Las Vegas, Nevada. My dreamland. My Mecca. My holiday ruined by the bloody Rona. This year I was supposed to go to E3 in Los Angeles with some of the boys from Pure PlayStation, and then celebrate our get together with a break with the lads in Las Vegas. I did it the year before, and I was looking forward to doing it again.
Why is that relevant? Because I’ve still been to Las Vegas, Nevada this year, but rather than losing my money at the tables and wandering The Strip, tripping my balls off, I sped down a sad and lifeless version of Sin City in The Crew 2. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve picked up my controller, switched on Stadia and gone for a scenic drive down the iconic destination. Yes, I’m probably in need of some professional help, but this was my way of escaping The Rona and the confines of my home.
Open World? How About Open Country
The Crew 2 presents an open-world that is actually an open country. You’re free to drive through as many of the U.S.A’s great cities in a variety of cars, racing others, completing odd-jobs, or simply taking in the sights. Heck, if it’s the sights you want to see, you can take a racing plane to the skies and see the great red, white, and blue from above. Or you can even bomb it down the coastlines, rivers, and lakes in racing boats.
A lot of the original game has carried over to The Crew 2, but it couldn’t be a different game if it tried. There’s literally no connection between the two racers and their core concepts are drastically different.
The Crew tried to tell a story, The Crew 2 tasks you with telling your own. Instead of being an underground racer on a mission, you’re a licensed racer taking part in an organised, country-wide racing event. The gritty cutscenes and drab dialogue have been replaced with chirpy pill-chomping millennials and slap-the-pallet-on-the-page visuals. Everything’s so bright it’s to the point of gaudy, as if the game’s doing everything it can to keep my attention. The two games are worlds apart, and why The Crew 2 wasn’t rebranded as a new franchise, I’ll never know. But now we finally have a competitor to Microsoft’s brilliant Forza Horizon series.
DOES IT COMPETE?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to taking Forza Horizon’s crown, but it at least made a decent run at the throne.
Gameplay consists of getting cars, going to events, competing, gaining followers, and doing it all again. You can do it at your own pace though, and Ubisoft’s insistence on “emergent” gameplay couldn’t be clearer here. After the initial introduction race, you’re basically free to whatever you want, including ditching the wheels for wings.
Naturally, I gave all three racing methods a try and I settled on the traditional car. Flying didn’t feel great and the GTA games have ruined racing on water for me. The controls were fine, mind you, but there was definitely a lack of heft. Pulling stunts is easy and practical to do in the planes – it’s what they’re designed for – but the risk never matched the reward. I wasn’t ever fearful that I might not pull up in time as it always felt the game was on my side. The physics were rigid, too. Honestly, flying a plane in GTA V feels much better than in The Crew 2.
Racing on four-wheels is my preferred method then, and I did it, lots. But what did I achieve? I don’t really know. Without any kind of guidance to do anything, I didn’t feel the need to bother with whatever fancy events Ubisoft had crafted for me. Instead, I spent most of my time just driving around aimlessly, or setting my own challenges to myself, like driving from coast to coast or visiting Las Vegas.
Same Old Ubisoft
This is actually a problem I have with a lot of Ubisoft’s recent games. You’re dumped into a massive world with a thousand check markers, but what’s keeping you going from one to the other? I know I compare the game to Forza Horizon, but I think Microsoft’s racer really is the best example of “less is more” with it’s large but dense world.
The Crew 2 often feels devoid of life. There are pedestrians walking the streets, but they’re so few that it often looks like the in-game world might be having a bout of The Rona. The roads aren’t empty, but at times they feel it. Of course, you don’t want to have too much natural traffic getting in the way of some good racing, but it just felt at odds with the massive open-country map that I was expected to explore.
In some ways, The Crew 2 feels like a big leap from its predecessor, in others, it feels like it hasn’t jumped far enough. Maybe with the new console generation, Ubisoft will try to push the boundaries a little further, but right now it feels like the companies games are currently sitting on the fence, waiting to see what the next big thing is so it may follow the leader.
The gameplay itself is fine, and when you’re actually competing, there’s a good challenge to be had. The controls work great and after getting adjusted to The Crew 2’s physics, which lean far more into arcade territory than Forza Horizon, it’s actually fun to drive and race, whether its against A.I, other players, or your own internal challenges. There’s something to be had here, but you really do have to go out of your way to find it. Despite the game’s shortcomings, it’s an easy game to recommend, especially at a time where Stadia doesn’t have many other racers and none on the scale of The Crew 2.
On the technical side of things, The Crew 2 looks and runs great on Stadia. I played it on PC, Chrome Cast Ultra on my 4K TV, and my phone, and performance was brilliant each time. Naturally, this will vary depending on your own connection speed, but I can say that in my case, the game ran very well.
The Crew 2 Stadia Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
The Crew 2 offers the biggest playground for racing, but it doesn’t do enough to fill it. Endless markers are par for the Ubisoft-built course and a lack of direction stunts any progress.
It’s still good fun and plays great on Stadia, and as there’s nothing else quite like it available on the platform at this time, it’s the de-facto best open-world racing game.
- Massive open country to explore
- Great fun with friends – racing from coast to coast is always a blast
- Can sometimes be quite beautiful to look at. Not often, but sometimes
- Large variety of cars, planes, and boats to collect
- Lack of direction
- Graphics are lacking and the world often looks flat and muted
- No sense of risk, just an endless barrage of rewards for performing menial tasks
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using Stadia on Chromecast Ultra, Windows 10 PC (Chrome) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 9+