This article originally appeared in GamesMaster magazine.
We're sitting in a Mercedes SL65 AMG, teasing the rev limiter as the countdown to the race begins. It's a warm Chicago afternoon and the Windy City's famous breeze is rippling through the coloured bunting above our heads. When the countdown ends we put pedal to the metal and begin our two-lap tour of the city circuit: us and seven other racers all desperate to take the chequered flag.
The details are astounding. As we race past the stands, pages of newspapers scooped up in the city's gusts whip past. Trees shed leaves and in the background the famous elevated 'L' train rumbles past on its daily mission. A few turns later and we're under the L-train as another carriage screeches overhead, brilliant blue flashes and the odd burst of sparks raining down as it does so.
DRIVE THRU A LENS
In the distance we spot all sorts of neat touches: ascending balloons that have escaped from the netted ranks bridging the start/finish line, jumbo jets and trailing vapour trails on the ascent from O'Hare, flocks of pigeons flying away after being unsettled by the raging vehicles...
Codemasters cite Michael Mann's Collateral and Chris Nolan's Batman films as two of their many, many influences for GRID 2's aesthetics. It becomes abundantly clear why during the race replay when we see footage of the race juxtaposed with fleeting, serene shots of the environment. The art team's goal, we're told, was to create videos in which any frame could be removed, blown up and then hung onto a wall as art. It's tough to argue with the results so far.
A tunnel crops up around two-thirds into the lap, and when we dive inside we're smashed in the face by a wall of sound. The audio system's every bit as detailed as the visuals and noise bounces off the surrounds as it would in real life. The effect's even noticeable when pelting past a few skyscrapers, but underground it's positively deafening.
Every AI racer treats you differently, depending on your behaviour...
There's an on-screen marker to warn you of tailing opponents. It's hardly needed, for the sound guys have cranked up the whine of a slipstreaming engine to warn you if somebody's filed up behind you and is readying for a pass. It gives you ample time to plan your next blocking move. How you react in this situation - or any other, for that matter - is crucial. Every AI racer treats you differently depending on your behaviour. Play nice and they'll give you space in kind. Shunt them and they'll have no qualms about bumping you back.
They're true individuals. Carey Briggs, Roland Holzer, Paul Clifton and all the rest are made up from over 60 abilities apiece encompassing factors such as drift control and reaction speed. Each character has unique values for these abilities, resulting in distinctly recognisable traits. By the end of our race we knew who was shaky on corner braking and who to watch out for on straights.