At first glance you might struggle to understand just why Grid 2's exists. With annual Need for Speeds and Shifts and Forza Horizon and any number of other titles in a similar vein we're not massively short on arcade racers.
After playing it for a while there's still not a tremendously satisfactory answer to the question, "What is Grid 2
's unique selling point?'. But the game does manage to occupy a sliver of ground that its peers don't already inhabit, and does a tight, well-executed job of doing so.
Like the titles listed above, Grid 2
is about high speed and fast reflexes. It's most decidedly not a game to stick between Forza
(main series) and Gran Turismo
on your shelf. It does, however, demand much more focused, accurate driving than the Need for Speeds
of this world.
The flashback feature, which gives you several chances to rewind the game and take another shot at something you stuffed up, is old hat now. As well as the original Grid
it's featured across Codemasters' racing line and in other publishers' racing games to boot. It does speak to the style of Grid 2
It's a tough game. You can't arse around for two laps then pull off a win in the last 20 seconds. You can't expect to have multiple crashes and still get a podium finish. You have to build a win, moving through the pack methodically and usually taking places one at a time with finely-tuned manoeuvres.
Haring around without taking your finger off the accelerator won't get you anywhere. Flashback plays into this, enabling you to nail a racing line you lost on your first attempt.
None of this is to say that Grid 2
demands the fastidious control required for winning at Forza
– it's still a fast, adrenaline-fuelled game. It's just a tighter, tougher racer than its peers. It's the better for it, too. The team at Codemasters has done a terrific job of building tension. Victories are hard-won and rewarding because of it. You're unlikely to gain the lead in the first minute then not have to look back for the rest of the event. In a nutshell, it's an inside-the-car sort of a racer in which you need to be precise in your execution of each small manoeuvre.
Codies really manages to get the most out of the available environments thanks to the variety of events on offer. As well as standard races there are eliminators, drift challenges, checkpoint, LiveRoutes (the track changes as you go round), face off (one-on-one tournaments), time attack, touge and overtake (earn points multipliers by... well, overtaking).
Some of them are great fun. Overtake, for example, can force you to take an entirely different approach to your driving. Every time you overtake, the number of points you'll get on your next
overtake goes up by 100. Over time, however, the points multiplier depletes if you fail to get past anyone. Similarly, your multiplier gets eradicated if you have a collision. So it becomes important to drive tactically and carefully, planning your moves for moments when you're sure you can get past unscathed. For a paint-swapper like me, that really changes the way you play.
The LiveRoutes are another interesting set of events. Grid 2
is, by nature, the sort of game that rewards you for keeping an eye on the map and/or memorising the track so you know how hard to brake into corners. LiveRoutes robs you of either option and forces a more reactive approach.
Codies has done much to add interest into the game with elements that are external to the actual mechanics of play. For instance, you've got your new bezzie mate Patrick Callahan. He's a manager of sorts, and is there to promote you and talk into your ear while you race. He's the mechanism through which Codies builds the structure of Grid 2
'Career' is certainly the right word, too. You start off in the little leagues and, thanks to Callahan's enthusiastic promotion, work your way up to the WSR. Along the way are fans to gain, objectives to complete (to satisfy sponsors) and cars to win. You even get rivals to compete against in a move that mirrors some of the game's online functionality.
It's proper modern, too, with the UI basically taking the form of a PC monitor showing you data and messages, as well as giving you the chance to upload videos to YouTube. Callahan can get pretty annoying and inaccurate (bigging up your performance in a race you got trounced in, for example) and the UI can be confusing. All in all, though, all this stuff, fluffy as it may be, does
up the sense of immersion.
Similarly, Codemasters seems to have upped its game with its online offering, Racenet. Like Need for Speed
's Autolog, it collates your stats and compares them to those of other players. New to the game is Rivals, which pits you against an automatically selected 'Weekly Rival' of similar ability to you to compare your performance to. You also get weekly custom rivals based on a set of parameters such as event type and social rivals who you pick yourself.
Complementing Rivals is Global Challenge, which sets seven events every week in which you can set times and scores for your friends to compete against. Its asynchronous which, as everybody gets told all the time, is the future of multiplayer. Which is not to say, of course, that you can't play traditional online multiplayer across the range of events and locations available.
Split-screen is, happily, available. It's great fun for most of the reasons the rest of Grid 2
is fun. It's a shame, however, that flashback can't be used in multiplayer. Instead you get a number of chances to respawn at full speed. It's not the same, but I don't suppose there's a better way to do it.
The ground Grid 2
has occupied in the arcade racing genre is a little narrow, but Codemasters has built something fast, fun and entertaining there. Without offering anything particularly original, Codies has given us a very well-executed racing game with plenty of depth.
+ Fast, tense gameplay
+ A raft of peripheral features really makes the most of the core game mechanics
+ Fun new modes
- A little unoriginal
- Presentation can be confusing
SPOnG Score: 8/10