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Preview: The Crew 2 (PC)By The Strat Man At 06.06.2018 18:15

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The Crew had quite an unnecessary and tedious plot, which rather got in the way of the gameplay and disrupted the free-form spirit of the title. Thankfully, The Crew 2 goes the other way. Gone are protagonist Alex Taylor and all that melodramatic Fast and Furious-style nonsense. Instead, Ivory Tower has simplified and streamlined the narrative, offering a more suitable non-linear story, which follows an unnamed individual that the player creates. This time round, the narrative objective is something that all speed-loving adrenaline junkies will have no problem getting on-board with. Become an undisputed racing icon by mastering the very wide range of racing disciplines that the great United States of America has on offer! Admittedly, it is somewhat of an eye-brow raiser that the studio opted to stick to the same country for the sequel, but it is hard to argue with the contrast this setting provides. That said, Forza Horizon took its formula from Colorado to the border of France and Italy, and then to Australia, with no issues.

The USA may only be split into four regions rather than five this time around - offering the West, the Midwest, the East Coast and the South. However, the freedom to explore this map in planes and boats, as well as cars and motorcycles, ensures that it's a much larger and denser playground, whereas the original was sparse and also quite barren in many ways. The Crew 2 certainly is more tightly packed with varied missions and challenges. It seems to have a far superior and more suitable framework that doesn't just rely on the novelty of being able to roam around idly and switch vehicle-type at any moment. There are separate disciplines to progress in individually. Street Racing sees you partake in races through the cities, ramp up the followers for exposure, and earn cash for better motors. The Pro Racing team focuses on boat and plane racing, as well as touring cars. Freestyle focuses on free-form, trick-based events, such as aerobatics, while there's also Off-Road, which are rally cross and motorcross events. They all unlock further missions and races, as well as enhancing the player's rank. If you are tired of one thing, then, there's always another nearby.

Away from this, there are countless tasks to be distracted by in the open-world. These range from typical things like speed traps and photo opportunities, to billboards to hunt down and smash, and challenges like chaining a certain number of near misses in a row, or flying your plane as close to the ground as possible, for as long as you can. While this sometimes feels like arbitrary filler, it all contributes to the ranking up of your driver - so it's easy to be drawn in by this or that. Some of these secondary challenges will have you tempted to retry, whilst others are just entertainment on the way elsewhere. Conveniently, and essentially, given the sprawling size of the map, one can fast-travel across the map and hop directly into events and challenges from the menu. All in all, The Crew 2 feels like it's teeming with content, and on top of the broad range of scenery and terrain, it has the ability to switch vehicle-types on the fly - very much reminiscent of the switching-wheel from Steep, which ensures better standards of contrast and more varied gameplay than the original.

Vehicles handle in an arcade-like manner, which seems a wise choice given the style and the nature of the game. Nothing seems overly challenging to keep under control, although considering the hugely impressive range of vehicles on land, sea, and air, this might disappoint some. With that said, the nuances of more specialist vehicle types, like Daniel Riccardo's Red Bull F1 car (only on a circuit) and the Pilatus PC-21 players that first take to the air with, all translate well enough for the experience. It's also got to be said that the vehicle models look brilliant, and are some of the best around. For the open-world itself, though, the same probably can't be said. Iconic vistas like Times Square and the Golden Gate Bridge certainly look spectacular enough, but when slowing to a crawl and really scanning, it was possible in the beta build to spot some rather garish textures and low-res models. It's also particularly noticeable on details like the wild animals. None of this helps the sense of polish or immersion. Neither does the strange inconsistency in objects that can be smashed through. Some things can be punted out of the way or just passed through, like small trees and signposts, whereas other objects you would imagine could be destroyed will defy expectations. If not fixed, for fans of open-world racing classics like Burnout Paradise, this could be quite a pet-peeve.

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