My favorite thing to do in The Crew 2 is turning into a boat at 5,000 feet. It's a simple action, done with a click of the right stick on a controller, swapping from one vehicle to another—driving a car at one moment before taking off in a plane, or swapping from a happily cruising plane to a happily plummeting boat. The Crew 2 is a massive open world racing game, all about the freedom to drive an almost unimaginable number of vehicles across an almost unimaginable number of roads and rivers and forests, but the freedom I appreciate most is the option to freefall onto a highway as a boat and laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.
It's great that The Crew 2 lets you create your own moments of comedy, because from the few hours I played, the light narrative structure of the game ranges from bland to cringeworthy. Your character, a young wannabe racer, meets up with tribes of more established racers who specialize in certain sports—aerial tricks, off-road racing, street racing—all populated by thinly drawn, cliche characters that would be right at home in a Fast & Furious movie. One of the bad ones.
The reason you're racing is even more cloying: the whole game is built around gaining "followers" to get famous. Who sits around talking about how much we need more social media in our lives, that an obsession with followers as a path to success and glory is the best thing about life in 2018? There are cutscenes in The Crew 2 where people talk about these things enthusiastically and positively. It's terrible. Just let me drive a car and turn it into a boat whenever it will make me laugh.
Ultimately that's all window dressing for a game about driving at high speeds. The game controls well, though unsurprisingly cars are the most fun to drive. The Crew 2's physics are forgivingly arcadey, though harder if you're driving a motorsport car than a street racer. Still, this isn't a challenging sim like Forza or Gran Turismo and never feels as fast and brutal as a game like Burnout. The controls are pleasantly responsive and have enough depth that you won't instantly be an expert of any car you drive, but I felt this sense of middle ground genericness in the handling of most of The Crew 2's vehicles.
If all you care about is the driving, though, there is a lot to love in The Crew 2. By which I mean this game is huge. Its ambitious map of America includes a number of large cities, huge swaths of country to fly or drive over, and rivers and lakes to float on. Based on a few hours with the game, I think it might be too big.
The Crew 2 tries to be everything to everyone. For example, you can pull up a list of events and instantly warp across the country to one, or you can pull up the map and scroll around it, picking an event that way. Or you can drive to one, though crossing the entire country, even though it's obviously not to scale, could still half an hour or more. This easy access ensures you're never bored by driving around, but it leaves the open world a massive, mostly uninteresting place to explore, at least from my few hours of time with the game so far.
This isn't an RPG, where you could be encountering enemies or finding treasures around every corner, or gathering resources you'll put to good use later. You're a car. Manicured courses are almost invariably going to make for more fun driving and racing than a massive open environment, where the fastest way from A to B is likely a boring stretch of interstate.
Those who find endless driving meditative, though, may never leave the world of The Crew 2. And even if it doesn't measure up to more tightly designed racers, the sheer breadth on offer is ridiculous. There's high-end track racing and motorcross, hundreds of vehicles, car customization both aesthetic and performance impacting. In a few special events, The Crew 2 pulls off a trick from Inception or Doctor Strange, folding the world on its side in mind- and stomach-bending ways. It's weird as hell and I wish the entire game was built around it, rather than those moments being a rare trick.
If there's anything that will justify the size of The Crew 2, it will be multiplayer—the chance to cruise around the world with friends and compete in such a dizzying array of events. If you have a crew of your own to bring along, I think it'll be more fun to wander, explore, and set your own goals. That's what I'm most looking forward to trying out in The Crew 2's beta, which will be available before the June 29 launch.