[Review] GRID 2

ESRB:E
ONLINE:Yes - 2 - 12 Players
INSTALL:PS3 - Mandatory 2+GB
RELEASE DATE:May 28th, 2013
PLATFORM:Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC/Steam
PUBLISHER:Codemasters
DEVELOPER:Codemasters Racing
ONLINE PASS:Required

Story

Much like the original TOCA games that this series was born from – GRID 2 features a bit of a narrative, making it somewhat of a “CarPG”. By no means is the story a life changing narrative the likes of Citizen Kane or The Godfather, but it’s not terrible.

The story follows you, a hot-shot driver who just won a pretty big race. This win goes viral on the internet, and catches the attention of a man by the name of Patrick Callahan – a fictitious entrepreneur looking to start up a never before seen racing league called World Series Racing.

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You become the star driver for the WSR, and it’s your job to take on the various clubs around the world in the US, Europe and Asia, and recruit their drivers to form the ultimate racing league that covers a multitude of racing disciplines.

The story isn’t going to win any awards for writing or theme – but it does a great job of making you really feel like a big time driver getting bigger as the seasons go on. It’s nice, and it’s something I feel more racing games should do.

Presentation

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The game looks amazing. There’s no denying that. Cars crash and get destroyed realistically, tires squeal in the corners and billow smoke on hard drifts. The tracks are well detailed and feel alive with activity.

There are tons of people in the stands and standing around the tracks. Grills are alight and smoke is billowing from them. Fireworks go off in the sky during night races. Race day actually feels like race day. Yas Marina is probably my favorite track, and really shows off GRID 2’s new lighting engine – they’ve even managed to capture the tracks gorgeous color changing overhang in the stands.

The audio is stellar as well. Crashes and hits sound brutal. Cars roar, and engine noise reflects off of the walls of tunnels and cliffs, as well as off of signs and banners that hang over the tracks. All of the cars sound aggressive and brutal – if you love the sound of beastly cars, more than the realistic stock sounds of a game like Gran Turismo – you’ll be in love here. Also related to tunnels – radio chatter from your engineer gets distorted while inside of a tunnel – it’s a nice effect..but it can make it a little difficult to understand him as well, over the roar of the cars.

The Skyline R34GT-R Z-Tune - My favorite car in the game.

The Skyline R34GT-R Z-Tune – My favorite car in the game.

For all it gets right, though, there are some flaws to be noted. I’ve noticed a few times that audio kind of drops out intermittently at the start of a race. I’ve also had the game freeze a couple of times – but I can’t say for certain if that was because of the game, or my PS3 – it didn’t freeze until after a long period of playing – roughly 8 hours or so.

Splitscreen also looks pretty bad when compared to the main game – though that can be excused for obvious reasons. Other things I’ve noticed are that tire smoke sometimes doesn’t appear during drifts, Checkpoint flares sometimes don’t show up, and while playing online Touge and Face-Off events, I noticed that debris would appear from other cars on the track – even though those cars weren’t actually there.

These are all relatively minor issues, but they mar an otherwise beautiful experience.

As for music – there is no licensed soundtrack, and you can’t use a custom one [At least not on PS3]. That said – the soundtrack that’s here is far better than the original GRID’s. It’s dynamic – increasing in tempo and volume the faster you travel and it also depends on what place you are in the race.

I wish it played a little more often though. It only seems to play during Checkpoint races, and during the final lap of events, sometimes. It makes me a little sad – but when it plays, it makes the race much more intense.

Gameplay

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There’s not much about the gameplay here that you likely haven’t heard in other Codemasters titles.

Also, let me go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, the cockpit view is gone, and no, I didn’t care. I am a part of the percentage that never used it in the first title – or any Codemasters game for that matter. I’ve never liked that view in their games – it never felt “right”. Since I never used it – I didn’t notice it missing.

That being said, the gameplay is good. Controls are decent – though playing with a controller it feels like there’s a bit of a delay between input and onscreen action. It’s a little disorienting until you get used to it – and if you’ve played any other Codies games, you probably already are.

The physics of the cars feel nice. It strikes a really nice balance between simulation and arcade – with a bit more of a slant to arcade. You can take corners at relatively high speeds – but you aren’t going to just barrel through the corners. You’ll have to brake at least a little bit to get around the track.

There are also no driving assists at all in this game – a new feat for Codemasters racers. It feels almost like they’ve turned some of them on, permanently, but dialed them back just enough to let the character of the cars show through.

There are quite a few classes of cars – Sports Coupes, Touring, Super Touring, GT, GT3, JDM, just to name a few. However, all of the cars fall into one of 3 different handling models – Grip, Drift and Balanced.

Not all cars within each model handle the same, though.

Grip cars tend to stick to the track more – they don’t break loose that easily. Some, like the Skyline R34, Drift like a dream – breaking free from the track when you want it to. Others, like the Focus ST, hold on to the track as if they were glued. These are often FWD and 4WD cars.

Drift cars are the opposite – they break free from the track any chance they get. These are more often than not your RWD cars – like the Fairlady Z or the RX-7. Don’t let the name fool you though – some of these cars can be pretty grippy as well – others slide like their tires are coated in olive oil and are a nightmare to keep under control – Honda NSX, I’m looking at you.

Finally, Balanced cars are the middle ground. These tend to be 4WD and RWD. They strike a balance between grip and drift. These cars are great if you’re just starting out – they are easy to keep under control, but give just enough freedom to slide into turns. Cars like the Aston Martin Vanquish tend to hold on to the track, others, like the 370Z, are quite capable drift cars.

The game is split into 2 modes – World Series Racing and GRID 2 Online.

World Series Racing is your career mode. This is where you’ll go to advance the narrative and take part in career events. And there are quite a few of them. Not as many as GRID, or DIRT2 – but there are plenty to keep you busy for a few days at least.

During WSR mode, you compete against the different clubs around the world – Trans America Pacers and New Union in the US, Euro Rand, Divizero and Eliminacion in Europe, Kowloon Dragons, Dubai VIP, and Haruna Kyojin in Asia.

The mode takes place across 5 seasons – Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are in the US, Europe and Asia, respectively, and end with WSR league events with the drivers you’ve recruited from the different clubs. Season 4 and 5 are pure WSR league events featuring all of the recruited drivers from all of the clubs.

Other than trying to recruit drivers for your league, your main goal is to try and earn fans and make the WSR the biggest league in motorsport history. Each event earns you fans, and as the seasons progress – you earn more fans per event. There are also “Promo” events – which are special, sponsored races that earn you even more fans.

The clubs act as an introduction to each of the race types within GRID 2. Trans-America Pacers introduce standard Races. These are your everyday, cross the line first events.

New Union are the Face Off specialists. This mode is a one on one, no contact barred race. In the career, these are handled Elimination tournament style – 6 racers, 3 rounds.

In Europe – Divizero introduces Time Attack. This mode is all about being the fastest on the track. Your goal is to set the fastest lap time in the pack. Most of their events take place on circuits – though Time Attack can also be done on the mountains courses – in which it acts a bit like a point to point rally event.

Eliminacion has a perfect name – as they are the Eliminator club. This mode is all about being the last one on the track. Your goal is to reach the front of the pack and stay there until time runs out. 20 seconds after the event starts, a timer begins counting down – anyone in last place when the timer reaches 0 is eliminated from the race.

Eliminator event about to start!

Eliminator event about to start!

Euro Rand don’t bring anything really new – they are just standard races – but they do bring classic European cars and Touring cars to the mix.

Heading further East to Asia – the Kowloon Dragons are the Touge club. This is my second favorite race type. They take place in the mountains, and are a one on one race where any contact above a light tap results in a disqualification. The goal here is to try and reach the finish line before your opponent – without hitting them – or to gain a 5 second lead on them, which results in an instant win. It’s all about clean, professional driving on difficult tracks.

Dubai VIP are the masters of my favorite race type – Checkpoint. This hearkens back to the days of arcade titles like Pole Position. A race against the clock to reach the next checkpoint on the track. The goal here? Drive the furthest of everyone on the track, hitting the checkpoints to bank extra time for your run. Running out of time is inevitable, but you can go for a pretty long time if you’re good and fast enough.

Finally, Haruna Kyojin are the guys who bring Drift to the table. Drifting in GRID 2 is much different now. No longer can you just swerve side to side in the straight of a track to build up a huge multiplier – it now requires some actual skill. In order to increase your multiplier, you need to drift as close as to can to the clipping point [An orange post set inside of the apex of a corner], the closer you are, the higher your multiplier goes – up to x3 for each clipping point you go past.

Getting sideways in a lovely RX-7

Getting sideways in a lovely RX-7

Other race types include Endurance and Overtake. These are the events you see most often as Promo Events during the career, as well as Touge.

Endurance isn’t quite what you might think. These are timed events that are similar to checkpoint – but without the need to bank extra time. The race goes for a set amount of time – from as little as 5 minutes, to as long as 40 minutes. The goal? To survive the race the longest, and travel the furthest distance.

It sounds easy, and if you have damage set to “Visual Only”, it is – but set it to “Full” and this event becomes a different beast. Suddenly there’s a real risk of not finishing.

Overtake is a fun mode that requires you to overtake special event trucks – these trucks aren’t fast, and only serve as obstacles to get around. Your goal is to pass as many trucks as you can, without hitting anything, and get as high a score as possible within the set amount of laps. This event can actually prove challenging – as you have to pass trucks cleanly to increase your score – every truck you pass adds 100 points to the next overtake, up to a max of 1,000 points. But be fast – that multiplier is always counting down, and if you don’t pass any trucks within that time, it drops back down to the next lowest score. Hit anything, and your score goes back to 100 points.

A new feature to GRID 2 is the LiveRoute event. These events take place on city tracks – and only on city tracks. These events never allow you to learn the track, and the course changes at any given time at any junction in the track – up to 8 different directions, depending on the junction.

This mode is racing at it’s purest – it requires quick thinking, and for you to be aware of the track at all times, never becoming complacent. You never know what direction you’ll be heading when a junction comes up.

If you don’t manage to finish all of the events in the career before it ends – or if you want to go back and try to achieve a better result in any event you may have lost – you can, via Timeline.

Timeline allows you to retry any career event – though you can’t redo the opening race, or the Indy practice run after that. You also can’t start a new career – you’ll need to start an entirely new save for that.

Custom Events allow you to set up an event to your specifications. Choose the track, the Tier of cars, amount of laps [Up to 5], or time [for Endurance races], the amount of rounds your event will run for [Up to 5], the level of the AI opponents, and how many Flashbacks are available to you – from 0, up to Unlimited. Other than unlimited, you can set up to 5 Flashbacks maximum.

Splitscreen is new to GRID 2 – it was missing from the original GRID. It’s basically the same as Custom Event, but for two local players playing on the same system on the same screen.

The visuals in Splitscreen take a massive hit – for obvious reasons – and for some, it may even be enough of a reason to not bother with this mode. It may even be better to do a LAN/Online event instead. That being said – it’s nice that it’s here since it was sorely missed in GRID 1.

Online is almost an entirely separate game. Nothing from the single player mode carries over – so be prepared to grind a bit to level up and earn enough cash to buy some better cars. It’s a lot like Gran Turismo 5‘s setup – you unlock cars for purchase at certain levels.

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The higher you place in a race, and the more competitors in that race, you more money and experience you earn. Do well, and you’ll level up quickly. Constantly lose, and you’ll sit pretty at a low level for quite a while.

Actually – just about everything is locked to you from the start. Even most of the liveries, paint types AND colors. It’s actually a little annoying. At the same time – it feels a bit more rewarding when you have a custom livery that few other people have.

All of the events from the single player mode are available online, and you can choose to create or search for Custom Events – where you can set parameters for what race you want to enter – or enter an online playlist – which is a cycle of different races. Playlists are split into 3 different categories – “Everything”, which is self-explanatory – it covers all race types, “Racing” which covers the purely race inspired events, and “Alternative”, which houses the events like Drift and Checkpoint.

Also available are Global Challenges – a set of events that you compete against your friends in. There are 9 events available, and they are available for 1 full week before they change and a new set takes their place. The friend with the highest score at the end of the week, wins.

I have a bit of a gripe with these events – it doesn’t seem like they give a fair amount of XP for completing them – some of the challenges can be a bit, well, challenging – especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have many good vehicle to choose from.

Lastly, there’s a Rival system. You can log in to the Racenet website, and add any of your Racenet friends as a Social rival and then compete against them. Racenet also chooses 2 rivals for you that change every week – one rival is chosen automatically – your weekly rival. The other, you can set parameters on the Racenet site to fine tune who they choose – parameters like whether they have more or less experience than you, their preferred racetype, or preferred tier of vehicle.

Unfortunately, the rivals that were chosen for me never seemed to be on when I was, and I have no Racenet friends to set as social rivals yet, so I can’t go into any other detail on this feature.

Now, it’s time to cover the meat of the game – the cars and tracks. There are a total of 51 cars available in the game. It’s a very concise, varied list. There are no duplicate cars – no yearly models that aren’t really different from the last. Each car is unique.

Codemasters went the route of choosing only the best of the best, top of the line models of their chosen cars – R-types, Z-Tunes, Black editions, etc.

However, I noticed some glaring omissions – there’s not a single Lamborghini or Ferrari. No Toyota Supra or Corolla, no Subaru Impreza [Though the BR-Z is in]. No Porsche either – but that’s understandable at least. These missing cars aside, the list here is respectable and there is certainly something here for everyone.

Customization is also available – but don’t expect Need for Speed Underground or Midnight Club levels – you can adjust your liveries/vinyls and sponsors from preset layouts, and change your rims – that’s about it. The real customization comes in the form of editing your paints and colors – the car and vinyls can be painted with a handful of finishes – Gloss, Metallic, Matte, Flip and Pearlescent – while wheels can just have their color changed – no special finishes.

This can lead to some beautiful creations…or some eyesores that’ll make you want to gouge your eyes out with rusty spoons – it’s all up to you.

During the single player, your car is upgraded for you – your engineer handles all of your tuning automatically, and tweaks your ride for each race type. Online, however, you can tune your car yourself. Don’t expect Gran Turismo tuning, though – this is simply purchasing upgrades to make your car better.

Upgrade the car enough, and it’ll actually get bumped to the next Tier. This can actually end up being cheaper than buying a new car in the same Tier. Of course, you need to earn money in races before you can buy upgrades – and depending on the car, they can be a little pricey – not as pricey as a new car, but still pricey.

Track selection is decent. They are nicely varied – ranging from the mountainous, downhill tracks of Japan and China, to famed circuit tracks like the Red Bull Ring and Indianapolis. Each track has a few layouts – for circuits, this means different corner setups, for mountain tracks, they are all one long track, split into smaller tracks. For example: All of the California mountain tracks are just smaller sections of the 6 mile long “Big Sur” track.

Finally, a bit on the AI in the game, and the damage system.

The AI, on Normal anyway – can pose a bit of a challenge if you’re just starting out. They are rather aggressive. If you have Full damage on – it can make things even harder for you. That said, I do recommend starting on Normal – you’ll get a good feel for the game this way. Easy and Very Easy are just too easy – you’ll feel great leaving your opponents 10 seconds behind you, but after a while, that will just get boring.

Hard and Very Hard aren’t much worse than Medium [Normal], so you can start there as well – but the AI is a good bit more aggressive – and the later races will prove a test in patience and frustration.

The damage system is really well done – as usual. Visually, it looks great – parts fall off of the car, the crumple and break relatively realistically, and if the car takes enough damage, you can actually start to see through the car – it appears Codemasters have even created most of the inner workings of the car. Flip it, and you’ll even see the exhaust system.

The damage also has an effect on gameplay – damage a wheel, and the car won’t turn as well. Lose a bumper and the aerodynamics get screwed. Lose your exhaust, and the car takes longer to reach top speed. And of course – you can actually total the car – Terminal Damage – which will require you to either use a flashback if you have one, or restart the race. Racing with damage on is definitely a test of your skills as a driver.

Replay Value

Replay value is pretty good. The multiplayer is fun, and requires you to put in work to get the best stuff available – and that’ll take some time. Global Challenges can help keep the game fresh at least for a little while. The rival system seems like a fun idea, if you can actually get someone who plays.

The career will last a decent amount of time, especially if you want to complete everything – I think I spent at least 25-30 hours on it, playing roughly 7-8 hours at a time, over the course of 3-4 days.

There is a good bit of content here for a racing fan.

For the Trophy/Achievement hunters out there – this will be an easy one, although you won’t hit that Platinum/100% for at least a week – it requires you to win a week of Global Challenge. Not hard, but you can’t force or exploit it at all.

There are a couple of trophies that require a bit of skill – Gone in 60 Seconds and California Dreaming, which require you to set fast times on specific tracks – but neither is difficult with some practice.

There is only one tricky trophy/achievement – “Shaken, Not Stirred”, which is slightly luck based and requires you to roll your car 7 or more times AND land on your wheels. It’ll likely take a few attempts for most.

Overall, the road to the platinum/100% here won’t cause you to pull your hair out or doubt your skill like other racers out there.

Overall

Overall, I can definitely recommend GRID 2 to any fan of high octane, aggressive, brutal racing.

I would recommend trying to play online with friends, though – it seems like most of the people online like to try and play this game like it’s Burnout or something – constantly crashing into others and trying to barrel through corners. Get yourself a group of like-minded, clean racers, and you’ll be in for a great time.

Even if you aren’t a fan of arcade-y racers, I think you just might like this one. It manages to be arcade, yet feel right in the realm of “possible” – the sim elements in the gameplay, and licensed, real world tracks keep it from feeling like “just another street racer”.

As a side note: I would really like to see World Series Racing become it’s own series. I can genuinely see a DiRT vs. GRID kind of game springing up from it – Rally vs Track, a league to truly determine the best driver in the world.

Codemasters – Make it happen, guys!

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PROS CONS
  • Well crafted career that makes you feel like you're progressing.
  • Fun race types, like Checkpoint
  • Separate online and single player careers.
  • Framerate seems a little iffy on consoles.
  • No real tuning options for vehicles.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.

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