Race Driver: GRID was one of the first well-made driving games to come out this generation. Now on the end of a generation it’s up to Codemasters to show what they have learned throughout the years with its other games, such as the DiRT-series.
GRID 2 singleplayer is the basic ‘from rags to riches’ affair, starting from the bottom of the food chain and making your way up the list to be the very best. The running idea this time is World Series Racing, WSR. A new sport combining drivers all around the world to compete against each other. You are the series’ new star driver and with your skills, racing around the world and gaining popularity, you will help WSR become the #1 place for motorsport entertainment.
Your success in WSR is amusingly portrayed in-game in social media and broadcasted by even the ESPN. It has a nice feeling to it seeing yourself trending on Twitter, people liking your virtual YouTube videos or seeing you being on the cover of multiple magazines. These quick peaks are really well done and original, but sadly there are only a handful of them in the game. Would have loved to seen more done.
The single player consists of five seasons, the first three dedicated to a continent with their own special events such as Asia having drift events while the USA concentrates on basic races in urban locations and the last two seasons are a mix of all continents. At first there are the basic races, eliminations and time trials, but later on you will have access to more advanced event types such as checkpoint, overtake and endurance races, where you have to race until the clock hits zero. My personal favorite were the touge races, which had a Tokyo Drift vibe to them. Here two drivers race with a best of 3 system a quick race from point A to B. You can win by either crossing the finish line first or getting a 5 second lead over your opponent, but playing dirty aka crashing into them will get you disqualified. These modes play well, they’re intense, and most importantly they’re fun to play.
Your currency in the game, if you may call them, are fans. You will need to compete in smaller events first, gaining more fans, which then open bigger events and eventually, the season finals. There are three ways to gaining fans. You can compete in normal events, complete small in-game challenges (sponsors) or take part in promo events that concentrate on fans such as, previously mentioned, overtake, endurance and touge races. And after beating the finals, a new season will be open for play. After completing all seasons, you have the ability to go back to each season and complete in your favorite events again.
The driving feels more arcade than previous GRID. It still has some form of realism, meaning you really need to concentrate on your driving line or you will find yourself smashing into walls or over drifting way too much, but the game is more focused on the high speed, neck-to-neck moments of adrenaline packed battles between other racers. Sometimes it can end badly, but you still have the “Flashback” ability to rewind time to before the fatal crash. Some may find this cheap, but you can decide not to use it. Also, the selection of five difficulty levels and “Only visual/realistic damage” give the players enough to tailor their experience to their liking. For some the lack of a cockpit view may also come as a disappointment, but I can understand that having it for an arcade geared game might seem redundant, though more options for the player is always better.
The game looks good. It doesn’t have the same “Wow” effect as the original had back in 2008, but this is still a game you’ll enjoy looking at, especially while driving through the forest packed mountains and sunny streets of Miami. What I would have liked were more colorful tracks. Sure, there are the above mentioned tracks and some night races with stunning fireworks lighting your way, but the grey urban city streets with skyscrapers dominate the scenery a bit too much. The cars are also well made, though with some rough edges and the visual damage to the vehicles looks a bit outdated. It isn’t Burnout level, but it works. The game unfortunately also has some technical difficulties with regular screen tearing. It is no game-breaker, but it’s annoying. However, after watching some comparison videos, it seems it only concerns the PS3.
The sound of the game is also well done. Each car’s motor has a powerful ring to them yelling out dominance. Also the squealing tires in turns, the crashes and the friendly bumping into each other all sound powerful. Sadly, GRID 2 doesn’t have a soundtrack, just generic build-up music during loading times. And it doesn’t support custom playlists, which is a letdown for me. In my opinion driving games should have custom playlists by default.
GRID 2’s online is solid. The matchmaking works with enough customization possibilities for your own events, there’s no noticeable lag and the races are a joy to play, IF you survive the first turns, where the most carnage will be done at the start… I would suggest sticking to friends to keep the races somewhat clean and more enjoyable. By competing in races you don’t earn fans, but cash, which is used to level up and upgrade your vehicles. There are also periodically updated challenges to compete in against others drivers and, thanks to Codemasters’ own social RaceNet, the chance of adding rivals from your friends to have faceoffs with. And you also have the possibility of uploading videos from in-game straight to YouTube. All in all, online will keep your attention for a long time.
This is just a minor gripe, but what I missed in GRID 2 was the personality. The menu designs and overall presentation of them are standard Codemasters quality, meaning they’re great, but again, the reigning colors are grey and more grey. I would have liked more vibrant color usage ala DiRT 3, but that’s just me.
GRID 2 is not a huge improvement over the original, but visually it’s still great and the rise for WSR glory will keep you engaged in the single player with multiplayer giving the game durability. The lack of a cockpit view and a bit dull scenery presentation combined with some technical issues present on the PS3 don’t necessarily break the game, but they are minor annoyances in an otherwise fun experience. GRID 2 is a solid driving game, which will give you your moneys worth.
(The Platinum Stig)