by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Reach for the skies
Open world racing games have been few and far between in recent years, with games like Burnout Paradise being the pinnacle of a genre that has difficulty innovating with new titles. One of the exceptions to this was The Crew, which took open world racing and placed it in a scaled down version of the entire continental United States, where you can hook up with friends and race to your hearts content. The Crew 2 is much the same, except you can switch between a car, plane and boat with a single button press. Yes, that pretty much means that you are a Transformer at all times.
During PAX West, I got to play The Crew 2 and explore the area around the game’s compact version of New York City. If you’ve played the original game, the sequel feels just as large and massive, with the map opening up in one smooth transition at the push of a button that slowly zooms the camera out from a 3D top-down view to a more traditional map at maximum distance. Packed city streets give way to rugged off road tracks in upstate New York, with plenty of details sprinkled along the way that make the world impressive to explore.
Events are littered throughout that world, each of which can be fast travelled to with a simple click of the map. The events I tried out included a dirtbike race through a mountain path, a drifting contest where the goal is to drift as much as possible without crashing into the scenery, and a grand prix race using Formula 1 cars in New Jersey. These events showcased several different vehicle types, all of which had different kinds of handling and speak well to the diversity of the cars. It’s similar to what was found in the first game, and it’s safe to say if you enjoyed those events you’ll enjoy the myriad of races in the sequel.
More of the same
That said, the events stand out compared to the open world nature of the game itself. Each of the races could have been found in any other open world games, which is why it’s strange that The Crew 2 doesn’t take more of an advantage of the vehicle transform system. From the demo, it looked like each of the environments throughout the game will play host to a single event. City streets will host intricate drifting challenges, rural areas will primarily be off road events, and the rivers will always be for boats. While the events were functional and fun in and of themselves, I feel like they will only be truly fun if you regularly roll out and explore the world with a group of friends, which The Crew 2 is clearly built around.
I can only hope that the final game will make better use of the vehicle transformation, as that is a mechanic that I fell in love with very quickly. In my demo, I saw no crazy tracks where you have to jump off a ramp with a sports car only to transition to a plane to fly through the New York skyline, as doing so outside of a race was my favorite moment in my time with the game. Despite the breadth of the world, The Crew 2 runs the risk of losing its lustre quickly if the events remain as segregated as they were.
At its core, The Crew 2 is a functional racing game that feels like every other arcade style racing game that has been released in the past few years. But belied by the unique transformation system and the sheer scope of the game’s world, The Crew 2 will definitely stand out in the genre when it releases next March.