When I was a kid we took a road trip from southern California to the “Frontier Days” event in Cheyenne, Wyoming and we went up through the northern California/Oregon and a very round about drive through the Western states. It was a long, sleep deprived trip as full of sights and smells as any of the Vacation movies (we all related to the stinky sock smell). We even brought a camper shell along for the drive too so that we didn’t have to use hotels rooms along the way. It was a horror show that there is no way Chevy Chase would have ever survived. I’m pretty sure the experience drove a wedge between us instead of binding like glue. I’m pretty sure I remember us giving up on the way back through Arizona, we parked the van at a family member’s house and flew the rest of the way home, the word “divorce” popping out of a mouth or two. My parents didn’t divorce and though I almost always think about those locations with a touch of anxiety I enjoy games with landmarks on an almost therapeutic level. With this background, I started my trip into Ubisoft’s new The Crew 2.
There are a few things that are understandably missing from The Crew 2’s map of the Unites States. We don’t want to see every one stoplight town or half empty strip mall victim of economic conditions, everything we see is pretty idealized and not covered in an eternal grime that only our country’s landmarks can really convey. That’s nice because we don’t play games like this with multiple national treasures in order to know what life is really like there, we play them for an idealized background to show something pretty while we play. So Mount Rushmore looks like the weather is beautiful, The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t too socked in with fog to see and if you find yourself running a “King Of The Hill” outside of Las Vegas on a track you will see sagebrush and cacti. Watching a KoTH outside of Vegas though the track was covered in snow which surprised me, though that happens every few years. It doesn’t make sense for a game to check the weather in a location and supply that in a game but dang wouldn’t that be awesome? I want to see a developer do that now!
But I digress, the important thing is that they knew people would want to race in Vegas and play with vehicles there too. The thought of getting anywhere with a stock race car in the desert or over landmarks doesn’t seem very likely so this is a good spot to go over the different types and sub types of vehicles. The types and sub types are Street (street racing, drifting, drag racing, long-distance hypercar racing), Off-road (cross-country rally raid, motocross, loose-surface rally cross), Freestyle (plane aerobatics, jet sprint boating, monster trucking), and Pro (power boating, air racing, touring cars, and grand prix). Now that is A LOT of types of vehicles, if only one or two of each type were provided the average player would be happy but there are lots of unlocks and between racing and open world playing you really get to run them through the ringer. In race mode you get to see them as close to reality as possible with maybe a little looseness to the physics here and there. In race mode this can be seen as one of two things depending on the player, they either see it as a device to allow for more fun play or a weakness in the gameplay. I keep going back and forth on it since I really like these kind of games but my reflexes aren’t quite what they used to be and if an AI is too hard for me on the first couple tries there is a good chance it will stay that hard, though you will be hard pressed to see me give up.
There are different ways to control one of your vehicles, each one tailored to the designs and desires. With this in mind I was able to pick up the controls for car racing on the keyboard really fast since it followed most car racing formats. The same could be said for the style of racing for the boats, it felt like Hydro Thunder all over again and I was more than happy to get behind the wheel of those water skimming demons. Then comes airplane racing and my first issues with keyboard controls. I never could master them with a keyboard and I really think this might have been the first sign that this game really is made for a controller even on the PC. You can do great aereal maneuvers and just as great ground ones no matter what the discipline with your controller so there really didn’t seem much point of using the keyboard unless you want a different challenge.
Speaking of challenges the game does a great job of not just giving you tracks to race on and the open road isn’t just for having fun taking in the city builds it also provides challenges and achievements all over the locations so as to keep you playing in an area even when you feel you have run as good of a race on the local track as you can muster. Just doing all these things at a beginning level will provide you with easily over 20 hours of playing and that isn’t even giving the full unlocks a shot. There can be a bit of a grind to get to some unlocks, though the better you get at the vehicles and tracks the easier the grind will be. Also just driving around areas you stumble upon side quests which give you extra followers and money.
Yes, we did say followers, because the game approaches the underground racing scene as coming above ground as the players try to help legitimize the different racing disciplines across the country. The idea is the more social media followers you have the better you are known and eventually it won’t be underground anymore. There are people who are out to fight this, feeling they are able to be underground kings of the sport as long as it never goes into the limelight. Then there is always money that helps you level by gaining new achievements and winning races so that more people know about you. There are a lot of unlocks to be had, even more with the Gold Edition.
I felt kind of lucky one of those places is where I live in Las Vegas so I could cruise around stumbling on achievements while seeing how they changed the names of hotels and resorts so that people would still know what it was even though the name wasn’t quite right. Mandalay Bay is Borneo Cove, Luxor becomes Ramses and so on. The game even seem to have the same bad driving taxis (I kid, I kid). I found myself sucked in to just taking in all the beautiful work of the game then suddenly I see another player go flying by on a motorcycle and I am reminded that this is an online game and while I futz around they are setting new stakes to live up to. I still like driving around though, I kept forgetting what I was doing when I was heading west to see if they put in the World’s Largest Thermometer because, well, I get a kick out of it.
The game is definitely worth buying if you like any racing games at all since it gives you pretty much any kind you could want. The biggest question might be whether or now to get the Gold Edition. Here’s the extras:
Now to me it is definitely worth it with the Gold pack giving you a variety of vehicles across the disciplines but most of all being that it comes with the Season Pass, between that and community maps and challenges this game will constantly be bringing Gold Edition players something new all the time.
You don’t have to be a hardcore racing fan to like The Crew 2 Gold edition, you really don’t even have to like some of the types of racing to do good in the game and progress. There should be continuous updates and additions both through developers in the Season Pass and through the community which seems very active and excited about the game. If you can’t win regularly you can still do side missions and stunts to help work your way up and there are some matches that just require you to finish making this game great for the full spectrum of player.