E3 hands-on: The Crew 2 (Xbox One S)

It would be a slight understatement when stating that The Crew never quite drove away with accolades a few years back. It could be the fact that it was an ‘online only’ game that most never even bothered, but even those that did play it cringed when experiencing the dreadful story. Now there’s a sequel – a sequel we never really asked for, but it could perhaps surprise naysayers when it launches in 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

It’s a boat, it’s a car, it’s a plane… no wait, it’s… huh?

I won’t lie, I walked into my hands-on session with my lip dragging on the floor behind me. The trailer the day before did little to convince me that I had to play The Crew 2 and so I picked up the controller with preconceived thoughts about a sequel to a game I had little care for. The first thing that I had noticed was a serious graphical update and that the annoying navigation line that appeared above your car, stretching out into the distance, was missing. In its place there were traditional LARGE BIG YELLOW ARROWS guiding you in the direction you should be heading next. I was driving a powerful sports car and power sliding around corners… it felt good and it nearly reminded me of Need for Speed Underground, but that’s where the similarities came to an abrupt end.

In the introduction race I was tasked at pressing in the R3 button (clicking and holding in the right analogue stick) and moving the stick to highlight the ‘plane’ icon. In an instant I morphed into a plane in the sky to continue my race. Suddenly I had to get accustomed to vertical space and dealing with the intricacies that flying a place brings with it. The left analogue stick was working overtime as I was trying to get a grip on things, at the same time LB and RB buttons had the tail flap of the plane move left and right to help steer the plane. It was a bit of a finger twister, but once I caught on I was soaring through the skies and flying through checkpoints that appeared on top of buildings. Of course it was not about to end there.

The next I knew I found myself over water and was prompted again to use R3 to activate the ‘boat’ icon. My plane converted into a boat and flopped downwards to splash into the river below to continue the race. This had all happened within about four minutes and my head went into overdrive. How the hell are they doing this so seamlessly? More importantly… I’m enjoying this. It’s a mechanic that’s never been pulled off in a racing game before, and I’ve played my fair share of racing games. There was a little catch to it all.

There’s always a catch

Moving from a plane to a boat, or from a plane to a car (and vice versa) was not a problem, but you could obviously not transform from a boat to a car or car to a boat for obvious reasons. Get your head around that mechanic and you’re in for a great time. The introduction was over and I was given free reign to play a bit of the game wherever I wanted to. I opted for some off-road racing.

I had to drive cross-country by driving through gates. How I got to the next gate was up to me and that was that. Off I went. I was throwing my off-road vehicle all over the place and dodging trees as I was making my way to the next gate. The goal was quite far away, which reminded me that the map is rather big. Unfortunately no one wanted to disclose to me how much bigger the map was, but it was obviously a much larger map, but also way more detailed than ever before. Once I finally did reach my goal I had the option to head to another race and I entered a boat race. Now, it might sound boring as all hell, but steering a boat through swamps and taking shortcuts by launching off banks with narrow bits of land was the order of the day. Each lap I’d cut a good few seconds off my time. Here I was enjoying a boat game – words I never thought I would write outside of Hydro Thunder.

The Crew 2 is way more exhilarating than the first game and it’s because it’s not taking itself as seriously. They’re taking their art seriously, but it’s not anywhere near as boring as the first game. Ubisoft are basically remimagining their first game and it’s looking more promising than I would ever have imagined. I’m still not sure if it’s an ‘online only’ game, as my question was avoided when asked. We’ll have to wait for the final game in 2018, but for now don’t write The Crew 2 off because of the original, don’t make the mistake I made.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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