It's been five years since Codemasters first released GRID, its explosive, energetic racer that took the traditional motorsport of the old TOCA Race Driver games and put them through a Hollywood filter. Much has happened since - racing studios have come and, more often than not, gone, the once vibrant genre now left with precious few games left flying the flag.
Codemasters is one of the survivors, and after a series of off-road excursions with DiRT, it's good to have them back on track. Like its predecessor, GRID 2's a wide-ranging racer where one second you're in a drift battle skidding merrily out of control down a Japanese hill, the next pounding around the surreal Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi as its hotel glitters in the desert night.
And again its handling's an effective middle ground between arcade and simulation racing. Cars behave with weight and momentum, and they'll happily snap away from your control, the tires belching fat clouds of tire smoke in the process. Give it a few laps, though, and you'll be whipping into corners with the conviction of Sebastian Vettel on one of his better afternoons. It's accessible and exciting, making the tricky act of hurling powerful cars at the scenery fun rather than frustrating.
Framing GRID 2's handsome handling is a career mode that is, unlike pretty much every other racer, compelling. You're an upstart driver employed by Patrick Callahan, an enterprising American who's looking to set up the World Series Racing - or WSR - a global tour that takes in motorsport disciplines from around the world.
As an excuse to take in drift racing from Japan, street racing from America and circuit racing from Europe it's a perfect excuse, and one that's delivered with no small amount of flair. Team liveries can be designed, sponsors can be assigned, and it's all wrapped up in some smart presentation courtesy of ESPN. Your garage starts off as a messy, cramped workshop that evolves over time to reflect your successes, and at the end of each season you're treated to some convincing punditry from the broadcaster's presenters.
That level of presentation is matched on the track, and then some. GRID 2 looks absolutely exquisite. The detail in each track is superb - newspapers litter the streets of Chicago, while sparks fly from the train-tracks that cross the road. In California there's a low, mean mist that hugs the track. Cars don't look too shabby either, and in the finest Codemasters tradition they can be torn apart piece by piece throughout the course of a race.
Which is more likely than not, given how aggressive the opposition can be in this sequel. This is no game for gentleman drivers, and it's only by getting your elbows out that you'll get anywhere. In single-player it makes for boisterous, energetic events, and in multiplayer it's a step up again, with races chaotic, frenetic and unbearably exhilarating affairs.
Friends And Rivals
There's a thread of competition present throughout GRID 2 thanks to RaceNet, Codemasters' alternative to Need for Speed's Autolog and Forza's Rivals. Online leaderboards trail each career race, allowing you to compare times with your friends, and it's also possible to head into bespoke online challenges where you can compete to be the quickest.
It's a fantastic new feature, although it highlights one of the few problems with GRID 2 - there's not too much of substance that's been added to the original formula, which can sometimes leave it all feeling a little underwhelming. When the original's so good, though, that's a minor gripe. After five years away, it's great to get reacquainted with Codemasters' racing expertise again.
- Looks exquisite
- Plenty to do
- Car handling hits the sweetspot
- Not much there that's genuinely new