GRID 2 First Impressions Preview – Back on the Track… Finally!
Written Friday, September 21, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It’s hard to believe that with this current console generation’s obsession with sequelitis and franchise saturation that one of the era’s greatest and most applauded racing titles has yet to see a sequel. Every time we mentioned Codemasters in a news article, feature or on the forums, at least one person asked the age-old question: “Where the bloody hell is the GRID sequel?” That has been the situation since the original Race Driver: GRID graced our consoles back in 2008…yes, a whopping 4 years ago. Thankfully, Codemasters answered our prayers in August, announcing the return of the franchise, citing a summer 2013 release for its return. With this in mind, we headed over to Codemasters’ Southam HQ recently to get our hands-on the latest build and to see whether the franchise still has its spark.
The actual breakdown of GRID 2 is still very much a mystery, other than it’ll feature a career that takes you across three continents and will have multiplayer, so we’ll use this time together to discuss the gameplay and its mechanics. Touching upon everything from the handling system and the vehicles, to the feel of the experience and the trackside immersion. You know, essentially everything that matters in a racer.
At the heart of GRID 2’s driving experience is what Codemasters is calling its “TrueFeel” handling system, which is said to hit the sweet spot between arcade and simulation handling – something more and more developers have been saying in recent years. After going hands-on with it, honestly, to us, it just felt like a smarter GRID title, which is exactly what we wanted. Expect the usual array of drifting, aggressive AI opponents and breakneck speeds then.
In terms of vehicles, players can expect to dabble in four tiers of cars, which effectively form the basis for GRID 2’s difficulty levels. At the bottom of the pile you have Tier One, consisting of muscle cars and hot hatches, like the Mustang Mach 1 and the BMW E30 M3; Tier Two includes more of your European roadster and Japanese performance car types, like the Chevrolet Camaro SS and the Nissan R34 Skyline; Tier 3 ups the ante a little with the GT and lightweight classes that include the McLaren MP4-12C and the BAC Mono; and finally, Tier Four, which are of course your supercars like the Koenigsegg Agera R and the Pagani Huayra.
We had the opportunity to go hands-on with two tracks while at Codies: a circuit race around the streets of Chicago, and a point-to-point along a forest highway with a coastal view in California. Two totally different races, with two totally different feels and race tactics. The circuit race around Chicago put us behind the wheel of a Chevy Corvette Z06, drifting around corners and often ending in five car pile-ups with the other AI racers on the track – all completely our doing, of course. It was manic, aggressive and exhilarating; it’s what I remember the original GRID feeling like. Sure, our driving skills were a little rusty, but that did allow us to put the new damage engine through its paces. In short, it passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, our car did not. By the time we were finished with it there was little left of the front end and the back end didn’t fare much better. If there was a medal for turning a pristine Corvette and effectively destroying it in the space of one lap, we’d almost certainly win gold.
California, on the other hand, put us behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang 302 and threw us into a more picturesque backdrop with stunning coastal views. In this one-on-one, point-to-point race, there was little room for error: take a corner too wide and you could be in the trees; take it too quickly and you could be in the water. Obviously, you respawn if you descend too far into the forest or end up in the drink, but do that and you could lose valuable seconds in the chase for first place.
The thing that strikes us the most about GRID 2 is the attention to detail Codemasters has paid to the finer details of the race experience, both on and off the track. Let’s take the Chicago street circuit, for instance, which is full of subtle but powerful environmental touches that range from sparks flickering down from the train track above the streets and rubbish blowing around the streets, to steam bellowing out of steam drains, as planes and helicopters fly overhead. That’s not even taking into account the crowd – which actually looks like a crowd of individuals rather than a copy, paste and reskin affair – taking photos, flags flapping in the wind and artificial arches lined with balloons swaying overhead. The atmosphere on the track is electrifying.
Just catching the sunshine in your eye-line, protruding from between the buildings as you wind your way through the back streets of Chicago, it’s enough to take your breath away. All of this is noticeable is if you happen to be able to tear yourself away from staring at the reflections in the bonnet during a race. The point is, even at this early stage, it’s pretty damn beautiful. The ambient background activity combined with the roar of the engines as well as the hustle and bustle of the crowds, means that whether you’re way behind the pack playing catch-up or miles out in front setting the pace, due to the electric atmosphere trackside, you never feel alone.
Although our hands-on with GRID 2 was brief, it was enough to settle our nerves about the title. After all, a lot has happened since 2008 and many great racing titles have come and gone in that time. It’s a different landscape now that’s for sure, and although the GRID franchise has been out of the limelight for a considerable amount of time, GRID 2 and Codemasters’ ever-impressive EGO Engine seems to be firing on all cylinders. It’s hard to believe that the franchise that introduced the now-much-used “flashback” mechanic has been on hiatus for so long… That’s set to change though and we’re wriggling in our seats in anticipation.
GRID 2 is scheduled for a summer 2013 release.