The Race For Survival
It's been a long time coming. By the time it arrives we'll have had three Forza Motorsports, a Gran Turismo, three Dirt Games, God knows how many Need for Speeds and three F1 games from Codemasters themselves. We've seen the traditionally strong industry for racing games in the UK start to fail, with Bizarre Creations (Blur, Project Gotham) and Black Rock (Pure, Split/Second) both closing their doors. With Codemasters recently choosing to focus its efforts entirely on racing games, it's clearly got everything to play for with this sequel.
On the surface, Grid 2 is pretty similar to its predecessor, and that's no bad thing. It's got the great Ego Engine graphics with their moody lighting, dramatic effects and aggressive-looking car models - all considerably improved in the last four years. If you're playing on PC in particular, Grid 2 looks absolutely spectacular. (A warning for fans of the in-car view, though - it's been removed, after Codemasters discovered that only 5% of players used it.)
It's got a similar line-up of exotic road cars past and present, all done up in racing trim and ready to do battle on the track. It's got the same focus on dramatic, intense racing action, rather than grinding out hundreds of laps and customizing your cars. It's got the same innovative rewind feature - since copied by many other games - that offers you a second stab when you mess up a corner.
Once again you'll be racing on city streets - including Paris, with its cobbled alleys and wide boulevards, and Chicago, with its L train tracks winding between skyscrapers - and racing tracks, like the new Yas Marina F1 circuit. But Grid 2 also adds point-to-point road races, like the winding cliff-top California Coast stage, which takes the speeds and the danger to new heights.
Codemasters hasn't talked about the structure of the single-player game in detail yet, but you can expect something quite similar to the first game's excellent campaign mode, which emphasized variety and a sense of progression through the ranks of the racing world. As you move through the game, the locations will transform and the races will turn into bigger events; you'll go from participating in street races with hardly any spectators, to lavish race days with packed grandstands, fireworks and fly-pasts.
Wheel to wheel
You'll also progress through four tiers of cars. The first tier will have classics like the 1970s Ford Mustang and 1980s BMW M3; tier two will have the Nissan Skyline GT-R, as well as more modern muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro SS; tier three introduces some seriously quick machinery like the McLaren MP4/12C and the BAC Mono; and tier four features truly mental hyper-cars like the Pagani Huayra and Koenigsegg Agrea R.
The handling of all these beasts has been revamped with a new system called TrueFeel, which Codemasters says allows it to capture the feel and character of the real things. Although based on the cars' real data running through a powerful physics simulator, cars in Grid 2 should be easier to drive than in more hardcore racing simulation games - so much so that Codemasters has taken all the driving assists options out. They're aiming for pick-up-and-play handling that still has real depth when you spend time with it - and having tried two separate cars and events in the game, we're happy to report that the developer's on the money so far.
When it comes to playing online, once again Codemasters isn't going into great detail at this stage - but they have one important thing to reveal. Grid 2's online mode will be entirely separate from the single-player, with its own progression system and unlocks - a mode more influenced by Call of Duty than any other racing games out there. There'll also be a service called RaceNet, available over the web and on smartphones and tablets, that allows you to track your progress as well as what's going on in the game generally.
Above all, it's this online mode that could really set Grid 2 apart, and we can't wait to hear more about it. But for fans of the first game - and of racing that's more about exciting battles on the track than shaving seconds off a lap time - Grid 2 can't come soon enough.