STAFF REVIEW of GRID 2 (Xbox 360)

Friday, June 21, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

GRID 2 Box art Back in 2008 when Codemasters released Grid it turned out to be quite a hit, and since then many have been asking for a sequel to the acclaimed racer. Here we are five years later, finally able to drive behind the wheel once again with Grid 2. Well, kind of behind the wheel anyways, as it turns out Codemasters announced before release that the cockpit view from the game had been removed completely. I’m sure there were asset management reasons and improvements to the game in other aspects because of it, though if you’re a player that solely plays in the cockpit view in racers, you’ll have to make due with the hood cam and deal with it. That aside, some lofty expectations were being hoped for with the sequel, and finally we can see if the long wait has been worth it.

Patrick Callahan has a lofty dream about creating a completely new racing league that will take place across the globe and have the world’s best racers compete; dubbed The World Series Racing, or WSR for short. Callahan wants to see drivers of all types and styles compete together to truly find out who’s the best racer there is. You’re the first member and you’ve been tasked with promoting the WSR by gaining more fans around the world and making it a household name with your slick driving. As you complete events you’ll see how many new fans you’ve earned for the new sports league and even eventually have real life ESPN personalities comment about the new WSR league as your popularity grows and grows with each win.

You’ll need to convince the other best racers around the globe to sign with WSR, and you do that by competing in events against them, convincing them that the WSR is where they want to be to become bigger stars and race against the best the world has to offer. It’s great that you’re actually someone important in the storyline and not just a nobody that has to prove themself from nothing. You even begin the campaign with a supercharged muscle car rather than an underpowered 4 cylinder like most racers tend to do.

The campaign is broken up into seasons, and as you progress and convince more racers to join the fasting growing racing league you’ll unlock more events and garner more fans along the way. Early on you’ll only have a handful of events you can compete in, but as you progress to fan number milestones, new events unlock which will net you more fans in return as well, eventually culminating in the actual WSR championship races. WSR’s fan count dictates which events you can compete in, so you always want to be competing to gain more and more fans as you promote the WSR brand.

Codemasters has completely refined the handling mechanics of Grid 2 and dubbed it the ‘TrueFeel’ system which is a blend of simulation realism and arcade accessibility. While most racing game fans tend to generally like one or the other (simulation or arcade), they are attempting to find that happy medium between the middle of the two to try and appeal to all types of racing fans; and I think they may have hit the mark. Since it’s not a simulation racer, you don’t have all the tuning options, racing lines and other features known for those types of racers, but it’s not totally arcade-like where you can freely hit walls without consequence and drift without effort either. Each type of car handles very differently and controlling a RWD muscle car is nothing like a 4WD with heavy grip. Counter-steering is heavily relied upon and it takes a long time to get trained into steering the ‘wrong’ way during a drift to straighten out and will only be learned through much trial and error. I actually didn’t truly get the hang of it until the end of Season 2 or so.

You’re constantly riding a fine line of control and chaos, as you’ll need to drift almost every sharp corner, but knowing just how much gas and brake to have during the traction slide takes a lot of practice. You will hit a lot of walls and you will also spin out numerous times, but once you get the hang of it and learn to break and drift properly, it’s quite exhilarating to take that perfect corner that’s both controlled and flashy.

The main gimmick from Grid returns for Grid 2; the Flashback ability, seemingly allowing you to rewind time when you make a big mistake and try that difficult upcoming corner once again. You’re only given a limited amount of Flashbacks allowed per race, so you’ll have to use them sparingly and only when truly needed. Given the fact that you’ll be crashing quite often in the first Season or two when you’re still learning how to control your vehicle through corners properly, Flashbacks may seem like something you don’t want to do, but it’ll be necessary at times, especially if you want that podium finish in the much more difficult Seasons.

While Grid 2 will come nowhere close to the car selection that say Forza has, there’s just enough variety in each vehicle class that you don’t really run into fatigue or car boredom. You’ll no doubt use the same handful of favorites when allowed, but there are plenty of vehicles to use and more to unlock as you progress through the WSR Seasons.

As WSR becomes more and more popular, you’ll start to race around the world, spanning from Chicago, California, Miami, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, and more across numerous types of events like Race, Promo, Vehicle Challenges, Eliminator, Time Attack, Touge, WSR Championships, and more. Overtake events have you trying to pass trucks and building a combo by doing so quickly without taking damage by making contact. Touge races are really fun once you make it into the Asia scene and have you racing against a single driver, and if you can pull five seconds ahead of your opponent you’ll win.

Live Route racers were easily my favorite race type though, as it will have you racing a circuit track that can dynamically change but also not give you a track map that is usually heavily depended upon to see upcoming turns. These Live Route races keeps things very interesting and you on your toes, as you need to look ahead and determine what’s coming up very quickly without the help of your track map.

The cars and environments themselves look fantastic, as Codemasters really knows how to put some great looking polish onto everything. Even better so is how well done the damage system portrays the destruction of your car as you scrape walls, rivals, and slam into corners. Doors, bumpers, and more can completely fall off your vehicle and if you’re playing on certain difficulties, these will affect your vehicle’s performance in that race. The audio is just as top notch, as engines of the more powerful beasts sound much deeper and rumble when compared to the quicker imports.

Just like its predecessor, Grid 2 offers a full feature rich online mode to keep you racing for many more hours once you’ve completed the WSR campaign, albeit a very slow and difficult start. You only begin with a handful of cars and you’ll need to suffer through some races with them just to earn enough to unlock the better and quicker vehicles. As you compete you’ll earn cash and experience which you can use to upgrade your vehicles parts and performance (something sorely lacking in the single player campaign).

It’s a shame your single player cars and paint jobs don’t’ carry over into multiplayer, as it’s difficult to work from the very bottom up when you’re competing against higher ranked racers from the get go. Online will have you coming back for more though, as there is much more variety (usually based on the users choices) where you rarely see repeated events. Interestingly, Grid 2 keeps track of not only your usual stats, but also your driving style as well. If you’re a dirty driver that likes to trade paint or slam into other opponents, it learns that and will try and match you up with similarly likeminded players as well. The same goes if you’re a clean racer as well, and while it doesn’t obviously always work perfectly, it’s a great basis that I’d love to see expanded on in the future.

For all the praise that I give Grid 2, there are a few issues I do take with the game (aside from the cockpit view being axed). As you progress further into the Seasons of WSR, you’ll have some severe deja-vu after a few hours, simply because the races you’re competing in in the latter half of the game is essentially the same ones you did earlier. Many segments are repeated and while each course has multiple variants and pathways, the evening races in the last Seasons won’t fool you enough to forget you’ve already raced these same tracks before. Given the fact that there’s simply urban racing and no rally, off-road, or anything of the likes, you may move on to the next game sooner than you should.

That being said, I truly enjoyed Grid 2 once I got ahold of the racing mechanics, and by the end of Season 2 I was able to drift and take any corner with ease and style. The blend of simulation and arcade handling truly shines once you master the nuances and intricacies of Grid 2’s drifting. Vehicle damage looks fantastic and you can (and will) easily flip your car if you’re not careful or try to be a little too flashy. While the lack of car upgrades in single player is really a disappointment, the way the WSR story and campaign is set up will have you wanting to do ‘one more race’ just so you can progress to the next event and hopefully he WSR Championships for that Season. Despite its flaws, Grid 2 has me coming back for more races again and again now that I’ve mastered its unique blend of driving mechanics, and you will too.

Please don't have a car upgrading system in one mode and not the other, it's confusing and not explained why it's like that.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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