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Grid 2 review: Middle of the road

By Alex Dale on Tuesday 28th May 2013 at 1:00 PM UTC

Grid 2 isn't big on specialisation. Like most of Codemasters' recent efforts their latest circuit racer finds itself a little niche in the middle of the pack; a halfway house between the exhaustive stat-crunching of Forza and the high-octane fender-crunching of, say, Need For Speed.

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For all its visual intricacies (this is a handsome game; with all those real-time reflections out there, inner-city races are like driving down a hall of mirrors), this is a game painted with broad brushstrokes. Grid 2 is built to appeal to players who would as soon orchestrate majestic pile-ups as orchestrate majestic lap times, and should you choose to accept the challenge, Grid 2's single-player campaign asks you to build from scratch a brand new racing league that extols the same commitment to variety.

The World Series Racing league is the brainchild of one Patrick Callaghan; a fictional businessman who has aspirations of creating the racing equivalent of the UFC; a multi-disciplined tournament where the world's best lock wheels in events that take them out of their comfort zone.

All he's missing is a star, and that's where you rev up to the plate. The idea is that you're somewhat of an ambassador, travelling around the world taking on professional drivers at their own game. It's split up into seasons, and success in the regular events whips up enough fans to justify a series finale.

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Additionally, and as with the first Grid, you can give yourself mini-objectives within each season by plastering your fleet with various sponsors, all of which demand things from you - such as, to give an example, leading an entire lap of a race from start to finish.

Progress is reflected by the ever-expanding garage that serves as Grid 2's front end, and by cut scenes where talking heads on SportsCenter wax lyrical about the new league and its new driver, and - tiresomely - by charting the buzz you're generating on social media.

As storytelling devices go it is at times clumsy (it's fond of hiding your objectives under layers of menu), but once you wrap your head around what it wants from you it makes for a cohesive - if not especially thrilling - narrative framework for a game that has plenty to offer.

The standard events range from straight-forward circuit races to time attacks to eliminators, where the driver in last place after set intervals is given the heave-ho. Further variety comes in the form of special promo events, where you're tasked with either chasing after a high score by overtaking a succession of competitors without crashing, or simply surviving for a set amount of time. (Difficult, as Grid 2 employs aggressive damage modelling).

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"Grid 2 is built to appeal to players who would as soon orchestrate majestic pile-ups as orchestrate majestic lap times... the single-player campaign extols the same commitment to variety."

The tracks are a familiar bunch of chaps; Brands Hatch, Yas Marina, Circuit De Le Seine and Indianapolis all turn up the party, alongside more visually memorable circuits in Chicago, Paris and Dubai. If you're like us you'll know every hug and curve of some of these circuits like the back of your hand, which is where the LiveRoute events come in to play.

Each track has several routes (some, irritatingly, locked to pre-order bonuses it seems) and LiveRoute events sees the tracks swap dynamically between them, in effect creating point-to-point races. While it's a good idea, we're not convinced it works all that well - these courses are designed to be memorised and mastered, and the lack of a mini-radar during these races can be disorientating.

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