Back to the GRID.
It has been some time coming, but the much-loved racing game from Codemasters, Race Driver: GRID, finally has a sequel. Many of the innovations brought to the genre by the original GRID have since been shamefully poached by other racing games, but that didn’t stop the hype for Codemasters’ latest racing game from being huge. Can GRID 2 really live up to such hype and fond memories? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a very good racing game…
Unlike many racing games, Codemasters has felt the need to loosely link all of the racing action together in GRID 2, as they seem to enjoy doing in other racing games. Here in GRID 2, the single player game revolves around a guy called Patrick Callahan, and his dream to create a new racing league.
It turns out that your YouTube racing shenanigans have caught the eye of Mr. Callahan and he wants you to front up and gather interest for a new World Series of Racing, which will involve competing in many different racing disciplines and progressing around the world collecting fans and bringing Mr. Callahan’s dream to reality. For the player, fans bring new vehicles and progression – it’s that simple.
But let’s face it, most player will happily skip through all of the story stuff as they try and get into more important racing. GRID 2 doesn’t let down in this aspect. Employing the “TrueFeel” handling, GRID 2 manages to walk a line that seems to teeter between arcade and simulation racing, and actually does it very successfully. Many times, games that walk that line between genres manage to be a lesser game to fans of both. However, GRID 2 seems to have the variety, difficulty and handling that will leave both arcade racers and sim fans satisfied.
No driver aids mean that the racing in GRID 2 is much more tense for the less than perfect driver. A lack of car customisation adds to this by ensuring that getting the edge through improvement is not a possibility. But whereas many racing games will have a gentle learning curve that can lead to complacency in the early game, GRID 2 pushes the player from the very start. The handling is tight and realistic, and the sense of speed is gratifying. Collisions, be they with other racers or the environment, cause realistic damage – both cosmetic and actual, causing the car to handle very differently after a major crash.
While GRID 2 may seem unforgiving, the flashback feature returns allowing players to rewind time and undo mistakes. This is the only real concession given to the amateur player and will be used a lot. But even the inclusion of this little “cheat” mechanic, GRID 2 still manages to be real edge of the seat racing.
One major bugbear for the fans is the lack of cockpit view. This is not something that affects me personally, I always play from a behind the vehicle view. But the omission seems strange as I know many players prefer the view from being behind the wheel. Gamers tend to get stuck in their ways, and I am sure that for some the missing cockpit view will be the deciding factor in their choice to purchase the game.
When it comes to the variety of races and vehicles in GRID 2, there is plenty to be happy about. The inability to customise the cars in single player does leave a slight detachment between the player and his cars, but this opens the possibility of trying different cars to get the edge rather than just sticking with one or two supercars. The vehicles are plentiful and offer very different experiences across the events, which are also varied and will see the player driving in everything from checkpoint and elimination races to the highly entertaining overtake races in which two player compete to overtake other vehicles on the track.
The tracks are also plentiful, if lacking a bit in personality. They are based in different cities around the world and bring with them a style that fits with the city in question. The problem comes from the fact that the tracks just don’t feel memorable, they don’t stand out. The tracks are well put together, but easily forgotten.
There is a lot to do for the single player, but taking the game online opens up yet more options for racing action. With leaderboards, leveling up, upgrades and a certain amount of track variety offered by “LiveRoutes” mixing things up by changing the track layouts, GRID 2’s multiplayer option will far outlive the single player game and be the reason for players to keep coming back again and again far into the future.
Which is not harmed at all by the fact that GRID 2 looks so damn good. The cars all look sublime, and the settings for the tracks are impressive enough to get the player excited when they arrive at a new location. In racing games the gameplay may be all important, but with lush visuals such as these, one could almost forgive any other faults.
But players of GRID 2 won’t find many faults that need forgiving. The lack of cockpit view is a shame, and the missing driving aids may put some players off. But otherwise, GRID 2 manages to pack a lot of racing action into a game that will appeal to both arcade and sim racing fans. There are not huge changes from the original game, but that will be a good thing for many. It doesn’t have the “wow” factor, but GRID 2 is worth picking up no matter what type of racing fan you are.