2018 for me has shown a resurgence in the driving/racing genre with games such as Burnout Paradise Remastered, ONRUSH and Gravel. Ubisoft takes to the stage with The Crew 2, the sequel to its online only racing game of 2014. The original game received mixed reviews with criticisms pointing towards the always online approach and micro-transactions. Praise however was directed to the world that the team at Ivory Tower managed to deliver and the fun to be had mixing it up with your friends.

This feels like a step in the right direction for the series and more like an evolution rather than something completely different. It features a persistent open-world that much like the original game allows for roaming across a recreated version of the United States. The huge twist comes in the form of new vehicle types and varieties including planes, boats, bikes and more. The very thought of this prior to playing got my mind racing and ready for what was to come, but does it take off at 100 miles per hour or stall at the line?

Something I feel that was missing from The Crew was a rewarding single player experience and this new instalment absolutely rectifies that issue. It brings a nonlinear story that allows you to choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. I loved being able to play the types of races I specifically wanted to play at the time. Each “discipline” (type of race) comes attached with some brief narrative in which basically you are looking to beat the current best person and gain followers. The goal is to become a racing icon after beating all disciplines.

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A relatively small but much appreciated feature I found was being to able to choose an avatar to represent my unnamed character. With more than ten character models to choose from that each come with a slogan to give a hint into their mindset it’s great to see the diversity at play. The differences can be found in the form of gender, race and style, and it is important to be stylish. This just helps in building a more personal experience as opposed to learning about someone else’s story I feel this is my journey.

Variety will probably feel like the theme of this entire review, because it sums up The Crew 2 perfectly. The available vehicles are plentiful and are broken down primarily into the disciplines in which they can be used for. Street race, drift, drag race, hyper cars, rally raid, rally cross and touring cars represent the typical four-wheel experiences. That’s seven disciplines that feature ‘cars’ and still they feel different when it comes to gameplay. Drag races are both super-fast and non-stop, drift races are floaty and street races are high-octane thrill fests.

Then there are the off-road races that allow for not only cars but motocross racing too, the latter of which is one of my personal favourites, maybe because I find it slightly easier but still. I have always loved bike’s in games unless it’s in PUBG, those are the worst. Another favourite of mine would be monster trucks and this is very different from a standard race, instead you traverse an area and look to smash through circular objects that will add to your overall score, odd but surprisingly satisfying.

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The jack of all trades saying can certainly be applied here but without the master of none, because I truly believe it shows its proficiency in all racing types. Including the likes of power boating and aerobatics, both of which are not only easy to pick up, but easy to learn and get good at as well. At first it would be safe to assume that with a focus spread so thin across many gameplay types that something would be lacking, and honestly this couldn’t be more wrong. Whether racing on land, water or in the air it feels technically sound and satisfying.

The proof is in the controls and gameplay, both of which have been executed in a way that provides ease of entry and even ease of mastery. Gameplay can be divided into two categories, events and the world. By events I mean the dozens upon dozens of races available, and by the world I literally mean the adventure you can embark upon racing across the vast open-world available. In the world you can come across other players, challenges to get stuck into and miscellaneous tasks like photo ops to dabble in. So, if you are the type of player to travel from race to race you can do so and find things to do along the way.

This representation of the United States is utterly gorgeous, providing everything from close to authentic recreations of famous landmarks to diverse settings be it deserts, lakes, forests or open mountains. Not only is it vast, but also filled with things to do and feels lived in and busy, this is where Ubisoft shines, building an open-world that doesn’t come across as empty. Could it be a little more fleshed out? Sure. But it is an advancement on the right path, pedestrians walk the pavements, other vehicles fill the streets and even animals can be found loitering. I want to give a lot of praise to the track designers who have done a fantastic job in producing some insanely fun and unique races. In terms of design this is on expert level, the team have created these races that fit into the world in a natural way.

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Progression happens not only for your character but your vehicles too. So in terms of character, after each race or challenge completion or even stunt, you gain followers. By gaining those sweet tasty followers you can boost your rank, starting off as a Beginner and hoping to become Popular, then Famous on your way to be a Star, and then finally an Icon. With each rank you get access to more races which in turn opens more opportunities to earn a following and more dollar dollar. Money is used to purchase more and potentially better vehicles.

Vehicles can undergo performance changes, after each race you can get new parts to be used to upgrade your ride. Performance level gives an idea of how well you will do against the challenge in front of you, being able to see what the recommended level is for an activity allows for expectations to be set going in. There was never a time I came up short due to level differences either because of not only the recommendations but pacing, I was always at the right level at the right time to enter a race.

It is great to see how far video game visuals have come over the past ten years. A huge leap of which has happened in the last three lots of 365 days in terms of 4K, HDR and technical innovations that allow for some of the most realistic looking graphics. Playing on the Xbox One X, this has blown me away, everything from fine detail, colour, lighting, shading, art-style and visual effects have come together for a smooth breath-taking any day of the week drive (Not just a Sunday, but ANY DAY).

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Ubisoft took a chance doubling down on The Crew, it wasn’t the most well-received game originally, but they somehow knew exactly what they needed to do. The Crew 2 takes the first game, trims off the negatives and then packs in a ton of new content, features and ideas all of which just work and deliver an immersive, addictive and beautiful package.

OVERALL: 9/10 – EXCELLENCE

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of The Crew 2, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

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