GRID 2 PC review

Codemasters is back on the racing scene with GRID 2, but can it take first place in a very crowded pack?

The original GRID was an instantly impressive title, wowing race fans with lush visuals, excellent handling and a selection of then-novel features. However, that was five years ago, and a lot has changed.

Many racing games have come and gone, with some offering much more in the way of new and interesting racing features and gameplay tweaks. The genre has evolved in GRID‘s absence, so with this in mind, can GRID 2 manage the same level of impact as its predecessor?

World Racer Rising

Set to the backdrop of the beginnings of a fictional racing series called World Series Racing, the game puts you in the role of an upcoming racing driver picked up by WSR’s mastermind, Patrick Callahan.

Callahan sets you the task of garnering interest in the WSR by competing with other racing clubs. By beating their best drivers, you earn fans for the WSR, and other drivers and clubs agree to race in the new tournament. Once you impress enough drivers and fans, the WSR begins in earnest.

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As well as earning fans for the WSR and opening up new races, you’ll also earn new cars, which are spread across four tiers, with the last tier boasting some serious muscle. Races come in various forms, from simple circuit racing and one-on-one duels, to overtaking challenges, where you need to overtake as many slower trucks as you can, and the game’s new ‘Live Routes’ system.

The Live Routes races are the stand out new feature of Grid 2. These challenging races ditch the always useful mini map and randomly alter the track’s junctions on the fly, meaning no two laps are the same. This keeps you on your toes and creates quite a tension-filled and dramatic race. As you can no longer rely on your own track knowledge, the urge to keep the pedal to the metal has to be constantly kept in check as you simply never know what corners are coming up next, and how sharp they’ll be.

Sadly, even with the Live Routes races, and the selection of other kinds of challenges, the WSR experience itself isn’t really all that interesting, or relevant. It does make progression through the game a little more rewarding than a simple series of races, which other games employ, but it’s just not emphasised enough, and isn’t done justice. Rival clubs are pretty much wasted, simply filling up numbers, and races, even with various types, become very repetitive, with tracks repeated over and over. Its simply doesn’t feel like the big, worldwide racing event the game tries to depict.

GRID 2 is also surprisingly lacking in new features given its five year hiatus, and aside from the Live Routes addition, there’s little here that revolutionises the genre. Existing Grid features like the Flashback rewind mechanic are still just as good, though.

Can I Get A Rewind?

Flashback gives you a limited number of generous rewinds that let you roll back time in a race to avoid a nasty collision or vehicle-totalling crash, and the damage system works brilliantly.

This system certainly isn’t sim-level stuff, and this is arcade-style racing all the way, but damage is handled well. Take minor hits and you’ll simply accrue scratches, more can lose body panels and heavier damage can start to affect your handling, such as biased steering or radiator damage that can slow down the car when the heat grows.

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Car handling is also on par once more, and as always, this is by far the most important aspect of the game. The new ‘True Feel’ handling is weighty and balanced, and vehicle reaction to various surface types is almost always physically sound. Drift off-road into a ditch or over a grassy embankment and you risk flipping the car. Slide with force into a barrier, and you may spin out into the road, losing precious seconds.

However, even when you lose it a little, such as spinning out when taking a corner too fast, you never feel totally out of control. You can always manhandle your vehicle if you’re skilled enough to get back on track, and the Flashback system is always there for the more disastrous situations. This mixture of arcade and simulation feel works, and successfully blurs the line between the two kinds of racer. It always stays on the right side of arcade, though, so simmers will still prefer the likes of GT or Forza.

Drifting is a skill the game actively encourages if you’re using a car capable of taking corners with some Tokyo panache, and it’s a skill you’re going to need to master for the later WSR races if you’re going to stand a chance.

These skills will also come into play when you take yourself online. Grid 2′s online component is great, and features a matchmaking system that can pit you against player types you prefer (those that play nice or prefer to use their cars as makeshift weapons), unlockable and upgradeable vehicles, and it also supports custom track lists and support for RaceNet, Codemasters’ online service. Through this you can tracks stats, access various challenges and so on.

Overall, GRID 2 is one of the best arcade racers around when it comes to core racing mechanics and handling, and the selection of cars challenges you to master a range of racing styles. Muscle cars are speed demons, great at getting physical with other racers, and Japanese motors are manoeuvrable and technical, perfect to besting those lap times. It’s a good balance, if not an entirely revolutionary one.

Limited Additions

Unfortunately, off the road GRID 2‘s options are a little meagre. Car customisation allows you to choose from set designs, to which you can apply custom colours schemes and numbers, and you can also choose wheel styles, but that’s it. There’s no body customisation, or upgrading (unless you play online), just a basic, aesthetic veneer. You can choose from various sponsors, adorning your car with logos, but again, these can’t be manipulated or placed manually.

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These sponsors come with specific challenges, however, which makes them worthwhile. Meet these challenges and you’ll win over more fans. So, it’s a good idea to try them all out.

GRID 2 is a very accomplished racer that does almost everything right. Visually, it’s a very good looking title with some nifty lighting and car damage effects, and the audio is top notch. Patrick Callahan’s constant communications during a race can get a little grating after a while, and the menu system outside of races is a little cumbersome, but these are relatively minor niggles. In fact, other than the relative lack of any major steps forward for the genre, limited vehicle options, and the underwhelming WSR story, GRID 2 hits all the right notes, especially with the core game engine, and arcade racing fans should give it a try.

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4 out of 5