During the Ubisoft Forward presentation, part of the E3 2021 gaming media event, Olivier Gueydon – Associate Producer at developer Ivory Tower – explained that across two games, The Crew series has amassed over 30 million players. Quite some feat.
A trailer for the next content update for The Crew 2 then splashed onto our screens and to our pleasant surprise, it had a motorsport theme.
We were able to play the United States Speed Tour East Motorflix season ahead of its release on 7th July, but before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the latest expansion, this is also the perfect excuse to re-evaluate the now three-year-old open-world racer.
Right from the off, The Crew 2 doesn’t have the smoothest of car handling characteristics. There’s a lack of precision, with initial requests to change direction met with a lackadaisical response.
You can’t tap the brakes like a Need for Speed game to initiate a drift, nor employ a dab of handbrake like Forza Horizon to help your machine turn on its axis.
If you do try to use the parking brake, unless you’re driving on gravel, it tends to result in a brief skid before the front axle snaps backs into line – drifting is generally not this game’s forte
Thanks in part to its age and the lack of a next-gen console or PC hardware update, the environment visuals – while inoffensive – are often flatter than a glass of Dr Pepper left out overnight.
The UI can often be too fiddly, with important modes or events hidden away within a menu. Or are they accessed from the map? Or your home? Or the pause screen? Or all four? I’m not sure…
But here’s the thing. Give it more than an hour of your time and things start to click. You need to think slightly leftfield to understand the appeal of The Crew 2.
The vastness of the location is one key element. Not a small part of a nation, or a facsimile of one, but the entire United States of America. That’s between 5,000 and 7,000 km² of playable game area to you and me, and what it lacks in contemporary visual sheen, it more than makes for in variety and sheer scope.
I didn’t mention the dynamic time and weather that’s constantly changing yet, either. Oh, and the rallycross, off-road racing, monster trucks, stunt events or licensed Red Bull Formula 1 cars. I nearly forgot the motorcycles and motocross bikes there too. And the planes.
Boats – there are boats too!
There isn’t a more diverse vehicle list in gaming.
You can also customise most of them with a bigger list of parts than the number of US states. Making a Pontiac GTO my own – one of the new vehicles – I was able to select from 82 different rim designs, 18 front facias, 21 rear designs, the dashboard material, the colour combination of the seats, the hood, the spoiler and even the tyre tread.
Combine that with the location and throw in Ubisoft’s industry-leading post-release support plus being able to play with up to three friends co-operatively (hence the name) and you start to see The Crew 2’s trump card. Variety.
This leads us nicely to the new United States Speed Tour East addition, Season 3, Episode 1 of Motorflix.
Motorflix first started in November 2020 and lays out regular themed additions to the sprawling title. These are broken down into seasons, each season containing two episodes. Five seasons have so far been confirmed for development.
The first episode was The Chase, which saw police-focussed vehicles and missions, followed by the largely off-road racing-themed The Hunt and then recently in Season 2, the spy-themed Agency and stunt-themed Game instalments.
In each update, there is a suite of vehicles that will be added to The Crew 2 for all players, regardless of game mode, and then a set of new events spread out across two months.
Then there is also Motorpass which is integrated within each episode. By completing daily in-game challenges, you can unlock new visual customisation items to apply to your vehicle collection and several special, uniquely customised or all-new, vehicles.
There are 50 tiers of challenges to progress through and there’s a Premium pass that instantly unlocks 12 tiers for 80,000 Crew Credits. Currently, a pack of 100,000 costs £7.99/$9.99 and you will also receive up to 40,000 CC back to spend in-game on other items as bonuses through a Motorpass season.
Similar item unlocking systems are employed by Rocket League’s Rocket Pass and the F1 game’s Podium Pass.
For the upcoming first episode of the third season, the theme is motorsport. So, the Motorpass has racing suits, helmets and racing-inspired wheels to unlock alongside more garish window tints and even car horn sounds.
Oh, and new cars. Lots of new cool news cars. Let’s run through each.
For all players in July, the following four vehicles will be added to the shop. If you’ve amassed enough in-game credits, they can be yours and there’s also the quick test drive option too so you can get a feel for them before purchasing.
- Pontiac GTO The Judge 1969
- Pontiac GTO The Judge 1969 Rally Raid Edition
- Porsche Carrera 911 RSR Turbo 1974
- KTM X-Bow R Alpha Grand Prix Edition 2016
- Then the Honda CB1000R Fireblade 2018 motorcycle will be available on the 14th July.
Then we have the USS TE Motorpass vehicles, which are the big-ticket items.
First up, free for everyone, is the Ford Focus RS RX One Glow Ed. It’s a beast.
Taking the already rapid rallycross car and turning up its four-wheel-drive and turbo-charged platform to 11, the aggressive body kit that now adorns the exterior screams Pikes Peak Hill Climb to us. It’s got a bigger chin than Jay Leno!
Then there’s the Premium Falcon Competition Edition of the Pontiac GTO. Imagine if the Dakar Rally or Baja 1000 event had a ruleset that was for 1960s US muscle cars and you’re nearly there. The high ride-height and supple suspension mixed with American horsepower should be perfect for some dirt racing
These sit alongside the headline-grabbing cars we saw in the E3 trailer – the Pulse Performance Edition of the Porsche 911 RSR Turbo and a KTM X-Bow that’s so modified you can barely tell what it’s based upon.
The Arrow Racing Edition fits into the Alpha Grand Prix class, it’s so tuned, alongside the Red Bull Formula 1 cars. The acceleration and high-grip handling will snap your neck. Except, they won’t because this is a video game, but you get the point…
However, what are new vehicles without new events to use them in?
Aha, those crafty folk at Ivory Tower have you covered there, too.
The United States Speed Tour East is a series of racing events on the, yes, you’ve guessed it, East Coast of America. This is broken down into a series of 16 unique Time Trial events. There we four unlocked for us to try in this preview, and two new challenges will appear each week across the episode.
The perfect test of these new vehicles, although it must be said that you don’t need the Premium Motorpass cars to take part yourself.
Each Time Trial event is available in three difficulty settings: Normal, Hard or Ace. Once you finish a challenge for one difficulty, each subsequent level unlocks, and you’ll receive additional bonuses and loot for mastering the sterner tests.
So really, to get the most out of these additions, you should play through each at least three times, trying to beat the faster times.
The level design has special chicanes, barriers and signage to make it feel like a holistic event, and there are varied locales. From an inner-city layout to a rallycross track that mixes in some dirt and even a high-speed highway run in that shiny new Porsche.
While new, exciting and fun, the Time Trial events do seem to outstay their welcome a little bit in terms of event length, sometimes repeating loops to make it feel more expansive than it actually is.
Once you’ve gone through each new test and have tried out the new rides, there is the engrossing Live Summit to play through too.
For those not familiar, each new Season of Motorflix also includes a series of fresh Live Summits. These being a series of nine events that incorporate elements from The Crew 2’s wide range of disciplines. An online leaderboard of your score across all events is then updated.
At the end of the Summit, there is a ranking and if you reach a certain level, you receive pay-outs. The levels being: Bronze – Ranked, Silver – Top 15,000, Gold – Top 8,000 and Platinum – Top 4,000.
A change for this update brings rewards after each Summit event – unlike previously where it was only after the Summit ends – and the results tiers are extended so, in theory, more players will receive pay-outs.
In this Speed Tour Summit, we were all aiming for the prize of an exclusive Chevrolet Corvette C2, with stylish modifications making it look like some sort of Cyberpunk 2077 retro restoration.
The Live Summits are another crucial factor to the game’s enduring appeal and nothing else feels quite like awaiting your ranking. This time we were fourth in the world, but before I crack open a fresh Bollinger, at the time of playing there were six players on the list – so really, that wasn’t a great performance from us…
Damn, that boat race was so difficult!
If you already own The Crew 2, now’s the time to hop back in and check out the revised Live Summit system plus the new vehicles and challenges that come with each Motorflix season.
I think that the system itself is engaging, but the Motorflix, Motorpass, Live Summit nomenclature and UI structure can be a little confusing. Push through though, and you are rewarded with something unique in the racing game space and an experience that is far exceeding initial expectations.
If you want to try out Season 3, Episode 1, of Motorflix – the United States Speed Tour East – then it’s live on PlayStation, Xbox, Stadia and PC from 7th July 2021. You can also play the whole of The Crew 2 for free between 8th and 12th July on PlayStation, PC and Stadia.
Full disclosure: A code for the game was kindly provided by the publisher for preview purposes.