Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Crew 2 ★★★☆☆

I never learned to drive a car, or a monster truck, or fly a plane, or navigate a speedboat.  I also never dreamed about doing any of these things, but now I have the opportunity to live out all those dreams that I didn't have, in the Crew II.  The Crew II is a multi-vehicle racing game from Ubisoft that does all this and less, and never quite as well as it should.

The Crew II invites you to play as an avatar of your choice in a collection of disciplines, peaking with the LIVE races. These involve you driving as fast as you can in a car until you get to a cliff, and with the press of a switch or the flick of a button, you will find yourself soaring through the air like a drunk bird in a plane made from Nintendo Labo. Finally, you can crash land into the nearby water feature and mutate into a speedboat.  Like if Ditto was in the Transformers.

The separate activities are locked by your popularity rating, so your driver/crew has to perform amazing feats such as coming third in a race, drifting around corners on purpose, or stopping mid flight to photograph a bird.  Once you have achieved various death defying feats, such as photography, you'll be granted 'followers' for a vapid and pointless XP system, as Ubisoft believes that your ability to drive a monster truck comes from how many people are watching you do it. 

Once you have reached certain levels of fame you have access to more disciplines, some of which are great races and some, like the monster trucks and drag racing, are more like mini-games. The drag racing, for example, is loads've fun because it's basically about driving as fast as possible without any steering involved for about a minute. Start your engines and may the best woman win…

I must admit, my enthusiasm for driving games is about as real as my enthusiasm for old VHS tapes used for advertising products that don't exist anymore. More importantly, I am bad at them. Not just bad, but award winningly terrible.  I like racing games such as Onrush because the control system is designed in a way that crashing into everything in sight is encouraged. The Crew II, however, is a proper driving game, disguised as an arcade game. Or maybe it's the other way around. What the fuck am I doing?

The tone of the game is unusual, the dialogue is very 'cool' in the worst possible way, with some overconfident twat encouraging you with such generic statements akin to 'oh look your car is fast, it wasn't this fast before, but now it is that fast and it's good'. All this to the soundtrack of an eclectic collection of high energy 'driving music', such as  Airborne, the spiritual child of AC/DC and an AC/DC cover band.

Am I having fun? Is what I asked myself after two or three hours of play. I'm bad at this, but I want to keep playing. Until it dawned on me, Ubisoft's unique way of making every game nothing more than tidying up a map, that they have covered in challenges or bird feathers or whatever, appeals to me against my will. The real fun, however, comes from this being a perpetually online co-op game. So you can drive around with all your friends in whatever vehicle you choose, changing your mind whenever the mood takes you.  It is good, but it is not enough to make this game a must-buy. 

It's taken me a while to write this review because I never feel like the game had really begun.  Somehow there is loads to do but the whole game feels like side quest after side quest with the main 'plot' (driving really fast) being put aside in exchange for accumulating gaming hours. The quantity of things to do is impressive, and the size of the map is absurd, but the level of ennui I have even just thinking about the game is the most impressive.

Visually the game looks great and yet it also doesn't. The scale of the country, all the different landscapes, from cities to big orange Arizona looking places, are beautiful and interesting. Though I thought pop-up graphical problems were a thing of the past, and I would often find myself in charge of a speedboat driving as fast as I could, as if I'd just been caught with the wrong visa in Shanghai, and stoving my boat into a wild bridge that comes out've nowhere.

If you, unlike me, have a lot of friends and a passion for playing games, as opposed to completing games, you could find a place for this in your life. The Crew II could be a great way to drink alone in the house and pretend that it's fine to fly cars and drive planes into a wall together with friends.  I would, however, recommend daydreaming about this for a while until the game drops in price, or you can pick it up somewhere (CEX obviously) second hand. 

David Roberts

The Crew 2 at CeX

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