Like some American lives, The Crew 2 experience basically amounts to being bored, frustrated, and wanting to get the hell out of Florida. This sequel gives you various ways of racing across the country, but it counters this freedom with limited gameplay and the feeling that this isn’t really the land of opportunity. Like the first game, developer Ivory Tower’s vision of America is not one that captures the imagination.
The Crew 2 has no shortage of things to do. With plenty of events to tackle, you earn reputation and money to take on rivals in specific racing disciplines. Planes and boats are new for The Crew 2, offering their own gameplay nuances such as learning not to scrub off speed while turning in a boat. However, you can go long stretches without coming across an event or an environmental skill challenge. After a while, I didn’t use the map at all; I went from race to race via the pause menu since I didn’t want to drive everywhere with the chance of nothing happening along the way. The police cars and landmarks of the original game have been removed, which exacerbates the feeling that there’s not a lot going on. I miss the landmarks in particular since they rewarded exploration while offering a flavor of the surroundings. A photo mode alerts you of pictures you can take of animals, but I stopped doing these since it isn’t fun creeping along slowly trying to find the creatures.
The story is the barest of setups, and it doesn’t curate the experience to offer choice moments on a platter. While the freedom to race a larger selection of events at any one time is an improvement, I quickly realized that throwing the doors open to the whole country isn’t as fulfilling as it may seem, since The Crew 2 doesn’t have much compelling content within.
Despite the general lack of inspiration, The Crew 2 still has some fun spots. Interestingly, these were freeform moments outside of the basic races, like hopping sand dunes in a buggy or bouncing from crest to crest in a speedboat. But these flashes are simple and fleeting, and the majority of events and random skill challenges struggle to hold your attention either because of aggressive rubberbanding, lack of difficulty, or uninteresting layouts. I like flying planes, but you can only be asked to do so many barrel rolls before they lose meaning. A checkpoint race that brags you can use your imagination to get from gate-to-gate doesn’t do much good if it funnels you into a single path before a checkpoint.
Multiplayer should be a way to fill the gaps, but The Crew 2 has no PvP at launch (only leaderboards), and provides no compelling reason to team up with friends to defeat an event since you’re off in your own areas and don’t need each other to complete the event. Similarly, the game fails to connect players meaningfully or add to its world, despite its title, because you can’t spawn spontaneous in-world challenges, and your friends are not part of a larger organization to bind together all you’ve done. The consequence is even your friends feel like acquaintances barely relevant to the experience.
In what I can only assume was an unintentional parallel, progressing in The Crew 2 depends on getting enough social-media followers to up your reputation to unlock new tiers of events so you can do it all over again. Jumping through all these hoops for other people’s amusement (but not my own) is a hollow purpose – a kind of vain attempt for validation that quickly grows thin.