"While still a solid racer, Grid 2 has been stripped from many features that made the predecessor so unique."
Back in 2008, the original Race Driver: Grid snuck onto the racing scene surprising everyone. Codemasters managed to find a sweet spot between simulation and arcade racing by offering gamers the best of both worlds. Grid’s tight controls, gorgeous visuals, punishing difficulty, and the introduction of the now popular rewind-feature catapulted the developers ahead of the competition. It goes without saying that I was thrilled when the sequel was announced. The debut trailers were promising, but the absence of a proper in-car view got me worried. Furthermore, Codemasters’ latest Dirt: Showdown was a big step backwards for the Rally franchise and I didn’t know what to expect from Grid 2. Well, the sequel is here…and unfortunately, much like the latest Dirt offering, the Grid series takes a step (or few) in a questionable direction. While still a solid racer, Grid 2 has been stripped from many features that made the predecessor so unique. So is it still worth your hard earned money, or should you wait for the inevitable sale a year from now? Let’s find out.
Grid 2 has changed in all the wrong areas, except the welcoming gorgeous new visuals. Unable to understand what made the original such a niche title, Codemasters decided to do what every major developer does these days…simplify, mainstream, ignore the core audience, and attempt to appeal to the masses. If it didn’t have the “Grid” name attached to it, this could have been any other generic racer that would quickly get lost in the crowd.
"Grid 2, on the other hand, manages to cut back on those disciplines and relies on repetition each season, which ultimately makes the game feel…well, boring."
While the predecessor boasted beautifully balanced arcade/simulation driving, Grid 2 feels more like Ridge Racer than Codemasters’ traditional TOCA series. What does this mean for the driving? Drifting! Drifting around “every single” corner. Don’t get me wrong, the cars handle smoothly and the controls feel tight and precise, but the emphasis on drifting ultimately makes every vehicle handle too similarly. When picking cars before each race, I essentially picked the ride that “looked” better, rather than one with better performance, as the difference in handling was minimal. This may be a good thing if you just want to jump into a race, but it really oversimplifies the career mode.
The original Grid was unique in that it offered different driving disciplines with nearly each race keeping the gameplay fresh and exciting from season to season. Grid 2, on the other hand, manages to cut back on those disciplines and relies on repetition each season, which ultimately makes the game feel…well, boring. Every other race has you driving the same track with the same car 2-3 times and by the end of a few rounds, you feel like you’ve made little to no progress.
You no longer earn money; instead you are rewarded fans for meeting goals and winning races. It may not sound like a big deal, but again, the sense of progression is lost. An increased fan base unlocks further tiers and there’s the occasional ESPN news-style segment highlighting your progress, but it feels shallow and pointless. Before each race, you can typically select between one or two vehicles appropriate for the event and it’s not until the major WSR races at the end of each season that your selection opens up to the other cars in your garage.
"On a positive note, the visuals are gorgeous. The environments radiate with color and detail and playing the game on max settings is pure eye candy."
The original Grid was challenging with viscous AI drivers making you fight for every millisecond. Now, the AI is cheap and unfair. Lower difficulties are insultingly easy and raising the challenge only results in horrible rubberbanding and an AI that’s always unrealistically faster than you. Strangely enough, the multiplayer mode offers more depth than the single player career. Here you can upgrade your vehicles with points earned from winning races and the event layout feels far more organic and diverse. It’s a real shame that the single player mode (which was spectacular in the original Grid) is now the weakest part of the game. On a positive note, the visuals are gorgeous. The environments radiate with color and detail and playing the game on max settings is pure eye candy. However, I do wish there was more track variety. Racing the same tracks over and over will make the even most dedicated drivers beg for variety. Nevertheless, you can’t deny that Codemasters has crafted an aesthetically superb racer that’s surprisingly well optimized and runs smoothly without any hiccups.
The original Grid is to this day one of my favorite racing titles and I’m somewhat disappointed with Codemasters’ decision to shift the series towards simplified arcade racing. Grid 2 is still a lot of fun when played in small bursts but it doesn’t come close to the immersion and thrill the original provided. I’d say wait for a sale to pick this one up…it’s definitely worth checking out once the price drops significantly.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC