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'The Crew 2' Better Not Break My Heart

'The Crew' was built with such promise, but failed to bring the road trip vibe to life.
All images courtesy of Ubisoft

The Crew might be one of my biggest gaming heartbreaks in recent memory, even more than No Man's Sky and Mass Effect: Andromeda. In spite of this, the announcement of a sequel came with a little glimmer of hope. It felt like a second chance to actually deliver. To put out something unique, on a scale only a developer like Ubisoft could manage. Then on Monday I saw The Crew 2's E3 trailer, and while it's still absolutely possible that it'll be a great game, my original glimmer of hope has definitely dimmed.


None of what was shown promised or even implied a fix to its predecessor's most glaring issues. Prior to release, The Crew seemed to be offering something unique: half racing game, half road trip. Its trailers were thrust out to audiences with the words "Never Drive Alone" written in bold red between scenes of dense cities, endless deserts and sprawling middle-American grasslands. There were cars nestled in clusters of gamertags and avatars, lined up at the start of some vaguely defined cross-country adventure. There were landmarks. There were places to recognize, sights to see, and roads stretching from coast to coast.

With all this it promised action and excitement and all the usual racing game things, but it also promised discovery. It suggested a world that was more than one big circuit track. When it actually came out, a lot of that stuff was still there, but it took a lot of creative play (and avoiding the vast majority of the game's actual goals and structure) to actually make it fun.

The Crew had a lot of problems. It had a massive world full of variety, but did nothing to give it real life or character. It set the perfect stage for a unique roadtrip story, but instead delivered bland story missions, scattered optional trials and yet one more revenge-driven protagonist so forgettable that when I try to actually recall anything about him my memory only returns Bryan Cranston circa 2014.

Lack of vehicle types was not a problem with The Crew. If I had been driving through its sequential american dioramas on a motorcycle or over them in a plane they would have felt just as plastic—quaint-yet-hollow backdrops for an assortment of skill challenges. Similarly, the problems with its narrative can't be fixed by putting a social media influencer in the driver's seat. Racing for likes and faves might be the worst possible use of a painstakingly designed simulation of some sleepy little town in the middle of Kentucky.

Racing for likes and faves might be the worst possible use of a painstakingly designed simulation of some sleepy little town in the middle of Kentucky.

The real heartbreak of The Crew is that part of that development team poured themselves into building a rich, unique world to play in, while another part of that team dropped a Hot Wheels playset and some G.I. Joes on top of it. What I want from The Crew 2 is to see some of that mess cleaned up, to see that original world shining through. So far, though, it looks like the sequel's only interested in throwing more toys on the pile.