The crowd is cheering, fireworks are rising in the distance and the car engines are revving. You’re planning your opening move, thinking about how you’re going to get first place and maintain it. The light turns green and you’re off, more fireworks exploding in the distance as the high speed of your car starts to kick in. This, is Grid 2.
After 5 long years, Codemasters is back with a brand new installment of Grid, and this time, it is better than ever. Not only does each car feel individual and distinct from the other, but the insane attention to detail to the finest point is incredible. Codemasters has done a fantastic job at making this part car simulation, part arcade racer a must-own racing game. Add in a fully fleshed out single player career and a thrilling online experience, and Grid 2 is making all the right turns.
In the game’s career mode, you start as a brand new driver trying to establish yourself as someone. With the introduction of ‘World Series Racing’ (WSR) it is your job to make a name, not just for yourself but for the brand. You quickly become the face of this new organization, and it is your job to show off how good you are to get other brands on board. Grid 2 handles its single player quite well, with a wide variety of race types and events. One of the best things that Grid 2 does, is not have the AI rubber band you. That’s the process of when you’re in first place, but suddenly the guy in second is right behind you. I’ve had multiple races where I’ve won by 5, or even 10 seconds ahead of the other racers.
As you progress through the different race events, including lap races, sprint, drifts, eliminations, and tournaments, you work to get the best of the best from other large organizations to join into the WSR. These racers span from the U.S, Europe and Asia, each with a distinct style of racing. The US are more straightforward lap races, while Asia has a keen focus on drifting. Each of the events leads to an end “Season” which has you racing in a tournament ladder to finally secure the top racer of that brand. While the racers do become more challenging, they don’t spike in difficulty and at times becomes a bore to go through the events. Thankfully, the many different cars you end up owning can be a great mix-up and change the way you race on the track. Making the WSR more believable is accompanied by a ESPN video discussing some of the major events that have happened within the organization.
Grid 2 offers tons of recognizable cars, from tier 1-4 and ranging from a Dodge Challenger, to a McLaren F1 GT. One of my favourite parts about all the cars is the abundance of customization available: different paint colors, patterns, sponsors, these cars are your own and making them is just as much fun as driving them. I was pleasantly shocked at how true the cars felt to the stats the game showed. At times, it seemed like two cars were totally identical, but upon taking them for a test drive, a slight edge in weight or acceleration ended up making a big difference. Another of the game’s is just how well each car controls, from the slight tilt of the analog stick to get that perfect drift, to a quick flick and quick hand break to go into the tight corner. Due to each car feeling quite different from one another, it’s pretty easy to learn which type of car is best suited for you. Mixing simulation-esque racing with arcade-style racing, it creates a unique blend that turns out beautifully.
Where Grid 2 really shines, however, is the insane attention to detail each track offers. As you’re racing through wooded hills, the leaves on the road will fly back from the high speed you’re at. The crowd will cheer and get louder, while also going faint as you speed past them. Then, there are the little things like tracks having fireworks go off as you’re racing that just add a sense of realism into the game that no other game has yet inspired.
Another great thing Grid 2 does is in the audio department, from the sound of each car, to the roar of the crowd, or how sounds of the car change as you enter a tunnel. As you’re passing through event flags, you can feel the wind going off the car. I only wished it had a more refined soundtrack that played as you race. You get certain music tracks when you’re on the final lap, but it doesn’t happen often enough. If it did, then it was faint and barely audible.
But sadly, not all is perfect in the world of Grid 2. There aren’t an abundance of tracks in the game and you end up racing on the same one multiple times. It would have been nice to see some more tracks as you start to memorize them and to prevent the monotony of doing the same three laps on the same track over and over again. Then there is the multiplayer: While it offers a lot of what single player does in terms of customization and tuning of your car, people treat it as a destruction derby and races often end in multiple crashes or someone winning by a landslide. The rare occasion when a race felt genuine was a lot of fun, and I wish more of them felt that way. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Grid might have been gone for 5 years, but in those years it developed into a truly great and unique racing game. From the wide variety of cars, to the insane level of detail and the great audio, Grid 2 offers something for all racing fans. While simulation racing fans might not prefer the mix with arcade, Codemasters did a an excellent job blending the two styles and making something quite unique.