More than three years after the release of the first game, Ubisoft and Ivory Tower are back with The Crew 2, the motorsport racing game of the summer. The open world arcade car game from The Crew has become a full-fledged motorsport experience on an ever-impressive US map. In addition to cars and motorcycles, The Crew 2 now offers flying planes and boats on various playgrounds. You will have a goal, that of becoming the undisputed champion of the discipline, thanks to the four “families” that are Street Racing, Freestyle, Off-Road and Pro Racing.

So what is the summer AAA of Ubisoft? Nice game between friends or ultra-realistic simulation? Fasten your seatbelts, let’s see what The Crew 2 has in the engine! If you have not read our preview, know that The Crew 2 has only one motto: Freedom. As a player, you are free to experience The Crew 2 as you wish, whether alone or with friends, by touching all disciplines or specializing in a specific type of race and finally progressing at your own pace.

In the first The Crew you play as Alex Taylor, a predefined character that you follow his adventure. This time you get to create your own story, starting off by choosing your own avatar (from a predefined list). From there, you are in control of your progress by doing the levels you want in the order you want.

The aptly named “Events”, the races are divided into 14 disciplines, which are divided into the four major motorsport families: Street Racing, Pro Racing, Freestyle and Off-Road. In the first opus you could only participate in the Street and Pro Racing, this time, however, the Ivory Tower expands our horizons with many new activities called “disciplines” whether at sea, in the air or on land.

It’s all about family

All the races in The Crew 2 are built around the four different families. The first family is Street Racing. With no water or air vehicles, your goal is to become the king of the asphalt while racing through the centre of the largest US cities and the heart of urban traffic. The first discipline of the family is the Street Race, where you must learn to control your vehicle (car or motorcycle) and not to bet on speed unless your goal is to end up implanted in a wall.

The next discipline is Drift, with a bunch of specialized cars adapted for drifting you race against the clock to rack up the most points on specially adapted circuits. If you have the skill, it’s possible to drift the entire circuit if you are able to completely control your car. I could not. The third discipline is surely the one that stands out the most, Drag Race! No, not Rupauls reality TV series. You race other drivers in a straight line, shifting gears at the right moment to gain optimal speed. Note that this is the only “game mode” where you will be forced to switch gears (although it is possible to switch to manual transmission in the settings). Finally, the Hypercar races are long distance races where you have to connect two cities driving the fastest and most efficient cars possible.

The Pro Racing family demands perfect control of your vehicle, whether in the air, at sea or on pro circuits to be the first to cross the finish line. Your introduction into the family begins with Power Boat races, high-speed motor boat races where you have to go from gantry cranes to the finish line. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Touring Car races happen on closed circuits that only you and your opponents have access to. As for Hypercar races, you will drive supercars that are certainly very fast but much less manoeuvrable than street race cars so precision is required to make sure you don’t fly off the road.

The Air Race is probably the Pro Racing activity that stands out the most from the others. At the controls of very fast and little planes, you have to pass through gates in a precise angle so as not to lose the checkpoint and thus finish the circuit as quickly as possible. The last discipline is the only one to offer a pure sensation of speed: the Alpha Grand Prix, where you drive a formula 1.

The Freestyle family is the one that distances themselves the most from others. Here, it is not so much a question of passing any finish line, but of making the most figures and points possible. The first discipline is Aerobatics where you have to follow the imposed planes and mimic their moves to gain as many points as possible. After ruling the skies you have to prove yourself on the water with the Jet Sprint.

Similar to the Powerboat races, these are much lighter and faster boats that will not fail to make you lose control on a bend that was badly negotiated. It requires a little time to learn how to control the vehicles, but once mastered, it is one of the most fun discipline of the game, as we immerse ourselves in each race.

The last discipline, already implemented in the DLC of the first The Crew, is none other than the Monster Truck. Alternating between basic races and freestyle events where you have to collect points in big skate parks made for cars, you’ll have to manage the size and power of the vehicle so you do not overturn or miss jumps.

Last but not least, the Off Road category is a mix of freedom and technique. Auto or Moto, get behind the wheel (or handlebars) of the most powerful off-road vehicles to finish first in races where YOU decide where to go. It sounds a little exaggerated said like that, but it’s a bit like that. In Rally Raid, you must pass through checkpoints, but how you get to each one is up to you. A big rock in the middle? No problem, just go around it. Simply put, all roads lead to Rome.

Less is the case for the discipline Moto Cross, where you have to race on an off-road circuit dotted with bumps and stones of all kinds. It is important to pay attention to your landings as you can easily wipe out pretty quick. The final discipline is one of the most technical, the Rally Cross. Fans of Keith Cronin will be satisfied, this is rally racing as it should be, on a dirt and tar circuit delimited by time.

Even Pro Drivers Need Sleep

For more realism, the game has a day/night cycle as well as weather changes. On paper, it seems like a good thing, but it’s actually my pet peeve of The Crew 2. The weather itself is not so much a problem, the rain hardly changes tire grip and the snow creates beautiful scenery. The real problem is the night. Graphically, the game is realistic, and at night, as in real life, we see nothing, absolutely nothing. Without exaggerating, the night runs are for the most part unplayable as it is impossible to know where one is going.

For the Street Racing races, it still works because the cities are very bright and every street is lit, but in the forest, Off-Road or on the lakes by boat, it’s black. The checkpoints are bright, but it is impossible to see the different obstacles. This game was reviewed on the Xbox One X and the game does not offer any options to change the brightness of the game or any other graphics settings. In addition, there is no way in-game (to my knowledge) to wait out the night and skip straight to the morning.

Another weak point, the graphics. Again, the test was done on one of the Xbox One X. Apart from the vehicles that are well detailed (both outside and inside), the rest of the textures are well below the graphics that can be expected today on a AAA title. While Ubisoft is not a reference for photorealism, it is clear that the game falls short on this point. On the other hand, The Crew 2 is an arcade-oriented racing game and missing such textures does not change our gameplay experience very much.

The level design is nevertheless very neat, although very (too) permissive. The car races (whatever the terrain) are very clear and never give a feeling of déjà vu. On the other hand, on the races plus trials, it is very easy to pass through the cracks to make a much faster time and fewer jitters. In Moto Cross, for example, the bumps are obviously wasting time, but nothing requires you to stay on the main trail as you pass the next checkpoint (which itself is very permissive).

The gameplay is very well done. The controls are very simple and intuitive (similar to GTA). In addition, the controllers are fully customisable. The Crew 2 is an “easy to play, hard to master” type of game. The grip of relatively all vehicles is very simple as expected from an arcade racing simulation. Same for the menus and the very clear HUD which does not show anything superfluous.

Get the Crew back together

The game can be played from start to finish solo however the Crew experience is designed to be played coop. You can play in groups of up to four people to participate in all the events in the game except the LIVE races that are only playable solo. Playing in a group makes the game much more accessible, not to say easy. In general, a good part of the races require you to finish in the top 3 to “succeed” the event. But if you play in a group, just one of you will finish on the podium to win the whole crew.

The event will be completed as if you had done it solo. If the leader of the crew invites you to do a discipline that you have not unlocked (the Alpha Grand Prix for example) you can still play it, but if you get a victory you will not win anything. Furthermore, when you eventually unlocked the discipline, the event will not be “validated”. Aside from much more fun between friends, playing as a crew is much more interesting when you join races you generally would avoid or have trouble with alone. The solution is simply to be carried by a friend who is stronger than you in that discipline.

The online features of The Crew 2 do not stop at the co-op. A leaderboard is available for all races. You can watch the best times or world scores, and even view their trajectories via a ghost system . You can take any ghost from any leaderboard score, so you can beat yourself and become one of the best times. In Free Drive mode, you can meet other players who drive, browse or fly on the map, even without an Xbox LIVE or PS+ subscription. Moreover, you don’t need a multiplayer subscription to play solo but you must still be connected to the Internet to play.

Overall The Crew 2 is a fairly solid game, lacking only in graphical beauty but as this is an arcade racer it can be somewhat forgiven. The controls are easy to learn and very customisable for those who wish to switch it up. The races are far more in-depth than the original game and gives a lot more choice to gamers. Likewise, the addition to both air and water vehicles add a huge amount of extra content. The Crew 2 feels more like an arcade stunt racing game than a standard racing game. While there is plenty of traditional racing in the game to keep certain gamers happy, it broadens the experience for gamers to try that extra bit more. The game is pretty fun and I would recommend it, however, due to the poor graphical and nighttime experience I would wait for some sort of sale.

Formats: Xbox One (reviewed on X1X), PlayStation 4, PC
Price: £49.99/€59.99/$59.99
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ivory Tower
Release Date: 29/06/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 12