Unlike a game like Gran Turismo, developer CodeMasters has the talent to add fun into a driving game, primarily through the AI of the CPU controlled competitors. In my opinion the underrated Race Driver V8 Supercars (as it was known in this country in 2004) was a fantastic example of making your computer opponents feel real as they diced with each other for space on track.
Fast forward a couple of years, and a couple of other franchises and CodeMasters released Race Driver GRID, an innovative racing game that first introduced the ‘rewind’ feature prevalent in so many other racing games today.
“We’re determined to make GRID 2 the sequel the original game deserves.” Says Clive Moody, senior executive producer at CodeMasters “GRID broke ground and we’ve had to wait for technology to mature so we can meet our aspirations to do so again. This progress combined with our hugely talented and experienced team at CodeMasters Racing means we can once again set new standards for the genre”
First up you have a decision to make – single player (with some split screen fun if need be) or online multiplayer mayhem
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The online multiplayer is the most traditional style of video game racing you will find in GRID 2. Essentially up to 12 players can compete, with cars provided or bought with in-game money as befits the event.
The game features an anti-griefing system that will match up players wanting to trade paint and dents more so than look for a clean-pass opening opportunity to appear.
There are a bunch of modes, to go up against friends, and randoms with. Some are more fun than others, but can be vetoed in the lobby before the race commences. Apart from events such as Drift, Touge, Checkpoint and one on Face Off challenges, there is good old race events.
But Racing in GRID 2 has a twist, whether online or single player, some Race events feature the Live Routes feature. Here the track is not a circuit. Bustling through the streets of Paris for example, what was once a sweeping right is blocked off next time around with only a tight left available to the racers.
The ‘Track’ can turn in on itself illogically, and presents an event that is more twitch-reflex in a driving sense than a typical game. Normally the more you drive a track, the better you can set up the corners to come, picking a line through a previous bend that gives the greatest attack angle for the next. Not so in a Live Routes match which is great fun in multiplayer matches, but racing against computer controlled opponents, you just cannot help feeling that ‘they’ know what is coming.
Your task is be the star of the show, take part in invitational and promo events, win new cars and garner PR to build the prestige of the WSR. Working through four tiers of car types again you will compete in differing event types and need to hit a podium position in each to rake in those fans.
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From the car garage perspective GRID 2 is unusual, players do not get to select or buy vehicles as such, instead, appropriate cars can be won in events. These cars however are exciting from the start, Mustangs, Subaru BRZ, Nissan Silvia and a nicely specced Alfa Giulletta are all on offer in Tier One, and eventually you will be driving a McLaren F1 GT or Pagani Huayra.
There is no way to tinker with the vehicles however, what you get is what you race with, with GRID 2 featuring handling characteristics along the lines of ‘drift’, ‘balanced’ and ‘RWD’ along with power and acceleration characteristics as the differentiators on track. The result in multiplayer is close in pack racing where aggression, driving line and/or luck being the keys to success.
There are no driving assists in this game – a conscious decision on behalf of the designers – instead practice and possibly a preference for specific car types will get the player past particularly difficult events.
The game handles corner cutting on circuit tracks instantaneously limiting speed for a period directly related to the severity of the cheating. This feature is lenient enough to allow some sneaking passing manoeuvers along with allowing bump-and-go racing techniques necessary to get to the front during lap-limited events. Maybe that is just me however.
The damage system looks cool, and has an effect on car performance. Disappointingly there is no cockpit view in game, the across-the-bonnet view will have to do.
GRID 2 is something different in the racing genre, it will not satisfy simulation aficionados, but it is – more importantly – fun and challenging. If you are a little sick of sterile attempts at realistic racing, but at the same time over Mario Kart style racers or yet another Need For Speed branded release, maybe it is time to return to the Grid.