Codemasters Grid was one of the milestone racing titles of this generation. It featured a wonderful blend between simulation and arcade racing and innovated some fun new mechanics that, while not revolutionizing the racing genre, certainly helped redefine what the status quo should be for a next-gen racer. But that was 2008 and this is 2013, and as we gradually witness the twilight of this console generation, this sequel begs the question: Is status quo from 2008 acceptable in 2013?
In short, Grid 2 does a lot of things well. The fundamentals of a good racing game are in place. The only problem is that unlike Grid, Grid 2 never gives you a reason to keep playing. This racing gets boring--- fast (pun shamefully intended). But it’s not just the bland gameplay that keeps Grid 2 from reaching its predecessors heights, it’s the convoluted menu screens, inconsistent controls, bland tracks, and weak multiplayer component.
The single-player component of Grid 2 involves a hokey narrative about how you must earn fans via a made-up social media site through “video uploads” of your past performances (think YouTube and followers and views), create a fictional World Series Racing league (the aptly named WSR), and be the best racer in the fictional racing league that you helped create. The generic narrative, however, left me with no real vested interest in anything that was going on. As I completed races and unlocked new fans, I felt bored and uninterested. None of this was helped by the inconsistent control of the cars and the bland derivative tracks. But, even then, I wanted to feel a sense of place, a sense that this world, this narrative was as carefully crafted as the beautiful looking cars in it. I just never felt that, though.
The inconsistent control of the cars is probably one of the weakest elements of Grid 2. Each car felt incredibly different. This is fine and realistic and for the most part should be desired from a racer; the only problem with Grid 2’s feel, however, is that some cars feel like they are operating by a completely different set of physical laws than other cars. That is to say, some cars feel like they are floating on the track, while others feel like they weigh as much as a tank. I would avoid using some cars completely because I felt they simply were un-drivable. No racer should make you feel this way. And maybe it was my lack of skill, or my ignorance to the rules of the game, but I never wanted to learn how to control those difficult to control cars, it just wasn’t going to be any fun.
The locations and tracks in the game also left me with a feeling of nausea. As a racing fan, I had seen this all before. Want to race through the streets of Paris or Rome? Haven’t we done that already? Want to race at sunset with the glare of the falling sun in your view? Did I not see that in Gran Turismo on the PS2? Oh, yeah, I did. This is all just more of the same.
Due to the inconsistent controls Grid 2 feels incredibly difficult. I never had the sense that I was getting better after the completion of a race. I have also never faced a more competitive and aggressive A.I. Trying to effectively overtake any car was a challenge, as oftentimes they would crash into you when you tried, effectively taking you out of the race. Cars that are behind, meanwhile, have a distinct ability to knock your car off balance and send you spinning into a wall. When you try the same technique on those same A.I. cars, your car goes spinning out of control while the A.I. operated car races off unaffected. You are operating with a different set of rules than the A.I. and that is usually the sign of a poorly made game.
If there is one area where this game shines it is in the visuals. This was one of the sharpest looking racing games I have ever played. Each track is impeccably detailed and the locations look like their real-world counterparts. While some courses tend to over use the aforementioned sun-glare effect, this is a relatively minor complaint when one considers how good the game looks overall. There is also a nice sense of speed while you race, and the “rewind” ability (which allows you to rewind your progress if you make a mistake) demonstrates the games great particle effects. The same praise can also be given to the games overall sound. The soundtrack is very reminiscent of Daft Punk’s “Tron:Legacy” soundtrack and that is not entirely a bad thing. Aesthetically, this game is an impressive display of current-gen tech.
Grid 2 is guilty of an awful UI-- nothing seems to work the way you think it will. What’s worse is the fact that the UI changes mid-game, so while you may feel like you finally have a grip on where certain buttons are you must re-learn some of it as you progress. I don’t know what it is, but sports/racing titles seem to be guilty of this crime more than any other. There is too much flash to the UI and nothing seems easy to figure out. It really is a style over substance matter and it’s one I hope next-gen titles don’t suffer from. So while it is difficult to criticize Grid 2 of its UI when similar games suffer from the same glaring attribute, I feel it is worth noting if only so future developers take note and start making game UIs a little more intuitive.
The multiplayer component was a little dull as it offered nothing competitive or exciting. It was instead crippled by the incompetent UI, slow loading times, and the poor control of the cars. When I did find a challenger the matches lasted too long and never felt compelling.
Racing games are about the sense of speed and control. Grid 2 offers plenty of speed but hardly any control. The graphics and sound are top-notch but every thing else leaves much to be desired. Grid 2 seems to want the best of both worlds: it wants to as much to be a racing simulator as it does an arcade racing game. Clearly Codemasters knows how to make a quality racing game as made evident by the original Grid, but Grid 2 never reaches those solid heights. To say I had no fun playing Grid 2 would be a lie, it’s just that the fun I had was intermittent and never lasted long. Overall, Grid 2s biggest fault is it’s inconsistency-- a fault which I hope will be fixed with Codemasters next-gen titles.
+ Great sound and graphics
- inconsistent controls
- bland, derivative courses
- weak multiplayer
- weak single-player campaign
Release date : 2013-05-28
Publisher : Codemasters
Developer : Codemasters
Gameplay : Racing
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