Play enough racing games, and you begin to familiarize yourself with the same tracks. Monterey’s Laguna Seca is a popular one, having appeared in everything from Gran Turismo to Forza Motorsport to Project Cars. The accuracy of modern simulators, through the ability to laser-scan environments and such, also means that renditions of the track between titles end up being largely similar if not identical.
Keeping that in mind, it’s really funny to then go drive Laguna Seca in The Crew 2 and experience a more, shall we say, imaginative interpretation of the circuit. The Crew 2 isn’t a new game — I dabbled in it when it came out three years ago — though I never realized Laguna Seca was included in it until a friend told me as much earlier this week.
Now, there are a few details to unpack here. Unlike the aforementioned titles, The Crew 2 easily falls on the arcade end of the arcade/sim spectrum; in fact, the only game off the top of my head that would land to the left of it is Mario Kart. It’s not supposed to feel real. It’s also quite ambitious as far as open-world racing games go, because it attempts to recreate the entirety of the continental United States in an abridged manner, by hitting all the major tourist attractions. Like, you know, Bayonne, New Jersey. Seriously, I’m not kidding:
Anyway, we can grant the game’s developer, Ubisoft Ivory Tower, a little bit of leeway there. But none of this makes this incredibly off-model inclusion of Laguna Seca any less hilarious.
For starters, the track is lined with tall, green trees — the first sign something is amiss. Corners appear to be relaxed in general, the road is always too wide and the differences in elevation between parts of the circuit are not at all representative of reality.
On the real Laguna Seca, the approach from the front straight into the Andretti Hairpin is a crest that peaks right after the start/finish line and progressively descends thereafter. Here, it’s a jump that sends your car airborne. Meanwhile, the shape of the infamous Corkscrew is all wrong and very, very flat, as the GIF at the top of this post illustrates. The video below shows the circuit in its entirety.
These last two inconsistencies highlight what is perhaps the major reason why Laguna Seca wasn’t replicated with any faithfulness in The Crew 2. Again, the massive scope of the title has a lot to do with it, but it’s clear that the track itself had to be significantly scaled down to fit within the game’s map.
A three-quarters size recreation of any course is never going to feel right and, judging the short distances between corners and the speed with which the player in the embedded video completes a lap, it would appear scale is the primary issue here.
The Crew 2’s take on Laguna Seca is, to me, a microcosm of the entire game: A bold premise let down by poor execution because the developers clearly bit off more than they could ever hope to chew. I’m reminded of this brilliant piece from PC Gamer’s Andy Kelly in 2018, right after The Crew 2 came out, focused entirely on the computer-generated signage in the game. I mean, there’s no confirmation that Ivory Tower used AI to adorn storefronts, but I’m not sure how else you’d get gems like “Breakfast & Mechanic Spa Pharmacy,” “Circular Dots” and a motel offering rooms for just $3B.9B a night.
Really the whole experience just ends up feeling extremely surreal, peppered with familiar landmarks that are all just off, like they’d been recreated by someone based off details told to them over the phone. Which, to give the game its credit, certainly makes it a hell of a lot more memorable than if it’d gotten everything right.