Grid 2 Review
Stuck In Neutral
It's been a long wait for Grid 2. In fact, it has almost been 5 years. Grid launched in June of 2008 to great reception. It pushed the racing genre forward with its balance of simulation, arcade racing style,and intuitive rewind system that is almost universally used in every racing game since. Since then though, there have been a ton of great racing games that have come out and advanced the genre. Can Codemasters push the genre even further with Grid 2?
Grid 2's main attraction is the career mode. In this mode you are a young driver who has been chosen to be the face of a brand new racing series called the World Series of Racing (WSR). At first you are tasked with going around the world and convincing the world's top racing clubs to join the WSR by beating them in their respective race type. Once you convince them, the WSR starts to have championships. The main goal here is to make the WSR into a popular sport and for you to become the face of the series.
There isn't any actual story here, just racing. They could have easily just put a giant ladder of events in front of you and said; "complete every event." It is a bit neat to watch the WSR evolve from new and struggling sporting event to a massive worldwide success and the integration with ESPN is a nice touch. As the WSR fan base grows, they will show you clips of SportsCenter talking about the success of the WSR. It's nothing wild, but I thought it was interesting.
The game boasts a decent amount of race types: standard circuit races, point to point, drift, elimination, and checkpoint as well as a few more. You will also get invited to do car challenges. In these challenges, a manufacturer will invite you to beat a challenge in a certain car. Once beaten, you get to keep said car. There are also promo events that boost the number of fans you have. I found these a bit tiresome as you will compete in the same couple race types over and over again. When I think 'Promo' event, I think of some wild or crazy event. These are not that. Just boring and repetitive.
There a decent number of locations that Grid 2 takes you to. I found, however, that the game lacks variety when it comes to tracks. The track list here isn't very big and most other racing games tower over the selection. I actually raced on every track and variation of those tracks not halfway through the game. The tracks are not bad but you will get tired of racing the same ones over and over.
The one thing Grid 2 adds that kind of spices the tracks up a bit is a new feature called "Live Routes." Live Routes take place during certain events and change the track layout on the fly. This a really awesome idea as, during these events, you never get a feel for the track and are forced to stay on your toes. Sure, you will see some repeating patterns throughout the career, but only a few times. The main problem here is that I liked this feature so much that I wished every event had this feature enabled. As it stands, the Live Route system is the only real "new" thing Grid 2 adds to the franchise.
Codemaster's racing games have never been known for their car selection but with Grid 2 I felt like the car selection was a bit lackluster. I don't expect or even want hundreds of cars but there are only a handful of cars in the game and even less that are actually worth driving. Some of the high-end cars are a blast to drive though. Like the first entry, you wont be able to modify your car in single-player beyond changing the livery and color. Not a big deal but something to note if that's what you're looking for in a racing game.
Grid 2's main calling is in its gameplay. It does a great job of blurring the line between simulation racer and arcade racer. I've always thought of Grid as being easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. Grid 2 holds true to that. Anyone can pick it up and have a fun time playing it but it will take some time getting use to the handling model as it is so much more loose and fast than most other racers. The one thing I will point out is you cannot be afraid of driving the car in hard and drifting it around corners. If you take the 'clean' and 'methodical' approach like most racing games call for, you're not going to win a whole lot of races. I've played racing games my whole life and it took me some getting use to. Once you settle in the gameplay is fast, frantic, and fun.
The game does come with a multiplayer component and is standard racing game fair. The one difference is that you can actually upgrade the performance of your cars in multiplayer. It's nothing too expansive but it's something you can work to achieve. Of course, at the moment Grid 2 is hampered by the people who like to do nothing more but wreck everyone on the first lap. No fault of the game and collisions can be turned off but I would either find a group of good people to race with or wait a bit to play so all the amateurs move on.
The presentation in Grid 2 is quite good with a few missteps. The cars and tracks can be quite stunning and the damage model is still the best in the business. However, while playing the Xbox 360 version, I noticed several times where the frame-rate would get quite bad. It happened just enough to get distracting and is a major disappointment for any racing game. Also, the console versions are a bit behind the PC version in the visual department but nothing too dramatic.
Sound-wise, the game is a bit lackluster. The cars sound great and the sound of sheet metal crumpling when you wreck is impressive but everything else is just forgettable. There aren't any licensed songs to drive along to and your crew chief is annoying and repetitive. I recommend turning him off.
+ Fast and Frantic Gameplay
+ Great Visuals
+ The High-End Cars Are A Blast
+ Decent Number of Events
+ Live Routes Are A Neat Feature
- Frequent Framerate Drops
- Not Enough Tracks/Locations
- Car Selection Feels Minimal
- Live Routes Aren't Used Enough
- Lacks The Depth and Variety Other Racing Games Have.
I've been eagerly anticipating Grid 2 for almost 5 years, and while I'm not disappointed, I feel a bit underwhelmed. The racing genre has come along way since the original Grid, and Grid 2 really adds nothing to the genre. It lacks the depth and variety that many other racing games have had over the years. Don't get me wrong, Grid 2 is still a darn good racing game. The driving mechanic is as satisfying as ever. If you are a die-hard racing fan you will enjoy it. If your looking for a deep racing game that will keep your busy for weeks at a time, look maybe to Forza, Gran Turismo or even DiRT.
This review was of the Xbox 360 version bought at retail by the reviewer.