Shut Up And Drive The Car



Grid 2 for XBox 360 - commercial packagingCodemasters' Grid 2 was waiting for me at home when I returned to Ann Arbor from Los Angeles, after attending my first ever E3 this year. I was worried.

Of course I'd been thrilled weeks before when I'd gotten confirmation that I'd receive a loaner copy of the game to take out for a spin, and I'd certainly been stoked to play it since I'd first started seeing preview trailers and teasers show up on YouTube. But, having just spent a few days driving the newest and hottest upcoming racing games on a pair of next-generation consoles that I was sampling for the first time, my concern was that my expectations would be off for the Grid 2 experience on my lowly Xbox 360.

The truth is that developers are still squeezing more and more performance out of current gaming platforms, and this Codemasters effort oozes good design and nuanced graphical work, despite being behind the frames-per-second and ultra-detail pace set by upcoming Xbox One and Playstation 4 titles. And, because gameplay is satisfying just as soon as one boots up Grid 2, the demos and delights of E3 were quickly in my rearview.

‚ÄčGrid 2 is clearly standing on the shoulders of some great work from one of the studio's big releases from last year, F1 2012. Influence from the racing title can be seen in the elegant and easy-to-navigate menu design, loading screens enriched with live-updated player stats (kilometers raced, average finishing position, top speed achieved, etc.), and most prominently with the in-game environments. From breezy and sun-soaked coastal roads to the million-points-of-light nighttime races at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit, G2 has created some of the best lighting design I've ever encountered in a racing game. (For a sample, scroll down to the bottom of the article for some game play video from our friends at Joystiq.) Overall detail for the tracks and surrounding worlds is not as dense or pixel-perfect as other top-tier racing games, but Grid 2's flowing, rich style is sometimes more attractive (especially when seen at speed during a race) in the same way that an oil painting is often more interesting to look at than a photograph.
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The in-game vehicles are well rendered, if a bit out of scale and proportion.

It's kind of a shame that this same inventiveness and detail isn't lavished on the Grid 2 cars, then. In their most stock formulation, without livery or modification, the in-game vehicles are well rendered, if a bit out of scale and proportion. Throw in the race paint and stickers that are pretty much the norm for a G2 grid, however, and the cars start to look downright cartoony to my eyes. Of course, slightly non-standard car design might actually serve to make transparent the sort of mission of Grid 2 gameplay, which bifurcates the "simulation" and "arcade" genres of driving games nicely.

On the sim side of the equation, for instance, we get things like meaningful and weighty dynamic differences in handling from one car to the next. Sure, the drift-happy rear ends of lots of the cars in-game have been exaggerated vis-à-vis reality, but there's still a lot of subtlety to be found between models. The damage modeling, both graphical and that which affects your car in a race – crashing in Grid 2 is not risk-free – lends credence to the simulation argument, too. I think it's reasonable to assume that Codemasters dug into core learnings from its F1 titles to inform this street racer, though the handling and damage are not as impactful in G2 as they are in F1 2012 – more like caricatures of actual physical behavior than full-fat modeling.

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I never got to feel as though I was building my dream garage.

The core physics engine may be sound then, but G2 doesn't ever let itself become bogged down in too much reality. Cars cannot be tuned to add more performance, unless one is playing in the online challenge mode that rewards "levels" gained with access to both go-fast and look-good modification options. In the single-player career mode, you're down to paint, tires and sponsor decals in terms of customization. There's no in-cockpit point of view to select from, with G2 making do with through-the-windshield and over-the-hood views for those who like a first-person experience. That news will bounce right off if you typically enjoy pick-up-and-play racing titles, but guys with dedicated wheel/pedal sets are likely to be put off by the omission of in-cabin. All of the above makes Grid 2 more like a serious take on an arcade-style thing rather than a real-world driver.

For me, one of the biggest factors on the arcade side of the ledger is also perhaps my biggest gripe with G2: I never got to feel as though I was building my dream garage. The car collection mechanic is automated in Grid, with cars being offered for you to choose from (usually you pick one of two) as you progress through races. You can win the cars that you didn't select initially via a separate group of challenge races, but there's no "showroom" or similar repository of every model. I'm left flat anytime a driving game won't let me curate exactly the race garage I desire – then again, I spend stupid hours on eBay Motors each week, so I might be an outlier.

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I mostly found the racing action to be very well done here, with loads of different styles of races and a pretty good selection of tracks to choose from. (In actuality there aren't that many completely different venues, but G2 does a pretty good job parsing what it has into different layouts, reverse running, etc.) The effects of damage, while easy to feel, still mostly do not prohibit using AI vehicles as 'brakes' in wheel-to-wheel racing. A serious blow to the front tire/suspension will cause your car to pull to one side or the other, but I had to beat the piss out of something before I would actually be failed from the race (this gets you a pretty satisfying slow-motion animation, which is cool). Racing versus the clock, point-to-point racing with time added on at each stage, drifting competitions and Touge style races (try to get five seconds ahead of a single opponent) are all on offer, though the first game's Demolition Derby mode – one of its predecessor's most amusing features – is conspicuously absent.

It is an undeniably entertaining title.

I can't lie; I'm a racing gamer that really enjoys the modified simulation style that has been dominated by the Forza and Gran Turismo franchises for decades now. I like tuning cars, collecting cars and being forced to understand the subtle differences between sometimes difficult-to-drive models. Grid 2 is, for all its charms, most definitely not that kind of game. But it is an undeniably entertaining title. The breezy gameplay is easy to learn but pretty difficult to perfect (there are plenty of races that I simply had to settle for a second- or third-place finish in). Loads of racing styles kept me from getting bored with the lack of vehicles or annoyed with the slightly wonky appearance of cars. And, honestly, driving Touge and Drift events on courses as brilliantly designed as the Mizu Mountain stage in Japan is simply joyful.

Squint a little, pick up a controller and play. Grid 2 is an awfully fun way to spend the next few months before your Xbox One is delivered.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 18 Comments
      domingorobusto
      • 1 Year Ago
      All I need to know is does it still have the rubber-banding? I really liked the first Grid until I realized it absolutely didn't matter how well I drove, I was never going to get away from Ravenwest. I HATE games that give magical powers to the opposition to keep things "close and exciting!". I want to to be like Forza, where when you go to the hard opponent AI setting, they're hard because they take a perfect line and actually drive better, not they suddenly have 2000 hp and grip levels unexplainable by science. The best example was one of the early races. I was in a Boss 302, and the Ravenwest driver was in ostensibly the same car. I was following in second place going into a turn onto a straight. I freaking NAILED the corner while they went wide, passing and carrying at least 30 more mph than them out into the straight. Seeing as we were in the "same" car, you'd think I'd get a comfortable lead out of that wouldn't you? But no, halfway down the straight he comes around me like I was driving a moped, and by the end of the straight he was at least 8 cars ahead. This is not fun. This makes me feel like all the skill I've developed over years of playing is completely worthless. I understand it makes it more fun for casual players who don't have these skills. But at least let those of us who do turn off the damn catch-up feature. If I beat someone by 5 seconds a lap, that means I was just driving that well, and taking that away doesn't make the game feel more tense, it just makes me feel cheated of my well deserved victory.
        Brodz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        Not to mention the arcade driving physics. There is just nothing in the game besides the love of cars to make it enjoyable. When you mention the rubber banding. I think immediately of the 24hr of Le Mans needed to finish every season. Without fail when going through the famous "Porsche Curves" where it is completely impossible to go through it without reducing speed. Zhooom go the other racers straight past. And it's impossible to catch them before the finish line. GRID holds no interest for me, and it shows a once great motor racing game house (Codemasters) has lost their way.
        carnut0913
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        This makes me feel like all the skill I've developed over years of playing is completely worthless. It is, in case you were wondering. Doesnt translate to a car, a job, or a family. just sayin'
        johnnythemoney
        • 1 Year Ago
        @domingorobusto
        I feel you Bro.
      Lachmund
      • 1 Year Ago
      sad game compared to the predecessor. don't buy
      ngiotta
      • 1 Year Ago
      I beat Grid 2 a few weeks ago. The AI is horrible in this game. It's much more competitive (even in easy mode) on the mountain/coastal tracks and it's a pushover on the city tracks at any level. The controls and graphics are fairly nice, although the navigation is slightly different that Codemasters' Dirt series and the difference isn't for the better.
      ROLO
      • 1 Year Ago
      my xbox one wont be delivered lol yours will im NOT getting one.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      JayP
      • 1 Year Ago
      This was one game I was on the verge of buying at release... but been burned with Fuel, Grid, younameit. I'm glad I didn't bite. In other news, I've preordered GT6 earlier this week.
        ROLO
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JayP
        this game has nothing to do with you buying the same game a second time. And i see no problem with owning both. I hate when people especially racing fans nominate a game then ride it. YOU are missing out. The pass of fail thing is getting so lame. Afraid someone will find it in your library and complain to u that a fun game is NOT of the "BIG 3" battling for NON REALISTIC (cause GT5 and 6 wont be) supremacy?
          JayP
          • 1 Year Ago
          @ROLO
          I'd buy GT6 if it was GT5 plus a new track or car. Just I am not going to throw money at something that will be fun for 3 days (NFS:The Run) or just a crappy twitch game only 14 yr old juiced up on MtDew can handle. Reminds me I probably can find NFS: Most Wanted cheap in the bargain bin now.
      Chris STefani
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Best Game Driver Car . . . Waiting DIRT4 CODMASTER
      John
      • 1 Year Ago
      i quit playing grid because the lack of formula 1, their original game on xbox was called toca 3 racing, it had very good williams and bmw f1 cars, i have it on pause now because my eyes freakin hurt from playing it
      Greg
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think this game is broken. I've finished all of the races in Season 1 and I cannot advance. Has anyone else had this problem?
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