NOStradamus: The bright future of The Crew 2

Adam Mathew 19 June 2018 NEWS

Boosting beyond expectations or off track already?

Before you get revved up over the prospect of The Crew 2, an MMO "car-PG", let's pump the brakes a little here. In 2014 The Crew leapt from the starting grid with vigour but stalled not too far down the road. That'll happen when your ride is riddled with technical issues, a dated graphics engine and car handling as wonky as your main narrative. The Crew 2 sure had a lot of things to tune in the interim. In my opinion, the pit-stop time has been well spent.

I recently had the pleasure of bombing around for a number of hours in The Crew 2 at the local Red Bull HQ in Australia. The flashy venue was a means to set my tonal expectations early it seems, for whereas The Crew was a gritty and dry race across an open-world America, The Crew 2 is jacked up on energy drinks and extreme antics. You're no longer out to clear your name with automobile-obsessed mobsters, you're out to *sigh* gain followers. Yep, this is Watch Dogs 2 on wheels.

But, hey, even if you hate social media with a passion, you'll get invested with your numbers early. The better you do in this virtual popularity contest, the more racing disciplines and opportunities become unlocked. Yes, if you endure the hammy advice from a bunch of brain-dead mentors, you'll be given the chance to go beyond land-based racing to get radical on the sea and in the air. They'll give you wings, I guess is the most marketable way to explain it.

From there, your vehicular options splinter off into an overwhelming number of sub-categories of racing. Street Racing Discipline focuses on four vehicle specs – Street, Drag, Drift and Hypercars. The Freestyle Discipline features Aerobatics (plane), Jetsprint (boat) and Monster Truck specs. Offroad Discipline features Rally Raid, Rally Cross and Motorcross specs and Pro Racing Discipline features Power Boat, Circuit, Alpha GP and Stunt Planes.

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Click to buy The Crew 2 from Amazon AU

Enjoy unrestrained exploration on ground, sea and sky.

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Personally, I got a kick out of drag racing and drifting, two disciplines that require very specific skill sets. They took me right back to my Need For Speed Underground days and I can see myself losing many a happy hour blowing doors off and fishtailing with style. It also has to be said that I was mightily impressed with the size of the garages for each category. You'll be unlocking whips for months and months, not to mention grinding like crazy for better car part loot of varying rarity.

The content is overflowing and the chance of emergent fun is high, thanks to a bloody enormous sandbox, but what about the key areas that were flubbed in the original? Visually, I think this sequel has come a very long way, though it simply cannot compete with the eye candy Playground Games achieves with Forza Horizon. That said, an entire continent is a much wider canvas to fill for Ivory Tower and the team is punching well above its weight in a macro sense.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the handling, but it's a very mixed bag at this point. Traditional four-wheel-based racing feels like an immediate improvement over The Crew 2's predecessor. Differing terrain types need to be respected during your colossal Gumball 3000 races and individual cars feel like they have their own unique flavours to savour.

Be that as it may, I'm worried that The Crew 2 is in danger of some jack-of-all-trades syndrome. Low-lights included the floaty dirt bikes which, frankly, weren't much fun to use at all. I'm also not convinced that sea racing is as visceral as it ought to be. Boating felt like powering across a salt flat – not wrestling with the liquid mogul field that is your average harbour. Here's hoping inclement weather adds waves into the final version. We know Ubisoft has the ocean tech to do it.

I also have a few reservations when it comes to aerial racing. A greater sense of speed wouldn't go astray as would a larger pool of tricks – it seemed like I was being asked to bust out the same half a dozen twists and turns. What I am in favour of is the somewhat pointless ability to shapeshift from a plane into a boat in mid-air. Thunking down into a Las Vegas river canal from 50 metres up feels pretty badass.

Beyond my aforementioned concerns, The Crew 2 looks to be veering back on course quite nicely. It's sure to place highly on the podium, providing it can dodge the usual potholes that face any MMORPG – a balanced and fair meta that's devoid of pay-to-win microtransactions, technical stability and a decent end-game. Nail those things, while steering clear of a bunch of “totes lit and in-my-face” commentators, and The Crew 2 could be well worth buckling up for.

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