In order to get a new sporting venture off of the ground, one must put in an almost unimaginable amount of legwork. Even then, there’s no guarantee that all of the hard work will pay off, with multi-million dollar television contracts, star personalities and incredible amounts of fans. Thankfully, video games are able to simplify things, and that’s exactly what Codemasters Southam did with the story-based content found within its latest racer, GRID 2.
Pitting players’ created drivers into the spotlight from day one, the venerable racing developer’s much-anticipated sequel to 2008’s series debut begins at the ground floor of a brand new automotive sport league known as World Series Racing. The kicker is that you’re the show person, who must prove that the new idea, put forth by one rich suit, is good enough to last in such a competitive marketplace. That means traveling across three different continents to compete against each one’s best on their home turf, employing their unique rules and styles.
Based around the above-mentioned design, the game’s campaign is split into five separate seasons, with the first being much more basic than the last. The idea is that, as you progress, so will WSR. As such, your first races will be dotted with perhaps a handful of fans, while later contests will be adorned with throngs of people and a plethora of fireworks. This way, players are able to see the fruits of their labour firsthand, although a fan counter also appears at the conclusion of each event, showing just how many adoring faithful one has accumulated.
Understandably so, the first three years of World Series Racing’s life act as proving grounds. Unlike their final two peers, they don’t begin with high-speed competition against the league’s best, or feature much coverage from in-game partnerships with ESPN and other sponsors. Instead, the user must battle his or her way through club events, where performing well is a must in order to increase others’ interest levels. Through this method, you’ll find yourself competing in standard, but aggressive races, high-speed time trials, two-car face-offs, several minute-long endurance races, drift competitions and timed checkpoint races. Those are just the main ones, though, as contact-free touge challenges also appear, pitting two drivers against each other in a similar environment to what the face-offs offer, though a victor can emerge if a five second lead is achieved.
Once you’ve proven that you can compete with the best racers in North America, Europe and Asia, it’s time to do so under the WSR banner. That means short seasons at the end of each proving year, as well as the two aforementioned all encompassing seasons, which last an entire year. Compiling the best from each region, they offer the same variety of events that the club circuits do, though the competition is obviously tougher. The good news on that front, however, is that several different difficulty levels are made available, ranging from very easy to very hard.
Rounding out GRID 2‘s single player package are custom events, which are as openly variable as they should be, and a mode called Timeline, which is exactly what its name suggests. Within them lies a notable amount of replay value, as users can create their own contests, or go back through Timeline in order to replay yearly events, or compete in ones that they passed on the first time around. Achievement and trophy addicts will get a lot out of the latter option, because there’s a profile award for coming in first place in all events.
Collectively, the campaign offers a good amount of content, as you can surely tell. The above-mentioned tasks will surely take up the majority of your time, but you’ll also want to dabble into some of the additional variants that pop up, in order to earn enough fans and progress through WSR. What’s being referenced here are the included vehicle challenges and promotional events. Listed as one offs, they allow players to earn large amounts of fans, while getting the word out about the league and/or showing off to manufacturers. Furthermore, the time-based vehicle challenges offer players a chance to ‘win’ more cars to race with, which is always a plus.
Taking a sidebar, it’s important to note that a thorough multiplayer mode is also presented to GRID 2 players, though an online pass is required to unlock it. Inside, lays a time intensive leveling system, global challenges, cash performance rewards and upgradeable vehicles, in addition to all of the single player mode’s event types. Through it all, users can enter custom or quick events, and can also join playlists of different varieties. It’s good stuff, but it was harder to find a good game than expected. A lot of that had to do with people waiting for full lobbies, then quitting once they realized that it was taking a while to fill all of the many available spots. Unfortunately, it seemed that they didn’t realize that adding in AI opponents was an option.
The vehicles themselves are varied and numerous, with several different tiers made available through progression. You’ll start off with slower hatchbacks and more standard vehicles, and will slowly progress all the way up to automotive contraptions that can drive around three hundred and fifty kilometers per hour on straightaways. It’s a pretty big difference, but there’s a slow learning curve attached, and the game’s great handling makes learning how to drive at higher speeds fun. The latter plus is there thanks to an amazing melding of arcade and simulation styles, wherein putting the pedal to the metal is required, but so is finesse. With it comes numerous crashes, but there’s a helpful rewind feature that can save players from disaster.
Now, you’re surely wondering about the quality of the tracks found in GRID 2. Are they as plentiful and as well designed as the game’s cars? Yes and no. The courses, which feature varied environments from the grid-like streets of Chicago to a cliffside roadway halfway across the world, are certainly of quality. Cities like Paris and Miami offer more standardized roadways to speed upon, while exotic locations (like Japan) spice things up with more varied designs. Strewn within are the aforementioned cliffside descents, which make things more difficult as you try to avoid wrecking while speeding away from a face-off competitor, as well as drift tracks.
The downside to what’s on offer here is that there aren’t enough environments to be found. Although the developers tried to mix things up by including a couple of real-life tracks – including Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and creating varied course designs within most of the locations, repetition does set in after a while. That is, even though there’s a LiveRoute system that takes all of the available course designs for one region and chooses which way it wants the track to go during select races.
Though the available vistas may not be as varied as one would wish them to be, they do look great, as GRID 2 is quick to impress with its beautifully rendered visuals and great attention to detail. The included vehicles all look lifelike, and can be damaged to the point of no repair, losing panels, parts and shards galore. In fact, this is one of the better-looking games out there, and it sounds just as great, thanks to helpful narration, stylized presentation, a fitting score and thoroughly realistic sound effects. The only real downside on the presentation front is the lack of cockpit view, though its absence didn’t bother me.
In conclusion, GRID 2 is everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s fast, fluid and accessible, yet challenging, presenting something that all fans of its genre should find impressive. With it, Codemasters has once again proven its mettle as a phenomenally talented racing developer.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.
GRID 2 is one of the best racing games ever made, and should not be missed by any fan of the genre.