Five years following Race Driver: Grid, at long last, Grid 2 drove up to the starting line to lead users on another string of fast-paced and damage-filled races. Be it the officially licensed TOCA franchise or the challenging sim experience offered by Dirt Rally, Codemasters has carved out a name for itself as a prominent developer in the racing genre. 2008’s Grid is easily among the most accessible and enjoyable racers on the market. While not deviating too far from the beaten path and definitely feeling like a direct sequel, for better or worse, Grid 2 still does enough to differentiate itself from Codemasters’ predecessor.
Racers do not need to be realistic to be fun. In fact, some of the most entertaining genre titles control about as authentically as Mario Kart. Permitting the handling is responsive and suits the gameplay’s pacing, arcade racers can be an absolute joy. Grid toes the line between arcade and simulation, which is not too surprising considering Codemasters is known for producing entries adhering to both styles.
Similar to its predecessor, Grid 2 is all about putting the pedal to the mettle and drifting around corners at ludicrously high speeds. Due to a complete absence of tuning options, Grid 2 demands users become familiar with the individual cars, which feel relatively different from model to model. Putting aside some minor superficial customization options primarily revolving around vinyl wraps and sponsors, the cars may as well be on loan rather than truly purchased. At the end of the day, the user either grows accustomed to a model’s factory settings or moves on to the next vehicle.
Boasting approximately 60 vehicles, Grid 2’s car list is not going to turn any heads. Graphically, Grid 2 is certainly leaps and bounds above the series’ first entry, although so much should be expected following a five-year interim. While the handling may not expressly strive for realism, the cars themselves are detailed and effectively succeed in capturing the aesthetic of their real-life counterparts. Periodically, the graphical engine’s lighting hits just as the sunset is setting in the distance to create a glow so gorgeous, it almost becomes a distraction.
Although there are specific competitions dedicated to the act, Grid 2’s handling and tracks are principally designed to facilitate drifting at every given opportunity. While 2008’s racer feels quite slippery, in comparison, Grid 2’s cars are stiff and prone to gripping the track. This alteration may be a byproduct of the sequel focusing nearly exclusively on street racing, a creative choice detrimental to the single-player’s longevity.
Featuring over 70 courses ranging from Dubai to Barcelona and Miami, Grid 2’s tracklist extends just enough diversity to keep things interesting for the 20 or so hours required to complete the campaign. Racing games hardly require a robust and satisfying story; however, a rewarding sense of progression needs to be present. Split into different seasons, Grid tasks players with competing for other teams to earn enough cash to venture solo and ultimately compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans event. Capital is earned through winning races, allowing for new cars to be purchased as the racer’s brand improves.
Grid 2 takes this structure and removes any tangible sense of player agency. This time around, the objective is to amass enough fans to stage a World Series Racing event, a pet project of a wealthy billionaire who dreams of bringing together the best racers across all fields. Fans are earned by placing on the podium or completing sponsor goals, while cars are handed out through promo events or prior to the start of a special race. Rather than joining other teams, the protagonist is invited to a series of races by their contemporaries.
Growth seems almost inconsequential. Sure, random social media quotes systematically flash on the screen to highlight the player’s heightening popularity, but this only translates to an arbitrary number of fans. Cars are handed out like toys rather than items earned through a sustained period of effort.
Grid 2 offers a relatively standard mix of race types. Along with the obvious examples, there are also time attacks, eliminators, one-vs-one showdowns, and stunt events where points are rewarded by carefully bypassing slow-moving trucks. Nothing too special, but a decent selection nevertheless.
World Series Racing profits from an incredibly competitive AI. At various points throughout the campaign, the computer took it upon itself to highlight Grid 2’s fantastic car damage feature by nudging my vehicle in the general direction of a nearby railing or off the edge of a cliff. The AI really wants to win. If a corner is catastrophically executed, Grid 2 allows the last few seconds to be replayed through a flashback mechanism. The temptation to abuse such an overpowered option is destined to be too great for some, although flashback is limited to a number of uses per track.
Putting aside a few grievances, Grid 2’s single-player is a fun albeit superficial distraction capable of providing two dozen hours of entertainment. That being said, the online mode is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire package. Once a RaceNet account is created, Grid 2 records all progress made in World Series Racing or multiplayer. A user can compare and contrast their best time in a track with their friends or through an online leaderboard. Bragging rights is always a fantastic incentive to repeat a race.
Multiplayer comes with just as many race types as single-player, while also offering global challenges that reward XP and cash. Although the multiplayer scene is nowhere near as active as it used to be, Grid 2 still averages around 100 players at any given moment on Steam. Grid 2 is a decent arcade racer but a mediocre successor to 2008’s Race Driver: Grid. The single-player feels disappointingly hollow and streamlined, although this mode’s shortcomings are somewhat amended by an enjoyable multiplayer and responsive handling.