The Crew 2 doesn’t make a lick of sense and it doesn’t care. This became clear to me when I sailed through Hudson River as a boat, hit a ramp, then transformed into a plane mid-jump and soared away, narrowly avoiding New York City’s many skyscrapers. Then I morphed back into my true boat self in the middle of a random street in Manhattan because I could. It was all completely stupid but a welcome change considering the first game’s flat, overly serious tone. The Crew 2 dedicates itself to fun over logic and, given the shortcomings of the first game, is a smart choice.
Your brother is not dead. You aren’t going undercover in some street gang. And you aren’t trying to take down crooked cops in the FBI by… racing. In The Crew 2, you’re just a dude trying to be the best at racing in Motornation. That’s it. It’s as complicated as it needs to be since it’s really just an excuse to justify all the different events peppered throughout the map in The Crew 2.
The map in The Crew 2 is still a rough interpretation of the continental United States like the first game, but it has been reworked and and reshaped to, again, fit the game’s new “fun first” mentality. Ramps aren’t in the real Hudson River, but, trust me, it’s more fun in this rendition where there is always a ramp in view. You also can’t travel from California to New England from river to river in a boat, but The Crew 2 declares that it’s more fun if you can. Racing on rooftops is yet another non-realistic spin on America and while only a chunk of the northeastern states was playable, this mindset will apply to the whole region, according to a Ubisoft spokesperson.
The freeroam takes advantage of these tools as you explore the large map and check off the many, many objectives littered about. These short side missions reminded me of the Freeburn Challenges in Burnout Paradise, as most of them were simple goals that legitimized goofing off in the open world by slapping a score or loose objective to it. As a plane, I flew through a ring and then was instantly tasked to fly through more rings at a specific angle and as a boat, one random mission instructed me to hit buoys at high speed to score points. These quests were liberally scattered throughout the map and while some Ubisoft games have struggled with throwing in content for content’s sake, The Crew 2’s multiplayer focus is better suited for a ton of casual, bite-sized missions.
These smaller mini-missions supplement the larger missions that are spread across four categories: offroad, street racing, freestyle, and pro racing. Each is mixed and matched with (most) different vehicle types and categorized by the goal. For example, the drift challenge I did fell under street racing while the motocross challenge I completed belonged to the offroad family. And The Crew 2’s nonlinear progression doesn’t force you to do anything in any motorsport group that you don’t want to. So, if don’t like soaring through the air in a plane and you’re more comfortable riding boats, you can stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. This liberating structure was made “break the barriers from the first game” and to give the player “total freedom in what they are doing,” according to a Ubisoft spokesperson.
The Crew 2’s nonlinear progression doesn’t force you to do anything in any motorsport group that you don’t want to.
Hopping between all the different events and modes was surprisingly seamless, as was almost every other facet of the game. From fast traveling to sending invites to tinkering with the game’s photo and video editor, loading was extremely brief, if there was any at all. Setting up races was a breeze, as the game automatically sent out invites and put me in the appropriate vehicle after a short warp to the starting line. Then, after finishing the event, it placed me back in the open world as seamlessly as I was placed in the race. Essentially, you can drive off the track after crossing the finish line and then just continue driving in any direction, which meant I was driving a Formula 1 car in the outskirts of New York mere seconds after turning corners around a track in a race. As opposed to the first game, The Crew 2 wants to put as few barriers as possible in front of the player and cutting down on menus and waiting is a good way to do just that.
In a few ways, The Crew 2 reminded me of the original, vanilla Destiny. It’s an expansive, mechanically sound checklist without a strong narrative to drown out your conversation with your friends as you all complete different tasks together and score loot. That comparison might turn some people off, especially those wanting a stronger story and solitary campaign, but The Crew 2 doesn’t seem to want to be that kind of game. The Crew 2 wants to be a fun, co-op-focused racing game with a ton of different vehicles in an expansive open world. If this premise doesn’t wear thin and avoids technical issues in the final product, then I’m optimistic that it won’t suffer the same fate as its ambitious but flawed predecessor.