I'm sitting down to play The Crew 2, which hit with a solid reveal at Ubisoft's E3 2017 press conference. The first game had a decent idea - race cars across a modified version of the United States - but the execution left a bit to be desired. The sequel keeps the same premise but expands to multiple motorsports, with players racing cars, motorbikes, boats, and even planes.
The opening of The Crew is a mind-bender, with a start on the streets of New York, drifting around corners. As I reached the end of the course on a long bridge, the world goes into Inception mode, with the road ahead twisting into the sky. When it rights itself again, I was powering across the waves in a huge motorboat. Ramps give you chances to leap out of the water and use shortcuts. The world shifts again and I'm in a plane, flying between the skyscapers of New York.
This mission is meant to give you a general feel of what The Crew 2 is. If it has a motor, you'll be using it get around a redone version of the original's United States. You'll race down city streets in drift cars, skip near beaches in powerboats, run in smaller boats in swamps, off-road in forests with rally cars, and more. There's more variety in the Crew 2, something the original game lacked. The new environments also look amazing; not to Forza Motorsport 7 level, but damned good for everything you can do in The Crew 2. These are places you want to ride and race around in.
After that mission, I'm thrown in The Crew 2's open-world for a bit, where I find the best feature in the sequel. At anytime, you can shift between ground, water, and air transportation. You'll slot in favorite vehicles into each category and by hitting a button and picking a direction on the analog stick, one vehicle will fade out and be replaced with another. It's a damned cool addition that I'm surprised Ubisoft didn't play up more at the conference.
You can be tearing towards a river in your car, catch air and shift into your boat. You can hop a ramp in a powerboat and change into a plane in mid-air. The trick is the new vehicle is left in the spot where the last one was. If you're flying high through the air, changing to a car will have your sportscar plummeting from the sky. If you end up a bad spot, say with a car in the ocean, the game will move you to the nearest appropriate territory in a few seconds. There's some interesting places you can get to and things you can do with the shift mechanic. It was one of my favorite new features in The Crew 2 and a great differentitator in comparision to other racing games.
There are still missions scattered around the digital United States, meaning you can free ride or have a more focused experience. There are four different "families" focused on various types of racing: street racers, pro racers, off-roaders, and freestyle racers. By working within those specific families, you'll unlock new vehicles related to what they do. Ultimately though, the idea is to let the player enjoy what they like doing in The Crew 2. It's about the joy of racing, not being trapped within a limited track.
The Crew 2 will be launching on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in early 2018. I'm looking forward to seeing how far Ubisoft Ivory Tower will take the game.