GRID 2 Review
Crashing looks really good in GRID 2. Really good.
Which speaks volumes not only about the time and effort Codemasters has put into the near-pornographic squealing and deforming of metal when high-speed car meets wall but also the game itself. You’ll be crashing. A lot.
That’s because GRID 2 encourages an unhealthy dose of risk to go along with the speed. The handling is parked closer to arcade than simulation, so you can throw the backend of your car around corners at full speed while the tyres screech in pain. Powersliding is the best way to tackle corners but also leaves your car at great risk. Clipping anything mid-powerslide, whether it’s a barrier, rock or even an incline, will send your car spinning out or tumbling tyre over tyre down a ravine.
What’s annoying is that clipping other cars will have the same effect, sending you screeching off the road in fear while there’s no apparent effect on the car you’ve just swiped. You can nudge opponents into barriers when the opportunity presents itself but that’s really as aggressive as you can be. Most manoeuvres are met with stiff resistance, as cars simply refuse to budge. It’s like slamming into a brick wall.
That’s fine – this is GRID 2 after all, not Burnout – except that AI cars hound racing lines so aggressively, you have to respect them and make way unless you want to risk being shunted into a barrier. It feels a little unfair.
GRID 2 – Arcade Or Simulation?
Flashbacks stop this from becoming too annoying. Though it’s not new to have a mechanic that allows you to rewind time, Codemasters has been unusually generous in granting you five Flashbacks to use during a single race. Perhaps it’s just as well. You’ll rarely spend them on correcting your own mistakes but rather, fixing the moments where you’ve been shunted by AI.
But this comes back to the original point – there’s an unhealthy dose of risk to go along with the speed, which is what makes GRID 2 fun. Powersliding around corners is satisfying thanks to the delicate level of control and it’s the threat of danger from obstacles or other cars that adds a perverse thrill, as you try and make it through unscathed. It’s dangerous, it’s exciting and GRID 2 that encourages you go faster, push your luck and take risks.
Will racing sim fans like it though? Probably not. Although there are simulation elements that come from the actual physics, crashes and weight of the car, this still feels like an arcade racer, with powersliding prompted from any tap of the brakes at high speed.
With no assists or settings to play around with, racing enthusiasts will be stuck with the arcade feel of the handling and just like auto-combos are frowned upon by fighting game fans, the abundance of Flashbacks doesn’t seem like it will sit well with racing game purists.
It’s also – providing you learn how to tame powerslides and avoid all the obstacles and cars when drifting around corners – a fraction too easy.
But GRID 2 is an arcade racer, and makes few apologies for it. This feels like the closest an arcade racer can drift towards simulation without sacrificing any of the fun elements and although it’s a tricky balance, Codemasters has just about found it.
It helps that GRID 2 looks the part as well. The crashes are the obvious highlight for spectacle but more importantly, the stages look detailed and busy. The stages here don’t have the excess of Dirt Showdown, which packed empty sky with fireworks, ferris wheels and other decorations, and yet GRID 2 doesn’t really need them – urban stages have detailed buildings hiding the sky, forest stages dazzle you with light poking through the dense treetops while outdoor levels have cliffs on one side and vistas stretching out for miles on the other.
GRID 2 – Career
The majority of your time will be spent powering through the career mode. Codemasters has tried to make it feel more involving by building a rags-to-riches narrative, told through the number of fans you earn as you progress.
There are lots of nice tricks employed throughout to convey the sense of a race driver building up a reputation – off-screen YouTube footage of your replays, Likes being clicked on Facebook and so on. It does feel modern and adds a nice sense of style to the game, which extends to races themselves – small shunts have an understated effect that looks like camera distortion. It works better than we’ve made it sound.
But when all is said and done and the flashy cutscenes and tricks have played out, you’re still in a garage, picking races from a menu. It’s a little disappointing, truth be told. Even attempts to liven up the actual game modes themselves such as Endurance or Liveroute feel somewhat standard and pedestrian. There are also further annoying touches, such as the oddly patronising ‘well done pal!’ commentary and the lack of cockpit view.
It’s difficult to know exactly how Codemasters could push its well-worn racing game template forward without breaking it but this is a world that now has Forza Horizon, Need For Speed: Most Wanted and Gran Turismo 5 with their own distinct personalities and takes on career mode. GRID 2 has the style but not the substance. Career mode doesn’t feel special enough to stand out from the pack.
It’s a shame because the racing itself is surprisingly accommodating for those who aren’t dedicated petrolheads, thanks to its arcade-style powersliding, generous number of flashbacks to correct mistakes and the horrific yet compelling visual crunch of the (many) crashes.
It’s just the dedicated racing fans who might feel left out here, as the handling drifts closer to arcade than simulation and with no settings to redress the balance. GRID 2 is fantastic if you’re not huge on racing games and want to experience the thrill of them without putting in the hours and yet that same lack of depth across career mode and the handling will be what puts the more serious racing fan off the title.
Version Tested: Xbox 360