|System: Xbox 360*, PS3, PC|
|Release: May 28, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
GRID 2 is Codemasters’ newest racing spectacle; it’s the five-year-long-awaited sequel to Race Driver: GRID, or just GRID in the United States. GRID is known for its incredible attention to detail, accessible yet realistic mechanics, enjoyable tracks, and well-done environments. GRID 2 gives us more of the same, but also makes some possibly controversial design choices with its graphics, tracks, and car selection. GRID 2 feels like a sequel to the original GRID, but it may be different enough to surprise some fans of its predecessor, and may even turn some of them off. Still, GRID 2 is a game that will attract far more new players to the franchise than it will lose old ones.
GRID 2 actually has a story to tell, which is always shaky ground for the racing genre. Past racing titles have tried to spin us tales about highway bandits trying to retake the road from underneath the government’s eyes, or hardcore street racers that don’t play by the law. GRID 2 is far tamer than that. Here, you’ll play the poster boy for a brand new racing league, World Series Racing (WSR). Your goal is simple, to raise WSR awareness and get yourself recognized as a serious competitor in a serious sport.
Yes, GRID 2’s single-player mode essentially tells a tale of marketing but it really works, feeling far more like a sports title like Madden or FIFA than the adventure title or RPG a lot of racing games, such as Burnout, try to be. Instead of rewarding you with unrealistic prizes, like loot or stolen cars, the game rewards you with fans. You aren’t thrown over-the-top parades or featured in a major motion picture; you are talked about on forums and have videos about you posted on YouTube. What’s interesting is that the cutscenes that show this social media success are really quite enjoyable, perhaps because they feel realistic. The game excels at fulfilling the fantasy of being a racing success without ruining the experience by getting too silly. Get popular enough and you’ll even have real ESPN anchors do a story about you. That will make any sports fan feel like they are having their fifteen minutes of fame.
Of course, to get this notoriety you have to race, and that means starting small and working your way up to the big leagues. There’s no shortage of racing events for you to participate in, ranging from elimination matches to checkpoint races and everything in between. You can either finish events one by one, slowly working your way up the totem pole without missing a single lap, or you can simply push forward into later game events while skipping previous ones. Either way feels great and neither destroys the game’s sense of pacing.
GRID 2 has 14 international locales to race in, with about 6 routes in each area. The game goes a long way to make these locations feel diverse. Racing in one area during a low-level event may have you skidding along back roads during an overcast day, while racing in the same area in a higher-level event will send you through nighttime streets with crowds of people watching on the sidelines and fireworks going off in the background. At points, the different events can feel familiar as you take the same series of turns you have experienced five times before in another racing mode, but it only ever amounts to a minor annoyance; a short break from the game will get you out and racing again in no time.
GRID 2 also introduces a new type of track called a Live Route that is an interesting innovation in the racing genre. Essentially, it places you in a locale, but then randomizes the turns you have to make through that locale, making it impossible to plan for upcoming curves. While Live Routes are interesting and keep locales feeling fresh, they are also frustrating; racing through them is kind of a crapshoot. You’ll eventually realize that racing games are heavily based on track memorization and planning ahead for each turn. Without the ability to play this way, you’ll mostly crash a lot and be taken by surprise by sharp turns coming up at the last minute.
GRID 2’s racing engine adds a bit to this frustration. It’s certainly not a game for racers who like to put their foot down on the accelerator like a lead weight. Its physics engine is unforgiving, asking you to slow down and lead every single turn. Crashes are horrendous, essentially costing you events at the slightest touch of another car. It’s not quite as complicated as more hardcore racing simulators out there, but this isn’t a newbie-friendly game, not by a long shot.
GRID 2 has about fifty cars to choose from in a variety of different makes and models. In the single-player mode, cars are given out easily for beating certain events. Simply progress through the campaign and soon your garage will be full of them. Even the events meant to specifically unlock a new car in your garage are simple qualifiers that never give you a lot of challenge. You’ll feel like a millionaire with the ride selection you’ll eventually end up with.