June 21, 2013
GRID 2 focusses around the creation of a new racing league called the World Racing Series (WSR). It's all very new at the beginning for the organisation, so the first thing on the agenda is to gain exposure.
The game is split into seasons and in the first season you'll find yourself racing in North America, trying to bring the WSR to that particular market. To do this, you must first challenge racing groups on their own turf and beat them. This convinces them that the WSR is a serious deal and they'll choose to then compete against you on a much larger stage.
Once you've conquered North America, and its open trail tracks, you'll then move on to Europe and Asia. These two territories promote a rather different challenge, with new race types and much more. With the European scene, you'll be racing around tight city streets, while in the Asian market, you'll be introduced to drift racing, checkpoints and face offs.
It's during this phase of the game that you'll also be introduced to "LiveRoutes", where the track changes on the fly and there's no mini-map to guide you. It makes the experience a lot more interesting, as it enforced as definite "risk vs reward" feel.
The different game modes help keep GRID 2 fresh as you go through the different territories, but there isn't a whole lot that's innovative about what you'll be asked to do.
Throughout the WSR mode, as mentioned earlier, your primary objective is to try and gain as much exposure for the organisation as possible. You do this by completing races and gaining fans. For every position you achieve, you will receive additional fans, but there are also sponsor objectives to complete too.
As you progress through the campaign, you will be asked to choose a new car periodically. You will often get a selection of two cars, the other of which can be won through vehicle challenge at a later date. The whole process feels rather unrewarding as it means that by doing ultimately very little, you'll end up with a rather neat array of cars consisting of top of the range M3 Coupes, Skylines and C63 AMGs. By Season Four, you'll start driving some rather exclusive automobiles.
GRID 2's bread and butter is its driving. A game of this nature can feature all the cars in the world, but it the core gameplay isn't up to scratch, then that's a rather serious issue. Given the studio's history, it's not surprising the GRID 2 performs rather well in this arena, but it does feel like there's something missing. Perhaps it's because the game crosses into the realms of being both a simulation and an arcade racer. After all, it's very much focussed on short, fast races, but it also has a rather hardcore damage model. However, because of this, it loses out on certain aspects that are key to the individual genres.
Often arcade racers won't have a damage model that hinders car performance because it's all about going rather crazy, while simulation racers will have many more customisation options available for those who're more serious about their cars.
GRID 2 is still a very competent racer, but it does feel as though it's stuck in a bit of a void. That's perhaps the biggest difference between the original game and the sequel. The original game felt very much like you were a race driver who was tasked with taking to the streets, while the sequel feels much more conservative. The original had plenty of grit, it was raw to the bone. You could all drive into the first corner and only half of you would come out in one piece, there was a huge rush. With GRID 2 it feels as though most of that has been scraped away, it's lots its identity.
The game's visual stack up, especially when it comes to the courses. There are so many different locations on show, as you'll find yourself driving through the streets of Spain and the UAE. Perhaps the best looking tracks are the ones that are set on the open road though, especially those in Japan. The cars look pretty decent, with the drama model being the most impressive aspect here. It's good to see that even tiny scraps will cause visual scarring on your car.
As you progress through the game, GRID 2 also features ESPN snippets. There are also some interesting cutscenes which try to highlight how important social networking is to this type of endeavour. It's nice that they took the time to go this far, but it does feel a little bit superfluous as it only comes into effect at milestones, it's not a regular feature.
Outside of the WSR mode, GRID 2 features an online multiplayer option. It's interesting that Codemasters has gone a little bit beyond what might be expected here, but it's a shame it doesn't tie into the WSR mode at all. As you play either online, or as part of the Global Challenge (if you have a RaceNet account) you'll gain EXP which can be used to upgrade your car. As you level up, you will also unlock new cars.
GRID 2 is a very competent game, but it doesn't ever really go beyond that. Everything that's present is what you'd expect and it all works just as you'd want. However, it seems to get a little bit confused about whether it's an arcade racer or a simulation racer. Still, there's a bit here for everyone, but whereas Race Driver: GRID stood out, GRID 2 is now clearly outshone by its bigger brothers.
GRID 2 was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.