The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 sportscar is, according to my notes, capable of exceeding 300 kilometres per hour on asphalt, and if you think that’s impressive, wait till you see how fast it travels when it’s plummeting uncontrollably through the atmosphere from a few miles up. As my time with The Crew 2 draws to a close, I turn my stuntplane skyward and hit the nitro. Rain speckles the camera; clouds knit and part with a surly magnificence. I spin the view side-on, watching the bright pink plane carve a track across the horizon like a finger running up a dirty windowpane. All the while, HUD notifications drip from the fuselage as the game steadily translates various unintended feats of aeronautics – a lazy corkscrew, a second of knife-flight – into points and multipliers.
After a moment the grey peels back and I emerge into late evening blue, tendrils of cloud brushing the wings in that horrifying, seductive way that makes you want to climb out and wade through them. I perform a loop-the-loop – the scoring systems go nuts – and sit back to enjoy the spectacle from inside the cockpit, wind rattling the frame. Then I click right stick and am suddenly behind the wheel of a sleek silver automobile. There are a few excitable seconds of freefall, a muted thud, and we’re back in the outskirts of Miami, skidding through swampland. Thus the lovable madness at the heart of The Crew 2, an open world racer with high fidelity physics which lets you smash cars into Florida like meteors without so much as popping an airbag.
There’s a levity to Ivory Tower’s sequel that goes a long way, a festival spirit that carries across the game’s world, aesthetic and interface, spicing up what is already a fairly absorbing range of vehicles and racing styles. Broadly, it’s the same game as the 2014 original, giving you the run of a scaled-down United States that has been cheerfully wiped clean of people and their problems, its freeways, canyons, monuments and alleys reworked into a gigantic playground for private transport. It’s the kind of place Google’s driverless cars dream of going to when they’re scrapped. The city layouts have been rebuilt from scratch, but this remains a landscape bristling with challenges and distractions, a thoroughly instrumentalised environment in which you seldom pass 10 seconds without triggering a multiplier. Won a circuit race? Congrats, here’s your payout. Accidentally launched yourself from a rooftop into oncoming traffic after missing a turn? Well done, fill your boots. There are other players abroad in the world, too, all busy beating events and setting records that are dropped into your session, which creates a steady buzz of competition even should you decide to play through the whole thing alone.