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Grid 2 Review

Cart: Grid 2
Cab: PC / PS3 / Xbox 360
Coin: Codemasters

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I only play a game for a few hours before writing a review. In fact, it usually takes me longer to write and publish the review than it does to first play the game.

I know, I know: it’s like pulling back the curtain to find out that there’s no great and powerful Oz, merely a tired, old man pushing buttons and pulling levers. Which is closer to the truth that I’d care to admit.

You see, I’m in the very fortunate position of picking and choosing what I want to review, so I play to my strengths and review games from genres that I know inside-out. And when you’ve been playing games for over three decades, you simply just get a feel for a game’s strengths and weaknesses after the first couple of hours – then you just write the review. Being free from the shackles of scores helps, mind you, yet not once have I re-read one of my reviews after returning to a game and felt as though I was way off the mark.

So when I say that I’ve played Grid 2 more than any other game before attempting to review it, you know that something’s amiss. Either I’m losing my touch, or I was just having too much fun with the game to be bothered to tear myself away from it.

Who needs in-car cameras anyway?

Who needs in-car cameras anyway?

It’s been five years since Race Driver: Grid and Codemasters have finally seen fit to detach Grid from its TOCA roots. So it’s just Grid now. Positioning itself on the, erm, grid next to Dirt as the street-esque tarmac-fest to Dirt’s, well, dirt; Grid retains its own unique identity in the Codemasters stable. It evens stands strong in comparison to the racing genre more broadly, despite what many reviewers would have you believe.

In many repsects, Grid feels like a tribute to the best driving games of a decade ago. Gone is the apparently superfluous in-car view and the somewhat tedious customisable set-ups that EA’s Shift series experimented with in its effort to be Gran Turismo-lite. Instead, Grid 2 presents itself as a clean and pure experience that’s aiming squarely for the classic arcade-sim territory that Project Gotham nailed so expertly in PGR2.

Graphics are unassumingly stunning with much effort being devoted to the cities through which you roar. Skyscrapers tower above you and fans litter the side-streets screaming and chanting as you hurtle past. Music is minimal and non-existent in-game with all focus on the thrill of driving. The handling model is arcade-sim perfection. That’s to say that cars handle as you would expect them to but also – and more importantly – as you want them to. You’re still punished for mistakes but this is an experience that cares less about realism and more about knife-edge thrills.

In short: this is the most fun you’ll have driving with a gamepad from the comfort of your couch.

Any game that starts you off with American Muscle gets my nod.

Any game that starts you off with American Muscle gets my nod.

Of particular note is the superb less-is-more implementation of the rewind function – something introduced to the driving genre in the very first Grid. No more do you have to faff around with unnecessary button-presses or menus: simply press once to rewind and once to jump back in – just like rewinding a tape. It’s brilliantly implemented and highlights the genius of the whole mechanic better than ever before.

I could bore you with talk of the game’s wafer-thin plot or grumble about the relative lack of vehicles or tracks, but they’re irrelevances given the sheer thrill of being on the track.

Codemasters have dared to throw out of the window some of the more sim-esque features that seem to have crept into the hallowed middle ground of arcade-sim racers over recent years. The dude-bro nonsense that pervaded Dirt 3 and Shift 2 has been toned down to perfectly acceptable levels and the whole experience is uncompromisingly raw and visceral.

Grid 2 is the ZZ Top of the driving genre: simple, classic, balls-to-the-wall entertainment that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. My only regret? Having to put it down for more than five minutes to write this.

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3 Comments

  1. Looks fantastic!

    • Simon Burns It really is! The point-to-point time challenges through the cliff-top forests are great – as are the overtake challenges and the maps that change on-the-fly so no two laps are the same.

  2. Been looking forward to this, can’t wait to give it a try.

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