By Nicholas Simonovski
I was pretty excited for GRID 2 when it was announced. The premise behind the original game was fantastic – fun, accessible, yet satisfying racing. There was no problem of having to grind for money to buy new cars, you never had to bother with performance parts, so it was just your own skill that determined if you would win or not. It was a track-based racer with DiRT physics, and in my opinion, it worked at the time. Now that I’ve had some time with the sequel though, I wonder if I’ve been having as much fun the second time around.
The premise behind the game revolves around Patrick Callahan and his ambition to start the WSR (World Series Racing), a global racing championship that encompasses the best racers from around the world in a range of different racing disciplines. As his newly appointed ‘star’ driver, you’ve been asked to compete in various race events across America, Asia, and Europe, to get the attention of other elite drivers/teams and ultimately, their participation in the WSR.
As you win races and progress throughout the game, you’ll gain more fans. The only problem is that this number means nothing. Let me explain. Much like the original title, you don’t have to buy cars or parts in GRID 2 – you earn vehicles as you progress through the events, and you’re able to win the rest in relatively simple time trial races. Herein lies the first problem I have with the game.
While there’s certainly a sense of satisfaction from power-sliding through a corner, or winning a race just milliseconds before your opponent, you never feel like winning the race itself means anything. You might get 20,000 more fans for a pole position, but because everything is handed to you, the number becomes irrelevant. The game might have a story, you know that you’re progressing further with each win, but when the number of fans you have has essentially zero effect on the game itself, it all sort of becomes irrelevant. I mean, yes, you’ll need a certain number of fans to unlock the WSR event at the end of each season, but that isn’t particularly difficult to do to begin with.
Continuing on just briefly with this idea of fans, GRID 2’s story revolves around social media. Throughout the game, you’ll see cut-scenes that show people posting on forum boards, watching YouTube clips, or browsing websites about the WSR, and Callahan is always talks about how popular it is getting, and how we need to get more fans. Now I respect what Codemasters are going with – it’s 2013 and social media is everything - but it just comes across as lame. “That was such an intense race! Can’t wait for the next one!” showing at the bottom of the menus as faux online comments just seems so fake. Perhaps it’s just because I’m used to online comments consisting of nothing but homophobic and racist slurs?
Moving onto the physics though, and it’s here that GRID 2 is also a little hit-and-miss. The biggest problem is how the game wants you to drift around every corner, how every car just want to spend most of its time sideways – which is fun sometimes, but not all the time. Each vehicle is split into one of three categories – grip, balanced, and drift, and while you’ll find some relief with the grip cars, you’ll find yourself working hard to keep the others straight. It’s not to say that the game’s as difficult to play as NFS SHIFT 2 for example, but I just found it a tad too ‘floaty’ for my liking. The game does has a mixture of street and tracks circuits, and while the race tracks are generally tolerable, some of the street events (particularly the twisty mountain roads of Japan) will see you bouncing off the barriers at times more times that you’d like. It’s times like these that I’m grateful for the rewind feature!
As mentioned earlier, the locations of GRID 2 span across North America, Asia (Japan and UAE) and various European nations. Some races will see you whizzing through the streets of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background (which is quite an impressive sight I must admit), others will see you take to the busy streets of Chicago, while some races will take you to the great Brands Hatch circuit in Britain. In typical Codemasters’ fashion, the tracks and locations look great, with the developers noticeably putting in effort to really make the game feel ‘alive’. For example, you’ll hear actual audible comments from the crowd (not just random noise), or you’ll see wildlife run across the path ahead of you. Nothing spectacular, but just noticeable enough to make you think, “oh yeah, that’s cool”.
In typical Codemasters fashion though, GRID 2 also suffers from a problem that I’ve felt the past few Codemasters’ racers have dealt with – repetitiveness. For the first three seasons you’ll be racing in one of the three main global regions. While the tracks might vary somewhat from race to race, you’ll often find yourself playing through the same track multiple times during the season. Paris and the Eiffel Tower looks great, but it starts to get boring when you see it time and time and time again. Each season will also usually cycle through the same two or three tracks, and it’s not long until you desperately want to finish it just move to the next region so you can stare at a different backdrop.
All things said, despite my complaints, GRID 2 isn’t a bad racer – but it’s just that: not bad. It’s not great either. The game looks fine, but it isn’t bar-setting. The cars sound great, but I’ve heard better. There’s plenty of variety in the game modes and locations, but it still feels repetitive when you see the same ones over and over in the same season. Small things like the rewind feature and the in-race commentary from your race engineer are all great, where you no longer have to worry that you won’t be able to rewind back enough, or where your engineer will repeat the same useless comments over and over again, but none of this makes GRID 2 amazing.
The car list in this game is great, the sense of speed and damage models are fantastic, and while the physics can be a pain at times, it still is a pick-up-and-play sort of game. The only problem is, GRID 2 just doesn’t feel as enjoyable as I remember the original title being. I was really hoping for an epic gaming to tie me over until the next racing game, and while I’ve had some fun, I think I’ll stick to playing Fuse or Pokémon Black 2 instead.