The Crew 2 review: Where is everybody?

(Source: arstechnica.com)

Game details

Developer: Ivory Tower
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Windows
Release Date: June 29, 2018
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Price: $60
Links: Steam | Official websiteOver the years, Ubisoft has quietly and steadily built itself a reputation for supporting its games tremendously after launch. Those efforts

Over the years, Ubisoft has quietly and steadily built itself a reputation for supporting its games tremendously after launch. Those efforts usually pay off ; most Ubisoft games released in the past few years are meaningfully bigger and better than they were at launch.

But what those games typically have (and The Crew 2 lacks) are solid foundations. Instead, the new open-world racing game feels so light on features, personality, and fundamentally enjoyable activities that I’d swear it’s an Early Access game—aside from the telltale graphical polish that comes with a big budget. It’s enough to make me wonder if the publisher is abusing its own “it gets better” model. Because this game still feels like it needs to be finished.

If you played the beta of The Crew 2, you’ve basically seen what there is to see. The “story” in particular mostly burns itself out in the first five minutes. You’re a nameless racer (both literally and figuratively) who is looking to make a name for yourself. That means teaming up with a fictional GoPro knockoff company to accumulate social media followers—The Crew 2’s in-world name for experience points. And… that’s it.

The minimalist plotting is quite the change from the first game’s tale of a brother seeking revenge against a nationwide gang. Whereas The Crew’s plot was intolerably bad—akin to a USA channel original movie you might catch late at night—The Crew 2 manages to be intolerable without even attempting anything. Disembodied and poorly acted voices occasionally spout juvenile philosophy about the freedom of freestyle racing or something equally hollow. It’s just enough to make me wish the game didn’t have dialogue at all.

The Crew 2 doesn’t even have fun with the inanity inherent in chasing nonspecific social media presence points. The meaningless number is all these characters are really there for, and that is apparently perfectly reasonable to the self-serious cast.

Boring on land, air, and sea

There is a kind of variety in how you boost your follower count, I suppose. Rather than fixing driving physics that weren’t particularly great, The Crew 2 instead adds boating and flying tasks. While the land races are sloppy and tamely paced, the air and sea activities, without much in the way of obstacles to work around, just feel inconsequential. All three categories of “challenge” end up drearily easy; if my car met the recommended performance level for an activity, I could be confident I wouldn’t have to retry it more than once.

If the game has a hook, it’s those performance levels. Better mufflers, brakes, and so on drop as tiered equipment for finishing events, and your performance level is determined by the average value of that in-game loot—like gear levels in Destiny 2 or Ubisoft’s own The Division. I don’t hate the idea in theory; randomized loot can be a fun reward, and the concept is not often seen in racing games. The Crew 2 also doles out its drops much better than last year’s Need for Speed: Payback, with its in-game slot machine. Here, the drops are simply rewards for doing well.

But like most of the rest of The Crew 2, they’re just not particularly exciting. Just as the game’s countless licensed vehicles don’t take more than a dent after T-boning a semi at 150 mph, their appearances also don’t change with the new gear. It’s all just internal math. That noticeably sidesteps half the fun of loot-driven games: namely, making your in-game avatar look increasingly cool and/or ridiculous.

Likewise, there’s obviously no reason to use gear that’s rated lower than your best equipment. And nearly every new drop is better than your current best. So the whole system mostly exists to add the extra step of going into a menu, switching out your gear, and deleting the old stuff. Then, once you’ve managed to grind a vehicle to the level cap, you can dig into tuning the car, plane, or boat to your preferences—and then only if you have multiple copies of the same parts with different stats.

Goosing the numbers isn’t strictly necessary, though. Besides being extremely easy, some events are just the exact same activity repeated half-a-dozen times in different locations. Stunt flying, for instance, asks you to perform the same barrel rolls and loop-the-loops in different orders until you give up and play a better game (or reach a score threshold, I guess). Less common events, like monster-truck races, are tougher, but they’re so unwieldy that I never felt compelled to improve my performance anyway.

An empty crew

The real dagger in the heart of The Crew 2’s progression, though, is the game’s almost total lack of multiplayer. I saw human players tooling around the open-world roads once or twice in the beta but not at all since the game’s full release. Even when I did see another human player, there was next to nothing to do with them. You can play solo events in “co-op,” where only one player actually needs to succeed for all teammates to win.

Otherwise, the usual single-player online leaderboards are the only way to “interact” with non-AI racers. Though Ubisoft does promise PvP is coming in September, it seems a bit silly to have to wait for such an important feature in a major release from one of the world’s largest publishers. That’s especially true in a series literally named after “a group of people associated together in a common activity.”

The Crew 2 is going to need a lot of time and work to feel like a worthwhile purchase. I’m not sure Ubisoft, a company I’ve come to associate with that very post-launch polishing process, will manage it. I’m even less sure I should have to wonder. This is a barebones product without much of a foundation to flesh out in the first place. It’s not something I’d even consider giving the benefit of the doubt for $60. If anything, it’s enough to make me question giving the publisher the benefit of the doubt ever again.

The Good

  • Looks nice enough
  • Decent variety of event types across land, sea, and air

The Bad

  • Virtually no multiplayer to speak of
  • Abysmal “story” and characters
  • Unexciting loot system
  • Events are too easy and/or similar
  • Lackluster vehicle handling across the board

The Ugly

  • Thinking about anyone that spent $100 to play this game early

Verdict:

Skip The Crew 2 until a patch or five. Even then, maybe check to see if the handling has improved at all.

More Info: arstechnica.com

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