Replay Value: 8.7
If you weren’t already aware, Codemasters typically produces rock solid racing games that are deep and highly engaging. Featuring a heady blend of arcade and simulation elements, the first Grid succeeded in delivering a high-octane ride that was worthy of notice. The sequel features a wide range of locales, fantastic track design, demanding physics, and plenty of stimulating event diversity. The damage system is quite realistic and you’ll soon find yourself appropriately dreading collisions. It has a few flaws that keep it from reaching elite status but all in all, Grid 2 is a damn fine racer.
Visually, Codemasters steps things up with more detail and better special effects. While you certainly don’t want to crash, you’ll appreciate the effort put forth by the graphics team. Each car is beautifully designed, many of the backgrounds through which you race are convincing and attractive, and the vivid color scheme is excellent. There are some frame rate issues that jar the eyes a bit, especially when those collisions occur, and some of the circuits aren’t as sharp upon closer inspection. But as you’re flying down the track at ridiculous speeds, you probably won’t have time to worry about a random blurry image in the backdrop.
The sound is peppered with the gunning of all sorts of engines, as Codemasters has clearly done their homework when it comes to high-performance vehicles. The thrilling sounds of racing dominate the experience and a fitting soundtrack doesn’t outstrip the effects. Every racing enthusiast wants to hear the skidding of tires and the revving of the engine; he doesn’t want it mired beneath a loud, obnoxious score. That’s fine for straight-up arcade racers, I suppose, but this game has a lot more substance. Therefore, the clarity and authenticity of the effects is essential. The balancing isn’t perfect, though, which is mildly disappointing.
In Grid 2, you will be given the opportunity to prove your driving prowess in all corners of the globe, piloting some of the fastest, most technologically advanced vehicles on earth. The task is a difficult yet exciting one, and you don’t really need the knowledge and skill of a true racecar driver to succeed. You do, however, need to practice, as mastering each distinct car takes time, and some of the more difficult circuits require constant repetition. For the record, I usually don’t like racers that straddle the line between arcade and simulation, because such games seem to lack a sense of identity. They just don't know what they want to be.
But this game does very well in presenting us with a semi-realistic racing experience that remains mostly accessibly throughout. The game won’t tolerate huge mistakes like overly heavy drifting, while at the same time, it will continue to assault your senses with the unmistakable flair of a colorful, grin-inducing arcade racer. And you know, I kinda like that in the setting of the game, you’re already a world-class driver. I realize that people may want to start as no-names and work their way up (yes, that’s realistic), but the fantasy and luxury of fast cars and exotic locales remains alluring. And Grid 2 captures that nicely.
From the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the streets Barcelona and just about everywhere in between, you will take on the best in the world. Each location is a treat in and of itself and when you get down to racing, you’ll be impressed with the rigorous AI and solid track design. The damage system in place really is special, as each car starts to disintegrate after a series of unfortunate scrapes and all-out crashes. The dropping frame rate can get a little annoying, especially during intense moments of action, but you can almost forgive that due to the extraordinary level of immersion. And although you’re a seasoned driver, you will still learn new disciplines and take part in various event types.
Career Mode is chock full of things to do, and you can participate in elimination and time attacks, as well as drifting challenges and something called “touge,” which is one of the more nail-biting challenges. There are only two cars, but the road is narrow and any collision results in an automatic DQ! That’s almost a little too restrictive in my eyes but hey, it’s realistic and it forces you to hone your skills. And if you get tired of that, you can always try the live routes, which never get tiresome ‘cuz they’re always different. I’m really hoping that other racing games in the future will utilize a similar feature.
Basically, the game takes a half dozen tracks from one location (Miami, for example), and assembles the pieces of each track into one, never-before-driven route. It’s like the randomly generated dungeons in RPGs, you know? The presentation is top-notch throughout, but I was a little disappointed in the fact that I couldn’t really tinker. I understand that this is a blend of simulation and arcade elements, but given the level of general racing immersion, it felt like I should tinker just a litte. Instead, you’re just awarded new cars as you progress and you’re never actually adjusting much in the way of mechanics or parts.
The saving grace is that there’s an excellent variety of cars, so you won’t get bored. Rather than figuring out which sort of mechanical tune-up your favorite vehicle needs for a specific track, you have to select a particular car. It’s similar to tuning and fiddling but really, it’s not the same. So I still say the game is lacking in that respect; it’s possible to offer some mechanical customization without it feeling like Gran Turismo, you know. But even so, the game does remain quite challenging, especially later on, as there aren’t any driving assists. That’s another minor oversight.
The multiplayer gives you access to most of the same great locations you have in the Career Mode, and you can earn even more money. And lo and behold, this is where you can upgrade the engine, drivetrain and other aspects of your car. Why this wasn’t included in the single-player element is beyond me. The game even tracks your driving style and matches you up with other drivers who have similar styles. So, in other words, if you’re the kind of guy who likes to swap some paint, you’ll likely compete against others who embrace the same dirty philosophy. Toss in some split-screen fun and you’ve got a fairly robust and rewarding multiplayer component.
Grid 2 is an entertaining, nicely polished racing game. With many fantastic locales, awesome cars, nicely devised events, and a really attractive presentation, there’s a lot to like. The handling doesn’t feel 100% right for all the cars, the frame rate can be an issue, and I wish I could’ve done more (mechanically) to my high-performance vehicles. But the fun factor cannot be denied, as you’ll always want to master the next challenging event. Unlocking new rides and checking out fresh circuits is always a blast, and live routes is a great feature. Check this one out if you need your racing fix.
The Good: Great circuit design and beautiful locations. Top-notch sound effects. Solid, reliable physics. Nice selection of very cool cars. Strikes a good balance between simulation and arcade. Robust multiplayer.
The Bad: Minor frame rate issues. Not enough mechanical customization in single-player. Handling can be questionable.
The Ugly: “I really wanted to mess with that gear ratio, damnit.”