After a long absence, Codemasters have brought the racing action back to the city streets with the follow up to 2008’s Race Driver: GRID
. In GRID 2
, Codemasters promised an accessible driving simulation, making one that is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Does the game meet up to those promises, and where does it stack up amongst this generation’s numerous racing sims?
The main premise of the single player story is that a businessman named Patrick Callaghan wants to bring his brain child, the World Series Racing (WSR) league, to the masses. To do this he needs a star driver, and that’s where you fit in. You’re tasked with traveling the world to compete against other racing leagues in Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia, across a number of different racing disciplines to bring more awareness to the league and recruit the best drivers from around the world.
The story is split into five seasons with each seeing you compete in a range of events; from standard races to time attacks, check point races and the Touge event where you can win by finishing the course first or by building a five second gap over your opponent. Alongside the racing events, you’ll also be given the opportunity to compete in promotional events to earn more fans, and challenges where you can build your ever-growing garage of cars. There are also separate sponsor objectives to achieve throughout each season, with challenges such as beating a specific opponent or completing a lap within a specified time.
For those of you who tend to memorise tracks once you’ve performed a few laps, there’s a new “Live Routes” feature that will see the track's layout change dynamically throughout. It’s a nice addition as you never really know if the next corner is going to be a hairpin bend that you need to break for heavily, or if it’s one you could have taken at full speed.
When you win races and complete challenges, you’ll be rewarded with more fans - rather than cash to buy and upgrade your cars. That’s because, unlike the multiplayer side of the game, there’s no way to buy additional vehicles or tune the ones you have. For some, this will no doubt be a negative, but I found it made me try more cars as I went through the events, hoping to find the perfect ride to match my style of driving.
Whilst the cars can’t be tuned and purchased at will, there is some customisation open to you. From the garage you can choose which sponsors adorn your cars, as well as painting the car in a range of colours and patterns. It’s nowhere near as in-depth as the options in Forza
, but it does allow you to change the style for every vehicle you own.
Like most racing games, the most important aspect of the game is the handling, and GRID 2
acts as a halfway house between simulation and arcade. The action is very heavily weighted to drifting, and there’s a steep learning curve that will have you wanting to slam your controller down on more than one occasion, but once you get the timing under your fingers, it can be equally rewarding.
If you do struggle with the drifting, unlike most racing games, there are no assistance options that you can switch on to help. The only available options are to switch between manual and automatic gears, switch between visual and full damage, or reduce/increase the difficulty of the sometimes reckless AI.
For the more hardcore drivers out there, the hardest difficulty will offer a real challenge with damage switched to full. The AI drivers aren’t shy about crashing into you or other cars on the road, and quite often the first turn will resemble more of a demolition derby than a race. GRID 2
also brings back the rewind function which was first introduced in GRID
. This time around the feature is much smoother though, with one button press allowing you to correct errors.
Graphically, the game looks beautiful, and whilst the cars don’t measure up to the likes of Forza
in terms of detail and stats, each car has its own look, feel and sound. The courses and tracks you compete on are also lovingly crafted and very realistic, with small touches that won’t be seen by many; such as leaves blowing off the road as you race by and sparks jumping from the overhead train tracks in Chicago. There is one omission that should be mentioned, however; GRID 2
lacks an in-car view which will no doubt upset a few people.
The in-game menus are also nicely put together, with the single player portion of the game giving you access to everything you need from within the garage. As you advance in seasons, your garage progressively improves from the shed-like garage in season one (complete with tatty bicycle) all the way to the much larger, more elaborate garage in season four onwards which is full of some of the best cars the game has to offer.
Multiplayer in GRID 2
shares a number of features with the single player story of the game and utilizes all of the story mode’s tracks while also making use of the different routes available across a number of varied game modes. Unlike the story however, there is a more traditional XP and cash reward system that allows you to upgrade and purchase new cars as you earn cash and level up.
At the beginning of your multiplayer journey, you’ll only have access to a handful of cars across the four different tiers or classes. In the less-powerful first tier races, the selection is not too bad and you’ll stand a good chance of earning a high-placed finish depending on your skill level, but in higher tier races, you’ll quickly become annoyed at how terrible your car performs compared to players of a higher rank. Unlocking and buying cars is an extremely addictive system that will keep you coming back in the hope that the next car you unlock will give you the deciding edge on the track.
Another issue with the multiplayer races is the lack of information given before each race. If you’ve got a good memory for the track names you’ll be able to pick a car to suit, but there is no map shown before each race, creating the possibility that you picked a totally inappropriate car for the circuit.
Negatives out of the way, the multiplayer races are fun-filled and action-packed throughout. Races can include up to twelve players, and with the previously mentioned drifting style, each race can result is some hilarious multi-car pileups on the first turn, and even if you do find yourself in the lead, you’ll never be more than a corner away from spinning out of control should you try to push a little too hard.
For those of you who like to earn bragging rights amongst your friends, the Global Challenge mode allows you to attempt to earn the quickest lap time, or go the furthest distance in check points races. It’s a nice little side game that takes you away from the hectic racing, but still rewards you with XP and cash.
The achievements are mostly awarded for natural progression through the five-season story mode, and trying some of the side features like customising five vehicles. Only one is difficulty-based, tasking you with winning a race on the hardest difficulty without using any rewinds.
The few multiplayer achievements can be picked up within a couple of nights of gameplay, the longest one being to reach level 10, and the remainder boostable in private lobbies. The Keep Your Friends Close...
achievement will require you to beat one of the two random rivals the game gives you in an online race, but if you can’t find them online, you can always use Racenet.com
to add one of your Xbox LIVE friends.
Finally, the remaining achievements require you to race in slightly different ways, or to beat a specified lap time or drift score. Some may provide a challenge for even experienced racing game fans, but with the ability to set up custom races with unlimited rewinds, all should be achievable with practice.
All in all, GRID 2
in a very competent addition to the racing genre, with some stunning visuals, varied gameplay, and a fun multiplayer aspect that will keep you coming back for more. The game does suffer slightly by trying cater to everyone rather than sticking to all-out simulation or arcade, but if the more casual racers can persevere through the steep learning curve, there’s enough gameplay here for it to warrant a purchase.
The reviewer has spent twenty hours on the game at the time of writing, earning 39 of the game's 50 achievements. The vast majority of that time has been spent playing online for fun, despite earning all the online achievements. The game was provided complements of the publisher for review purposes.