GRID 2 Xbox 360 Review
While many people think that there are two motorsport games, each of which is a console exclusive – Forza has been for Xbox systems, while Gran Turismo has been for Playstation systems – Codemasters Racing has been developing games for both since the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 came out. While they previously called the games TOCA Racing Series, in 2008, they changed to Race Driver: GRID, and made the game an experience about being on a driving team, or even operating one. So, with five years since the previous games, what has the company given games now?
With this go-round, instead of first racing for a team, and then potentially assembling a team of your own, you are an independent motorsport racer with a small amount of fame. A man by the name of Patrick Callahan who is looking to create a new motorsport league – World Series Racing (WSR) – with you as the front driver. You do this both by gaining fans, and via racing against racing clubs in order to get those clubs’ top drivers interested in the WSR. Of course, to get the man’s attention, you first have to perform well in a race without a sponsor, using a Ford Mustang Mach 1. While you don’t have to win that race, you can’t absolutely lose. After that, you start out in North America, eventually garnering enough fans to go through with a first season. As you progress through Europe and Asia, you get more drivers interested in the WSR, you get to race in actual WSR events. Each race gets you (and, in turn, the WSR) more fans, and you also get additional vehicles for participating in certain events. The races get more competitive with each consecutive season, the AI drivers get more aggressive, and the challenges become even more difficult. Along with the regular races, you can also enter Vehicle Challenges – time trials where you have to complete a race in a certain amount of time – in order to gain cars which your sponsor doesn’t initially provide. There are also promotional events for the WSR, all of which are non-standard race types, and many of which typically let you drive cars that you don’t already have in your collection, and won’t be able to otherwise access until much later.
As far as the actual race events and tracks, both are incredibly varied. There are multiple locales, including coastal routes in California, Europe, and Asia, actual tracks around the world, and city streets in locales around the world, including Chicago, Miami, Paris, Barcelona, and more. As for the event styles, they provide quite a bit of flavor, and the way the game introduces them in single player makes some of the events seem like specialty races. More than that, on city-based races, there is a feature called Liveroutes, wherein there is no determined track, and therefore no way to know what the next turn is or the locations of other racers without visual confirmation. As for the race styles, regular races are a given. Faceoff is a one-on-one race that follows the regular race rules, but typically leads to far more paint trading. Elimination is a count-down race where the person at the very back is eliminated every twenty seconds until only one racer remains. Time Attack is a “best-lap” race, where you have a limited number of laps to get the best lap time against other drivers. Overtake is a race where you have a limited number of laps to pass vehicles in order to score points. Endurance races are five-minute affairs where the car to be in first place at the end wins. Checkpoint races are a typical arcade race event, where the winner is whoever manages to stay in the race the longest via going through check points. Touge is a tug-of-war style race, where the winner is either the person who wins the race outright or gets five seconds ahead of their opponent, with the added caveat that causing an accident leads to a disqualification. Finally, Drift is a track-based race where drivers are scored by how well they can get around a track almost exclusively by drifting.
As far as the car selection goes, it is somewhat limited, since there isn’t a secondary install disc. There aren’t separate years available for certain makes and models of vehicle. Due to the nature of the WSR-based plot of the whole thing, the vehicle makes top out at luxury cars, since there is no LeMans style racing involved. However, running at over sixty vehicles is nothing at which to thumb one’s nose. The best part is that each vehicle has its own handling style, meaning that no two cars are going to give a player the exact same race. Cars have nine general variants, determined by whether they are RWD, FWD, or AWD and incorporate handling based on drifting, gripping the road, or a combination of the two. The vehicle’s weight, acceleration, and overall power also affect the way each car handles. Even though there aren’t any specialty vehicles available, acquiring all of them is still rather enjoyable.
Another great aspect of the game is the immersive experience. Because you’re playing as a professional racer, you have real sponsors which give you objectives that, when completed, give you more fans. Another great caveat is that Codemasters managed to get ESPN to join in, providing fictional SportsCenter footage specifically from their racing broadcasters, which players get to see after certain points in the single-player play-through. There are also videos that show message boards, texts, and video sites with comments about the WSR, and about your racer (with the name that you input, instead of generic descriptions like “this driver” and “WSR’s main racer”). Finally, you have a pit boss that calls you by one of multiple pre-set names, and who gives you advice before and during races. The pit boss seems a little self-absorbed, especially during vehicle challenges (“I want that car … for you, of course.”), but otherwise is a nice secondary detail.
The online experience, on the other hand, can not necessarily be compared to the World Series Racing experience. First off, instead of winning vehicles, or being able to choose them at a certain level, you have to earn money during races to upgrade and purchase vehicles. The leveling system also seems a little slower than one would normally anticipate, which leaves players limited to certain vehicles for far longer than in the single player experience. Also, the vehicles that one gains in online may be available in the WSR part of the game, but the reverse is not true, meaning that vehicles to which players have become used have no bearing in their online experience. Finally, the match making seems to take absolutely nothing in to account except for the fact that a player wants to race, putting somebody with far more vehicle choices and more track experience against somebody who has never raced online before. However, the races themselves use the same tracks, styles, and physics, so the online race experience isn’t so much the issue as the way that the game handles that experience.
Ultimately, GRID 2 is a great racing game when played in single player mode. There is plenty of variation so that the game never quite becomes old. The racing is a great experience, and the immersion in to the game makes it even more interesting. While the online experience isn’t as enjoyable, it is commendable that Codemasters has attempted to make a racing game that is in a style of its own.