, but still noticeable if you want to be anal about it.
Let’s move onto sound and music. You might are well have a Monster drink next to you while playing (please don’t, they will kill you). The music is adrenaline fueled at times, giving you that mental rush to urge you onto the win. Other times, they compliment flying through the sky at a nice calm rhythmic beat. The music playlist is definitely designed to get you into the mood for racing. And they did a spectacular job at it.
Even though this game is near perfect and worth every Rand spend on it, it loses 0.5 points for the clear frustration in some of the mechanics and the lack of a linear story that made The Crew 1 so superb. Granted, the lack of the story makes the freedom of Crew 2 more enjoyable and a story might actually have ruined the game we now enjoy (in hindsight after an initial disappointment), but I would like to see the return of some sort of story in the Crew 3.
Nevertheless, one cannot escape that every element of this game is enjoyable and will leave you hungry for more. They have put Crew 2 in such a large open scale, one wonders what on earth they could do to make Crew 3 even more spectacular. I predict we will only see a sequel in the next generation consoles. Until then, the Crew 2 is a fantastic racing game to keep us busy and is the best racing game available right now. And this comes from an ardent Need for Speed fan.
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