Game Review: GRID 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox360)
Racing games are not really known for their storylines, it’s something that games such as Forza Horizon has recently introduced, but it has been something unique to Codemaster racing games for quite some time now. The original GRID game was an awesome racing game, and it set some trends that we tend to see a lot in racing games today, such as the storyline and the ‘replay’ feature that allowed you to rewind time to correct a poorly executed corner or a hazardous crash that cost you the race late on.
Well, GRID 2 continues on with both of those trends and even though the story won’t win any originality awards anytime soon, it’s enough to keep you hooked as you progress to the next stage of your in-game career. The basis of the storyline is simple, you are a young up and coming racing driver that wants to become a household racing name, and make plenty of money whilst you’re at it. You start your way from the bottom and work your way to super stardom.
GRID 2 doesn’t have the kind of big development budget as some of the other big guns in the genre, such as Forza 4, Horizon and even GT5, so for that reason it’s not quite in the same league in the visuals department. Before GRID 2, Forza Horizon was my racing game of choice and visually that is a stunning game, from the attention to detail, to the cars and the gorgeous locations.
So because of Forza Horizon, if think I was a tad spoilt and that may have affected my first impression of GRID 2’s visuals. But after a while, once I got sucked into GRID 2’s incredibly addictive gameplay, I soon started to forget about the big budget Forza games. So when the smoke had cleared, I began to appreciate GRID 2’s visuals a little more. Great effort has gone into the cars details and the visual quality is a far stretch from the original GRID (and so it should with it being released 5 years ago).
But while all the cars are to a certain high standard, the real attention to detail, in my opinion, comes to when the cars are actually damaged. Whether it be the scratch of the paintwork, the front and back bumpers hanging off by a shoe thread or a crippled car bonnet that looks like it’s about to fly off and go straight into the car that is tailing your back end. The damaged cars are also not there for your mere eye candy, depending on what kind of damage is done to your car, it can seriously affect its performance. That can be anything from the steering having a life of its own, straight to the cars pulling power when coming out of a corner.
So even though GRID 2 almost feels like its inviting you to drive a little more aggressively than other games in its genre, you have to try and not go too crazy if you want to win that all important race. There are many varieties of locations in GRID 2, each with their own hazards and each suited to a certain kind of car. You can race anywhere from the streets of Paris or Dubai, to the tight bends of some country hill tops of California with surrounding tree’s waiting for you to go into them, straight to race circuits such as Austria’s Red Bull ring, and that’s just a few of the track awaiting you.
In fact it’s not just the locations that have variety, so do single locations, and by this I mean that a track that appears before you at the start of the race, can almost completely change by the time you start your second lap. This particular feature is called ‘LiveRoutes’ and it certainly keeps you on your toes. LiveRoutes makes for an added challenge, and not only will you not know quite what’s coming next, but your HUD map in the bottom right hand corner of the screen will not display the current track that you’re racing on at the time. Much like the rewind feature that we saw in the original GRID, it will be interesting if other racing games follow suit in the future and look to have something similar.
GRIDS 2 is very pick up and play, and this is represented straight from the simple in game menu when you are greeted with the instant option selecting either World Series Racing (offline mode), or GRID online. When selecting the WSR, you are taken to your in game garage, here you can select a number of modes from your career, custom event, or even good old split screen for when you have a friend round. Of course, with it being your garage, here is where you can select your cars for certain events, depending on which cars you have unlocked and which ones are eligible for certain events.
The name of the game in the career mode is to go from rags to riches, work your way from a rookie up-start, to a household name in the racing world. As you race through tougher competitions and beat other well known racers, you will eventually earn a higher reputation, giving you access to grander race events and of course, unlock more impressive cars along the way too. The way this would work is by building up your in game fan base, the more races you win, the more fans you gather and the more goodies you unlock. In a way it works very similar to the XP system.
In the garage you will have a PC; from this you will have access to all the events that you can enter, including the WSR. But before you enter, you will undergo a series of races and events, similar to that of when you finally enter the WSR. You can have your standard race trying to best a number of opponents over a certain number of laps, straight to one on one face-offs in a knock-out style tournament. The face-off race is where the fun really picks up, so as a word of warning, the computer A.I will likely use dirty tactics and knock you off the track. So be prepared to do the same back, just make sure you don’t send yourself flying off the track.
Then you will have events like ‘Vehicle Challenges’, where you might have to beat a certain track in a set time, and if you complete that objective, then you will get to keep the car that your raced in. You can also have a Promo race, this race type really helps to build up your fan base. Here you can have any number of race types, from competing against an opponent in which the car that over takes the most cars during the race wins, but you will lose points every time you bump into a car or barrier, so drive carefully, to an extent of course. While these races in particular are fun, this is where I got the most frustrated with GRID 2.
Now I know there are times when I bumped into cars, barriers etc, and it was 100% my fault, but there were times when the cars you need to lap (that are not actually racing), will turn into you or the opponent that you are racing against will bash into your bumper and you will lose the points for it. There are also promos events that will have you compete in an endurance race, in which the car that has covered the most distance in the race over a set period of time, wins.
There are a host of other random matches in the promo events to help mix things up, should you begin to find the more traditional matches a little stale. Whilst in the garage, you will also have other options available to you, such as being able to select sponsor Livery’s, each with their own side objective that will earn you nice little bonuses. In the garage you can also change the colour of your car, change your driver details (such as names) and view your in-game race statistics.
While I’m no big petrol head myself, I’ve always been a fan of racing games and I do watch Top Gear religiously, so I’m at least a casual fan. But if there was one common bond that the most hardcore and casual petrol head gaming fans share, it’s the bliss of hearing a purring and roaring car engine.
Whether it be the sound of an F1 car, rally car, a 1967 Ford Mustang, an Enzo Ferrari or a Robin Reliant carefully manoeuvring its way around a roundabout (ok maybe the last one was a poor example), the sound of a car engine is one of the most instantly recognisable sounds, and almost every car has their own story to tell. So it makes me happy to say that Codemasters have gone to great lengths to ensure that each cars sound replicates that of what you would expect of its real life counterpart. From the revving engine at the starting line, the screech of a perfectly executed corner to the sound of a car crashing and flying off the tracks, it’s all here and any developer would struggle to do any better.
As I’ve already mentioned, like the original game, GRID 2 does have a brief storyline, it’s there to help you progress through your in-game career, but in the most basic way. So where I’d normally call the scoring of the sound effects section ‘Story Telling’, it would be fairer to think of it in GRID 2’s case as simply ‘Audio’ or ‘Sound effects’.
Throughout your career and before and after any race, you will have your team mate update you on any new events that have arrived in your garage/lobby and he will also give you some important Intel of a particular race or its drivers. Sometimes his words can be recycled and often repeated, but it would be wise not to cut him off if you can possibly help it, because there is the odd occasion where he would tell you something very important, such as the kind of corners that you can expect in your forthcoming race and how to approach them.
Don’t go expecting an in-depth storyline with GRID 2, because you won’t get one. But much like the beat-em ups from NetherRealm Studios, such as Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us, GRID 2 has more of a storyline than most other games in its genre, so that’s got to count for something, along with the games perfectly rendered sound effects.
GRID 2 has an extensive career mode, with plenty to unlock and the challenge increases considerably as you near the end of the campaign. But like other racing games, it’s very likely that GRID 2 will remain within your collection long after you are done with the singleplayer mode. The reasons for this is that you may want to return from time to time to beat a best lap time, or perhaps you may have friends round and you throw down the gauntlet of a split-screen challenge. But the most likely of reasons that you will return to GRID 2 will be because of its immersive multiplayer.
Now I’m not just talking about the multiplayer modes that are available to you (which I will get on to a little later), as you may have heard of a feature from Codemasters called RaceNet. RaceNet is a free online extension of the Codemasters community, where it will track your stats across an array of Codemasters games, not just GRID 2.
You have your standard features such as stats, leaderboards and you can even participate in weekly global challenges. But also what RaceNet will do for you, is reward you with all kinds of bonuses, but also find you rivals to challenge within the GRID 2 universe. Similar to the singleplayer career mode, you can also acquire RaceNet followers, which can be earned by beating certain objectives and even stealing them from one of your rivals.
Below are all the official details from Codemasters in regards to RaceNets Rivals, Global Challenges, and Followers.
GRID 2 Rivals
Gamers will always have someone to play and always have a new challenge with GRID 2’s Rivals system, powered by RaceNet. GRID 2 features three types of Rivals:
- Weekly Rival: RaceNet automatically selects a weekly Rival to compete against based on ability and activity in game to ensure a well-matched challenger.
- Social Rival: Players can choose Social Rivals from friends or players previously raced.
- Custom Rival: Players can select a Custom Rival based on parameters including event type or geographical location.
Global Challenge is where player’s rivalries come to life in this brand new asynchronous game mode. Players can compete against Rivals even when those Rivals are offline and earn XP, in-game Cash and RaceNet Followers (see below) as they compete in up to nine weekly Global Challenges selected from across GRID 2’s wide range of game modes and locations. Players can track progress in Global Challenge in-game and online through RaceNet.
As players perform on track they can gain online fame and bragging rights by increasing their RaceNet Follower base. The better they perform, and the more objectives completed, the larger the increase in Followers players will get. Followers can be stolen from Rivals by beating them in weekly Global Challenges and gained on RaceNet by taking part in online events, participating in Community Challenges and completing RaceNet objectives. Gamers can also unlock RaceNet Rivals cards on the site to show off Follower Achievements and RaceNet will showcase players with the most amount of Followers.
As I’ve already mentioned, GRID 2 features the good old split screen mode for when you have a friend over for some gaming sessions. It may seem like a small feature for those that exclusively play online, but now and again it’s good to have a friend round for some multiplayer, if not only to rub the bragging rights in their faces, but when you feeling like delving into the online world, there are plenty of modes available to you. You will have modes such as Endurance, Drift, Checkpoint, Face-Off, Time Attack and the Global Challenge; which will include such special events as Overtake and Power Lap.
You’ll have to be patient with GRID 2’s online multiplayer though, because when you first start out, you will be thrown against higher level gamers with better cars. But the more races you enter and finish, you will rank up and earn some important in-game cash to be spent on new cars and upgrades, so that you be compete that little bit more. GRID 2 supports up to 12 online players and gamers can modify and upgrade their cars to their liking by using the livery editor, which can offer up to a whopping 6 billion combinations.
If there was one slight complaint with the online, it’s when the host leaves. As much as I enjoy playing against my fellow humans , I sucked, but it was enjoyable and I intend on sticking with it. But it just so happened that the first race in which started to pick up, was when the host decided to leave and the race had come to an abrupt end.
This was particularly disappointing, as not only was I improving, but the host decided to leave on the last race, from a four race event and I lost all my in-game cash that I acquired in the three previous races. Now I know not all games do this, but some games find a new host, when one host leaves. If more games had this feature, then they would be far less disappointed gamers when a host decides to leave because he or she is losing. But this is a small discrepancy, to another very enjoyable online mode.
GRID 2 is not the racing sim that I expected it would be, perhaps for that reason it took me a little while longer to adjust. I’m not sure what I expected from the sequel, being that I was a fan of the original too. Although it’s still very easy to jump into, there are no daunting menu’s to navigate through, no endless amounts of customisation options, you simply pick which race/event you want and jump straight into the action.
It’s one of those games that have you thinking, “I’ll just have a few races, then I’ll leave it as that”, then before you know it, you’ve already lost a lot of hours being immersed in the game. GRID 2 is also the kind of game that any racing novice (such as myself) can look the expert when drifting around corners. But it’s also a game that invites you to master and tame it; it almost offers a perfect blend to accommodate all gamers alike. The old cliché that certainly fits GRID 2’s bill is “easy to play and tough to master”. You won’t find a deep game as you would find with Forza 4 or Horizon, but in terms of sheer fun, l doubt you’ll find a racing game that is more fun than GRID 2 before the turn of this year.