Ubisoft’s new open-world racer The Crew 2 launched onto the scene last week. I was pretty excited about this release because the game piqued my interest since its reveal back in E3 2017. That’s why I was surprised when the reviews started coming in, and the majority of them have given the game a pretty average score. It’s currently sitting at a 67% on Metacritic; this isn’t terrible, but definitely lower than I was expecting. I’ve seen a few common negatives pointed out in a lot of the different reviews, and while some of them I agree with, there are a few areas where I think the reviewers have been a bit too hard on the game. Let’s tak e a look at these common criticisms.
Before I begin, I’d like to say that I have not yet played the launch edition of The Crew 2. However, I have played the game on multiple occasions for several hours at a time. I got the chance to participate in the closed alpha test earlier this year, as well as the closed and open beta tests that took place leading up to the game’s launch. From all the gameplay footage I’ve watched of the launch edition, it doesn’t look like much changed from the open beta version that was active in the days just before the full release, so I believe my gameplay experience is close enough to those who’ve been playing the release edition. Now, time to dive into the arguments.
THE OPEN-WORLD IS ” TOO BLAND” AND “EMPTY”
I want to start with this one because out of all the criticisms I’ve seen; this is the one I’ve found the most baffling out of all. The Crew 2 has a pretty expansive stylized version of the majority of the USA (minus Alaska and Hawaii). Of course, not every little nook-and-cranny of the country is available, but I think the scenery designers did a good job at capturing the gist of it. All the major regions are present: the tropical vibes of Florida, the swampy marshes of the South, the vast canyon terrain of the West, open plains of the Midwest, and the dense forests of the North. A lot of major cities are also included in the mix such as Miami, New York, Seattle and Las Vegas and there are also many famous landmarks present. All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with what the Ivory Team managed to do with the scenery.
The issue that I’ve seen a lot of reviewers point out is that the game’s map is just too big, and thus it lacks a lot of little details. To some, it feels too empty, especially outside of major cities where there’s just a lot of vegetation stretched across miles of straight roads. To me, on the other hand, this all actually feels and looks pretty good. In the major cities, there’s a lot of AI traffic and pedestrians. Signage and other common city items like bike racks, garbage cans, etc. are also present. The streets are condensed, and there are constant turns. True, outside of the cities there’s a lot less going on, and the roads can be super straight for vast amounts of miles, but I think this was done to make traveling between points a lot faster. Not to mention that this plays into making the game’s instant vehicle-transformation mechanic a little easier to handle. Being able to roll out of the sky in a stunt plane and transform at the last second into a supercar and blast down the highway with little issue is an amazing feeling, as far as I’m concerned. In more mountainous areas, I encountered a lot of twisty roads, which fit the scenery perfectly. I’ve taken quite a bit of road trips through the real US, and honestly, a lot of the times there are miles of super-straight roads with not much going on. Considering that The Crew 2 is an open-world racing game, I think Ivory Tower made a good choice to keep the scenery reasonably simple. It’s supposed to be one giant playground and a seamless one at that. They’ve achieved that goal, as far as I’m concerned.
THE RPG-LIKE PROGRESSION SYSTEM
This complaint is one I can get more behind than the other. The Crew 2 uses an RPG-like progression system that involves players being awarded new parts of varying rarity for each of their individual vehicles after completing events and challenges. This turns upgrading into a big grind fest during the early hours of the game. This is unlike most other racing games like Forza where you can improve your vehicles by just simply buying better parts. I wish this system was implemented in The Crew 2. It appears Ubisoft may have had the idea to include real loot boxes into the game at one point, but considering all the controversy that’s generated for other developers, the decision to exclude them was probably made late into the game’s development.
What has managed to remain are the microtransactions. Some of the best vehicles in the game can be bought early on by using real-world money. The in-game currency is only obtained by completing events, and the price for most vehicles is rather absurd. These complaints were voiced in both the alpha and beta tests, but only minor adjustments were made. Hopefully, Ivory Tower will make additional changes as time goes on to balance out the in-game economy.
A.I. RUBBERBANDING and DIFFICULT NAVIGATION
Despite there being only a handful of races in the alpha/beta versions of the game, a lot of them included rubberbanding. This made a lot of the challenges feel rather unfair, requiring several retries before completion. There was one race, in particular, the second special ‘LIVE Event,’ where I gained a big lead early on in the race, only for the AI to remain glued on my butt by the final phase. Unfortunately, this “feature” has remained in the final game. This is repeated throughout the campaign and is a big thorn in most players’ sides. It either needs to be tweaked or removed.
Another issue with the races is that it can be hard sometimes to know where you’re going. There’s no driveline to follow like in most other racing games, which will leave you to look at the minimap quite often unless you constantly replay races to learn the course layouts. This is especially frustrating in races through dense woodlands and swamps, or cramped city streets. Related to this issue is the inconsistency with destructible objects. This is really a product of many racing games, including the amazing Forza Horizon 3, where there are titanium-grade trees, rocks, gates and other small objects which will kill your speed immediately should you even brush against them. This is an extreme annoyance when free-roaming through The Crew 2’s world, but it becomes a major obstacle when actually racing.
“IT ALL GETS BETTER IN TIME”
This last point is one that can be applied to a lot of games, but it seems to be a trend with a lot of Ubisoft’s titles in particular. Patches and DLC have become commonplace in this industry, and Ubisoft embraces them completely. A lot of their studios have developed a habit of building upon their games extensively over the course of many months. That isn’t really a bad thing within itself. The problem comes in when the launch product is vastly inferior to the version that comes after months of updates and DLC/expansion packs. By that point, the game can usually be bought at a steep discount, which is an even bigger punch to early players. This is what happened to the original The Crew and also Steep, an extreme-sports cousin which was also developed by another Ubisoft team.
That seems to be what’s also going to happen with The Crew 2, as Ubisoft has already announced plans for content updates, particularly in the winter. With that being the case, I have a strong feeling that if a lot of the reviewers who published their reviews of the game over the past few days were to re-review it by the end of the year or early next year, there’s a chance that their scores would increase.
All-in-all, I still think The Crew 2 is a great game. I was having fun like a little kid while blasting through the map during my various play sessions of the alpha and beta versions. The only thing that’s stopped me from getting the full release is money constraints (we all know that feeling). But, if it really does follow the trend of most Ubisoft titles, then I give it by the end of the year to be selling for a decent discount.
For the most part, I consider the majority of the issues that were mentioned to be minor roadblocks at most. Still, I’m hoping that a lot of these problems are fixed; both the ones I agree with and even the ones that don’t really bother me. One last thing I have seen a lot of the reviewers say is that The Crew 2 has the makings of a great game, it’s just that the execution feels “off.” Again, I think it’s a cool title nonetheless, but I really do hope to see the Ivory Tower team expand upon this concept and turn this into a title that can be unanimously agreed upon as being worth a purchase and a truly solid entry into the woefully overlooked sub-genre of open-world racing games.