Codemasters is back with a second helping of street racing action in GRID 2. Like all Codemasters racing games, GRID 2 is the latest evolution of their racing engine. And like it’s younger siblings, DIRT and GRID the game doesn’t disappoint. Being a big racing fan and playing many racing titles from the arcade titles to the hardcore simulations, Codemasters and the GRID/DIRT series are and remain king in fun, action, and visuals. GRID 2 offers lots of racing gameplay for all levels of gamers. There is also hours upon hours of racing action both offline and online that will keep you hooked for the foreseeable future.
There are two overall modes of play, World Series Racing and GRID Online. World Series Racing is the game’s career/story mode. As a hot street racer you are approached by racing agent Patrick Callahan who wants to put on the World Series Racing(WSR) event, pitting the best drivers from North America, Europe and Asia against each other. You are tasked with taking these drivers on and getting them to enter into the WSR. The career events are laid out where you compete against the clubs, and complete various objectives on the race courses, it’s not always about coming in first. As you win you’ll get the clubs interested in the WSR, once they are you then compete in a WSR event.
The concept of competing against race clubs and building a name for yourself and the WSR isn’t bad. However the career mode is very linear. Start a season race against a club, once you win you unlock the next race or next event, until you complete them all then you race in the WSR Championship. The career is split into regions, you’ll start in America then head overseas. Each region has their own unique tracks, racing styles and events. So the action never gets old. On-top of the career being very linear, there is also no car upgrading in the career, which is strange because the Online Mode is all about earn XP and Credits and then upgrading your cars. Having a garage/upgrade system would have made the career mode a bit more challenging but also having more choices or how you want to progress, similar to DIRT 3 where you can bounce around the world would have been nice as well.
Online Mode is a whole new beast. You start with 3 cars and as you race you earn XP and credits. Credits can be used to upgrade cars or purchase new cars. The action online is smooth and enjoyable. The races I had were smooth with little to no network lag or issues, and the team did a great job technically allowing bad connection cars to drop into a ghost type mode until they were back in sync. Also a new IMpact system rates drivers on how clean they drive and as you race you’ll be put in lobbies with drivers of a similar racing style. The online racing was really flushed out and surprisingly out shines the career mode.
Enough about the modes of play, Codemasters has always been about the action on the race track. GRID 2 doesn’t disappoint. Like all earlier Codemaster racing games any racing fan can pick up and play and have an enjoyable time. There are difficulty settings for all level of gamers, though I was very surprised that you can only pick an overall difficulty and can’t fine tune things like traction control, ABS, AI difficulty etc. like in other Codemasters titles. Sometimes I want the challenge of a loose car but don’t want the overly aggressive AI.
For the most part the race events are what we have become accustom to, lap races, timed elimination events, checkpoint races and others. But one new systems GRID 2 sports is Liveroutes. For these events you set the total distance of the event then you go racing. While these are in theory lap races, you can race the same city multiple times and never experience the same route, as the distance unfolds the track dynamically changes, so each lap is totally different. It’s a challenge as you can never expect what the course will be in front of you. This was really enjoyable especially when you think you know whats coming and the track goes in a totally different direction. The only part that was annoying about Liveroutes is that there is no map whatsoever, and split times were non-existent, so you can’t gauge where your opponents are and if you are catching them or falling behind.
The DIRT and GRID series have been known for their visuals, and GRID 2 continues to impress and build off the earlier titles. The game is just stunning and there is so much detail put into every course that I found myself looking around at the environment more than paying attention to the racing. Every area looks and feels unique, from the tight streets of Barcelona to the twists and turns of the California Coast. But it is the small details that make the course come to life, the ballsy squirrel that darts across the road, or the falling leaves or blowing Chicago city trash. Then you have the amazing lighting effects, the sun breaking through the tree tops or the intense coastal glare as you come around a sweeping mountain curve. And lets not forget the car models, they look great at the start of the race, but the damage is top notch as always, and car will become mangled and banged up over the race. The aggressive races will have car parts flying all over the track and the tire smoke as you drift around corners can be blinding when using chase camera views. If this is what Codemasters can do at the end of Current-Gen consoles I can only imagine what they will be able to do next year ont he Xbox One and PS4.
Codemasters once again has a hit racing title on their hands. The game might not be the simulator iRacing is, and it’s not he over the top action racer Need For Speed is, but GRID 2 runs on that fine line between action and style and it does it in such a wonderful fashion. Online Mode trumps the career mode this time around, but the action you’ll face on the track in all modes is what really makes this series my favorite of all racing games. It’s not only the action that makes GRID 2 a must buy but also the stunning visuals makes it a treat to play for hours on end. It would have been nice to see a bit more depth in the career mode, being able to weave a career path would have been nice but most importantly an upgrade system, just being thrown cars every couple of events is a bit boring. I hope the when Codemasters drops the green flag on next-gen racers they take on a more open world inspired career mode, I’m thinking a middle ground between GRID 2 and Forza Horizons would be a great game. I like the varying locales of GRID 2 but just running around taking in the sights of Forza’s open world never gets old. Racing fans of all ages should have GRID 2 and truthfully DiRT 3 and other Codemaster titles in the library.
A copy of GRID 2 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review.