Five years ago, Codemasters reinvigorated the racing genre with its arcade-simulation racing hybrid Race Driver: Grid. Grid bridged the gap between the most popular racing sims, Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, and arcade racers like Burnout and Need For Speed. It gave players that feeling of being a true race driver, offering a great sense of speed and competition while at the same time eliminating the more tedious aspects of racing in games. And with its innovative and much copied Flashback feature, a limited use rewind mechanic, it made the genre more accessible than ever.
Because of where racing games were at the time, and what Grid did for the genre, I have a fond memory of the original title. As such I was super excited to see what Codemasters had put together for the follow-up, Grid 2. Could they reinvigorate the racing genre again? What new twists on the classic formulas would we see this time around? And most importantly where does it fit in amongst the glut of racing titles over the past few years? After playing quite a lot of Grid 2 over the past couple weeks, all those questions have been answered and sadly the answers aren’t quite as cheery as my memories of the original game.
That probably sounded pretty negative but it should be mentioned up front that, for the most part, Grid 2 is a pretty solid racing game. It has its issues, which I will get to, but much like its predecessor five years ago, Grid 2 does push the genre forward in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately none of them are in the gameplay arena.
This isn’t to say that Grid 2 plays poorly but rather that where Grid 2 shines is in its presentation. From your crew chief giving you seemingly personalized advice to the unfolding narrative of the upstart World Series Racing league, everything in Grid 2 is done to immerse yourself into the life of a racing superstar. And it does it well.
Still, not everything in the presentation is perfect, for instance the ESPN vignettes are of low quality and come off as supremely cheesy and the menus, while pretty are like navigating a Russian nesting doll. That said, most of it accomplishes its goal of being flashy, fun and more interesting than the general career progression in simulation heavy games or open-world exploration in arcade racers.
Sadly under the shiny new paint job is an average, at best, handling model, subpar AI, an unforgiving damage model and a game that just doesn’t feel as good as its predecessor from five years ago, let alone all the other racing titles to have released since then. There is still a great sense of speed and the game does a good job of maintaining proper competition throughout the races but something about the game just seems off. Despite its phenomenal presentation it feels like a title that failed to get the memo about where the genre has gone since 2008.
Grid 2 would have been fantastic in 2009, another evolutionary step forward for the genre. Maybe someone will look at what Grid 2 did with its career mode and adjust it for their own purposes but as it stands there is little about Grid 2 that stands out. It is just merely an OK racing game lost in a crowd of great racing games.
Review Note: This review was done using an Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher. It is also available on the PC and Playstation 3.