Race Driver: GRID pretty much left the rest of the competition in the dust by introducing the Flashback button amidst the blend of arcade and simulation racing. For five years ago, there was high praise; but now Codemasters faces the challenge of keeping GRID relevant. With years of development behind it, together with innovations from Codemasters’ other games, it certainly ticks all the right boxes. But does this make GRID 2 the best racing game… in the world?
Five seasons are what stand between obscurity and fame for the WSR, with preliminary events to gain as many fans as possible – accomplished by placing well in various races. GRID 2 is a good-looking on all platforms, with the PC version being the most polished looking racer out there. It comes with a large variety of highly detailed licensed cars, the ability to change whether damage affects your driving, and tracks with iconic scenery mixed with tight corners that require a huge amount of dedication to master. The lack of cockpit racing while justified seems like a waste of potential, but this is only a minor complaint. Some tracks are based off famous cities or race tracks, while others seem to be representations of scenic routes. Credit has to go to the team responsible for capturing the spirit of each track; Chicago feels appropriately clustered, Paris oozes with charm, and Brands Hatch maintains its identity despite being a digital representation of the famous course. It’s clear that the team has been globe-trotting to gain inspiration for the many locations shown, with each one capturing what makes it all special.
However, GRID 2’s main problem is that the various race types feel at odds with each other. On the one hand, you have a realistic looking racer that challenges you to keep a proper racing line; but on the other you have bizarre race types such as LiveRoutes – where the track can change from corner to corner, based on that location’s track variations, or Overtake – where you must pass as many trucks as possible without crashing to build up a multiplier. These two, alongside the likes of Checkpoint – the homage to traditional arcade racing games, prove to be among the highlights; while Duels’ buggy disqualification clause that disqualifies you – even if the opponent crashes into you, and Drift – where hairpin bends prove to be your worst enemy, are obvious low points. AI is particularly suicidal as well, meaning that it will just crash into you without so much as a hint of regret. Yes, flashbacks are still around and are highly useful, but the new TrueDrive steering has its off moments.
What’s more apparent than GRID 2’s lack of identity is the linear structure of the campaign. As you progress through the game, you will be given a choice of new cars in order to race new circuits, with the option to win the other one via optional challenges. Once you’ve met the fan quota, you begin that year’s World Series Racing Championship, eventually rising to the top before doing it all again in another region. Since you’re going to be getting the fans you need to compete in WSR events anyway, the unlocked cars feel like a bit of an afterthought rather than a reward. Offline you can only customise car colour and which sponsors you have dotted around your chassis, which while it does have implications on getting the fans, doesn’t allow for the car tinkering that a garage normally entails. Not everyone is into in-depth car tinkering mind, but when you consider the online mode has this to a small and basic degree, it is a bit of a peculiar omission.
Speaking of online, you have all the same game modes and races at your disposal. Gaining levels and money takes a long time, some might say a little too long. Usually however, online racing will descend into chaos when someone inevitably crashes into either the barrier or someone else. This creates an almost impossible hazard for everyone else in the race. Online can be a fun until the game decides you’ve cut a corner because someone else crashed into you, penalising you by stopping you in your tracks. If this was purely simulation racing, then having this as a mandatory option would be fitting. Because it isn’t, it needlessly restricts those who just want to have fun.
RaceNet keeps track of everything you do, with the amount of information being stored quite a remarkable with your commentator giving insight on corners you struggled with in the past. If that isn’t enough, you even have the ability to upload replays to YouTube once you’ve done the necessary signing up on RaceNet. Having your race assistant blurt out whatever handle you wish to be known by, is impressive yet slightly unsettling – especially if you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and your name is Dave.
GRID 2 is a highly competent racer that seems to have an unfortunate identity crisis. It’s never quite sure whether it wants to be a hyper realistic simulation racer where learning the courses and mastering your vehicle are the main focus, or an arcade racer with wacky race types and an emphasis on drifting. If technicalities are all that matters, the game plays well both online and in the campaign, with a huge roster of features and tracks being supported, including some that next-gen consoles will be capable of. On paper, GRID 2 is a high performance vehicle that is capable of great handling and immense speed, meaning it should outshine all of its competition. On the road though, GRID 2 isn’t as exciting to drive as the others, meaning that it is left in the dust!