GRID 2 is the sequel to the fun and immersive GRID from Codemasters. There have been changes under the hood as well as on the bodywork, but does this new title have what it takes to storm to first place?
Gamestyle have been fans of this series from day one and we are not talking about GRID, we started on TOCA Touring Car Championship on the PS1. What Codemasters produced was a fantastic racing game that felt as close to a simulation on the console as you would get. Fully structured, licensed championships that could be set to a few laps, or full length races.
It had an in car view that was ahead of its time and really made you feel part of the action, as well as AI that felt alive, seemingly adjusting to your racing style, remembering how you had been in a previous race, it had that something special. Of course there was the damage engine too, that at the time felt like a breath of fresh air.
As the games progressed though, through TOCA 2 Touring Cars, World Touring Cars and eventually the TOCA Race Driver series, the licences slowly fell away and a story driven game was introduced. yet again the immersive nature remained and the games had that something special. Race Driver 3 was the only real let down in a solid series.
Race Driver GRID was the title for the early stages of the 360 era and it changed things up again, removing the full on story telling of the Race Driver series and adding in a progression based feature, but once again it was immersive, challenging and ultimately a ton of fun. Especially when you set the game to PRO mode, which locked the camera to head cam, stopped any use of flashbacks and also restarts. It meant you drove not only to win, but also to survive. No trying to risk it all on the start, having to decide whether to attack or protect a position, knowing that at anytime a mistake really did mean race over. For our money, not other console racer has come close to the feeling GRID could give if set up right.
So when Codemasters announced that they would be doing away with the head cam in GRID 2, we will admit we were very dissappointed, as we were in the 5% that did use that camera, but we aren’t ones to let that stop us playing, the series has been a favourite and we want to love this as much as we have the others.
The racing in GRID 2 is a fast and frantic as it was in previous titles, the various opponents have their own driving styles and the AI still feels a lot more alive than in other titles. Mistakes can be made and are made, by yourself and by the opponents, which makes races feel alive, for the short time they are on anyway. GRID 2 seems to be suffering from the same ‘quick races only’ syndrome that has plagued most modern day racers, 3 lap races are par for the course, which means you are forced somewhat to be aggressive and take a lot of risks as you make your way from a random grid position to first, it also means that the tense action of a race is over all too quickly.
You may find yourself sat behind a rival as you try and find a way through, but rather than try and force him into a mistake, or look for the right opening over a number of laps, you are having to make some all or nothing moves as take too long and the laps are just eaten up. It would be nice to have the option of longer races, rather than sprint after sprint, after sprint.
That said, when you are in a race, your concentration is at 100% and action is fast and tense, which is exactly what you want from a racer, even if your time on the track is shorter than you’d like. The lack of a head cam does diminish the intensity a little, but we can live with bonnet cam… Just!
The progression through the game is similar to that of GRID, but with a few little changes. You are now aiming to become the star of a new race series known the the WSR. You will battle with other rivals who have the same aim as you, to become the face of the series and worldwide superstar. There are some neat touches here, with fans being earned by winning races, completing promos and winning new cars in special events. The is a fair amount of popular culture references too, using the likes of social media and YouTube style presentations to try and add life to the off tack parts. This is shown off by the odd video presentation of analysts on ESPN Sportscenter in an attempt to add some real life feel to the game.
On the whole is works, but it is just some smoke and mirrors, as the single player progression feels very linear, you need to position in a series to proceed as the game funnels you down a certain path, essentially becoming a series of ‘race, win, proceed’ whereas it would have been nice to see how a scenario would progress down different paths depending on how you performed.
There are other little gimmicks thrown in to the mix too, such as the live routes that can be played both in single player and online, where the course is changing throughout the race, so no map to help you know when a corner is coming, no learning the best routes through the lap. It should add a bit of a level playing field to a race, but at times it felt like the AI had a bit of an advantage and almost knew the route ahead of time. Online though it really works as a mode and a great way of bringing everyone to an even keel.
There seems to be less track races in GRID 2, with seemingly more of the action taking place in city areas or mountain roads. Though these races are fun and the settings are spectacular, we do miss driving blind around Le Mans at night. That said though the locations you will drive are challenging and if we are honest remind us more of PGR than they do the game’s own roots. We haven’t found any of the course to be tedious and we cannot wait to get back to them once a race is over.
GRID 2 is far from a bad game, it looks absolutely showroom stunning, one of the best looking racers of the generation and a wonderful way to sign off before the PS4 and XBOX One show us what that can do. It just isn’t the follow up to GRID we were hoping for, to the point we went back to the game to make sure there wasn’t some rose tinted specs clouding our judgement. We loved GRID and it is still our favourite racer of the generation, GRID 2 is a competent follow up, but doesn’t quite reach those new heights we were hoping for.