Posted by Jim Martin 26 June 2013
Codemasters Grid 2 review: a visually stunning racing game
It's been ages since I played the original Grid, which was actually called Race Driver: Grid. Back in 2008, it was superb. Addictive, fast paced and overloaded with bloom effects, this Swiss army knife of racing games stood out from the crowd. A hard act to follow, you might say.
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So Grid 2 was always going to be under pressure to be a better racer. It's certainly fun to play, but it's hardly ground-breaking. See also: Ford Sync: we test out voice recognition in the 2013 Fiesta.
Indeed, it closely follows the tried-and-tested formula that's been used in all of Codemasters' recent racing games. However, rather than have a storyline that focuses on you as a driver, it's all about your efforts in promoting a new racing league: World Series Racing. Take a look at Video: Hands on with the Alienware 14 'Haswell' gaming laptop.
That's all well and good, but take away the distractions, and Grid 2 boils down to the typical mix of events: circuit pack racing, time trials, head-to-head, against the clock and elimination.
There's also drifting, where you win or lose by the amount of points you gain by drifting your car around corners, plus promo events where you have to overtake slower-moving trucks without crashing or going off-circuit, again to score maximum points.
It hasn't all been done before, however. A new type of race is LiveRoute, where the track dynamically changes and you therefore don't get a little circuit map to follow.
There's a decent selection of cars to play with, but the track list isn't quite all we were hoping for. In fact, until you unlock extra regions in the second and third season of the WSR, you're limited to the US. Your American engineer/mentor also quickly becomes annoying - it's a shame (for UK fans, at least) that Codemasters had to give Grid 2 such an American feel.
The only UK circuit in the game is Brands Hatch.
Visually, Grid 2 is stunning. It has a much cleaner look than its predecessor, and damage modelling is extensive. You get both day and night races, and there are plenty of variations of all the tracks on offer.
In terms of handling, Grid 2 manages to sit squarely between arcade-style racers and out-and-out simulations. That either means it's the perfect balance between accessibility and realism, or the worst of both worlds.
It doesn't take too long to get to grips with how Grid 2 wants you to drive, and it's definitely more arcade than simulation. Hardcore driving game fans will mourn the loss of a cockpit view, but Codemasters says that only 5% of gamers use this view, given the choice.
There are obvious differences between the ways the various cars handle. Jump into a Honda S2000 on a drifting event and you'll be spinning it into the barriers until you get the knack. Alternatively, drive an old-school BMW M3 on the Paris city circuit and you'll appreciate both the power and immense grip for precisely positioning the car into the corners.
Although it's satisfying when you get it right, there's always the 'flaw' that it doesn't really matter as you can hit the rewind button when you get it wrong and try the overtake/corner again. (Flashback is a favourite feature for a lot of Codemasters fans, but it feels like cheating to me.)
What IS impressive is the damage modelling, which I referred to earlier. Treat your ride roughly, and not only will bumpers and doors begin flying off, but you'll soon be at the back of the field as performance takes a hit.
Have a massive crash and your race is over - you'll also find out just how much G-force was involved in the stats afterwards.
Another highlight is the AI. You won't see it all the time, but occasionally other drivers will make mistakes. From running wide and losing a little pace to outright crashes, the AI drivers don't simply form a snake on the racing line like the games of old.
They're not shy of trading paint, either. If you're in their way, they'll tap your rear and push you into a spin, or run into the back of you if you're early on the brakes. Plus, they won't leave room if you try a late lunge down the inside at a corner.
While Grid 2 looks the part with its detailed, high-res graphics, the same can't really be said for the way it sounds. It's by no means bad - an AMG Merc has an authentic V8 rumble - but a fair few of the lesser cars (the Focus ST for example) appear to have a generic soundtrack and haven't received much attention.
Still, if you get bored by the single-player mode, there's always the various multiplayer modes to try. It's good to see a split-screen view, as that's pretty rare these days, as well as the online mode which tries to take the pain out of those fools who like to drive the wrong way by ghosting out their car.
Aside from the obvious and annoying US bent, Grid 2's main problem is that it tries to be all things to all men. One thing's for certain, though: it will appeal to those looking for an easy racer that they can pick up and put down as and when they like. Hardcore fans looking for a simulation should probably look elsewhere; Grid 2 is best played with a gamepad, not a steering wheel and pedals.
Grid 2: verdict
For everything it gets wrong, though, there's a saving grace. Mediocre audio is made up for by stunning visuals. Seen-it-all-before event types are offset by the point-to-point-style LiveRoutes.
Uninspiring handling is forgotten when you're in a drag race down the final straight of the final round of the season and the crowd are cheering you on.
I'm fairly confident that Grid 2 isn't set to become a classic racer, but it should produce some fond memories as one of the last great driving games for the current generation of consoles.