The Crew 2 – Closed Beta Impressions

This weekend saw Ubisoft and Ivory Tower’s release of The Crew 2’s closed beta, so once again, I grabbed my keys, crash helmet and (for the first time) my life-jacket before setting off on my mini road-trip of the United States.

First of all, I’d like to preface this article with two statements: I really enjoyed The Crew when it released a few years ago. I understand that this is a beta and therefore doesn’t represent the final game.

For those of you not familiar, The Crew 2 is an open world driving game that gives the player the entire United States to explore – bar Alaska and Hawaii. This time, it has shaken off its revenge based story-line and replaced it with an extreme sports festival, focusing on 4 different disciplines: Street Racing, Off Road Racing, Planes and Powerboats – think Steep mixed with Forza Horizon, sponsored by an energy drink company.

It’s hard not to compare The Crew 2 to Steep; the two share a remarkable amount of similarities, especially as one of my favourite features has been used here; the ability to change discipline on the fly using the right stick. You can change from Car to Plane to Boat almost instantaneously. I had fun flying around, then changing into a powerboat in mid-air before slamming into other players on the freeway in a car.

Exploration still seems to be fun. The Crew’s philosophy of “if you can see it, you can drive to it” still applies. As soon as I could, I bought a motorbike and navigated up the largest mountain I could find, only to drive off. I expected to send the bike flying, however it barely got any air on the jumps. I tried this with a variety of vehicles and all had the same effect. It seems like gravity is turned up to 11. I had to actively try to lose control of the vehicle. This is not really the “living of the edge” atmosphere the game seems to be pushing for. Cars also stick to the road just a little too much, which ends up feeling like you’re racing on a Scalextric track rather than an open world.

The map itself seems to be a similar size to the previous game. I looked up a comparison that appears to be the same, with some additions of rivers to the map for the aquatic races. However, the map feels smaller than the previous game. After a bit of thought I’ve narrowed this down to two reasons:

  1. Due to the inclusion of planes, you have a lot more visibility of the map. Mountains no longer restrict your view, meaning you can see Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle all from the same spot.
  2. The map doesn’t appear to have as much variation in biomes. The Crew seemed to have more diversity in the map, snowy regions with ice on the roads, farmlands, dense forests and cities to break up the journey. The Crew 2 closed beta seems to really only have grassland and desert. I admit, this could be to keep the size of the beta down, or perhaps the map isn’t complete. I just feel that this is worth noting.

Each of the disciplines offer a variety of events, however, as with Steep, the controls vary wildly. Planes are fairly basic and simple to pick up, Street racing feels like it’s trying to be a mix of arcade and simulation racing but doesn’t effectively capture either and Powerboats are just not fun to control. The controls aren’t hugely responsive and one race had us taking the vessels over the edge of a dam, only for all the boats to land with barely a ripple or any effect on speed. Small aspects like this really dampened the experience.

My biggest issue with the beta was the rubber-banding AI. Perhaps this was to encourage the grind for loot and better parts, but the beta places you in races that are near impossible to win. Often I’d lead the pack for the majority of the race only for the AI to rocket past me 2 turns before the finish, meaning I’d end up placing around 6th.

Ironically, considering the game is built around the idea of playing with a group, this aspect is far worse when playing with others in your crew. The AI appears to base their speed off of the lead player. So if one of your group pulls the slightest bit ahead, the AI shoots off and as there are no other racers to slipstream, there is no way to make up that gap.

Overall, I did enjoy The Crew 2 beta. It still captures the essence of what attracted me to its predecessor. However, it is showing signs that it’s a bit confused over what it wants to be. I’ll still be keeping an eye out on future information on it, I feel some small but critical aspects of the game need some serious refining. It didn’t sell me on pre-ordering a copy but I’m looking forward to (hopefully) hearing more from E3.

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