GRID 2 Single and Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – Rising Up, Back on the Streets
Written Wednesday, May 01, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Getting into professional motorsports, like any sport, must be an incredibly difficult thing to do. And it must be even harder to get to a point where you're universally respected and recognised. In GRID 2, you're essentially handed a meal ticket on a silver platter by philanthropic millionaire Patrick Callahan, the founder of the World Series of Racing, and he wants you to be his poster boy for the WSR. Why? He just does, and it's probably best that we don't analyse it too much. Yes, it does seem weird, but let's just go with it.
You begin your illustrious racing career in GRID 2 in humble circumstances, sat at your computer in a run down old basement garage, where Callahan contacts you via phone messages and emails. First you'll need to prove yourself on the road in your growling Ford Mustang Mach 1 Twister Special bombing along the Chicago Riverside, but once you've passed this simple initiation, the world is your oyster. Sort of.
Callahan sees your race on YouTube, and sets you up with an opportunity to demonstrate your talent on the Indianapolis Infield Circuit where you'll cut your racing teeth and show Callahan that you've got what it takes to be the driving force behind the WSR.
From your garage, you're able to access races, starting with the WSR's formative competitions taking you to locations around North America, as you compete against the New Union race club. Impress the club, and you'll pique their interest, prompting them to join the WSR ranks. This entire introduction sequence eases you gently into GRID 2's world, before Callahan presents you with a range of events that sees you helping to raise the profile of the WSR, building it into a global brand.
Our preview build features races from several modes, offering a Touring Car race on the Red Bull Ring in Austria, a LiveRoute contest in Dubai, a Drift event in Okutama, Tokyo and an Elimination race on the Arc de Triomphe street circuit in Paris. It's a good vertical slice of GRID 2's game modes, featuring a strong selection of desirable lumps of metal with wheels.
First of all, our Touring Car race takes us to the Red Bull Ring in a Volvo S60 BTCS, where it's bumper to bumper racing on a more traditional GP circuit. As races go, this is relatively standard fare that still provides a stiff challenge and gives GRID 2's damage model a good workout, as we lose our bumper, hood and other bits that we end up driving over during subsequent laps. The AI here is aggressive, but still prone to errors, as we soon learn after ploughing into the side of a rival as he spins out.
Thankfully, GRID's Flashback mechanic returns, this time in a far more streamlined guise that makes it just one button push away. No more having to delve into the replay menu, rewind to the part where you screwed up, then hit the button for take two. Now you simply hit Y to automatically rewind before hitting Y again to jump in prior to your mistake. It's a system that's still undergoing refinement, but it seems to work perfectly fine in its current state.
Drift racing also returns for GRID 2, with our demo giving us a short track in picturesque Okutama to master using either a Honda S2000 Roadster or a Ford Mustang Boss 302. The score to beat the top drifter requires some precision powersliding, but we manage to pull it out of the bag after numerous restarts (mercifully with no loading screens in between). Elimination is also on our preview slate, and is another race that requires aggressive driving in order to worm your way through the pack to avoid being rubbed out of the race.
Driving this particular race in a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport helps matters, but when you're competing against the cream of supercar royalty, with the Pagani Huayra, Aston Martin One-77, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, Koenigsegg Agera R and McLaren F1 GT, this particular Elimination race is exceptionally testing. Codemasters is in the process of balancing out the difficulty however, so this could all change for the final version of GRID 2.
LiveRoutes are a new addition to GRID 2, and we get to try the mode out in both single-player and multiplayer. The concept is simple, plonking you onto a track with a route that dynamically changes as you race. Everyone drives the same track layout, but you can never be completely sure whether the next turn will be a right or left-hander, and there's no mini-map to give you a heads-up. Your goal is to keep racing for five solid minutes, preferably without a slip up, although should you spin out, a quick Flashback in multiplayer will instantly set you back on track with a minor penalty.
The LiveRoute track we race is set on a sandy track in Dubai, and in multiplayer things can get a little chaotic as each player vies for position while second-guessing the correct route. We can't help but think that we were perhaps partly to blame, nudging rivals into the tyre walls. Very unsporting of us. Funny as hell though.
Our extensive hands-on with GRID 2 is rounded off with some straight-up multiplayer racing on the sun-dappled Algarve circuit, followed by a checkpoint race on the Parisian Circuit de la Seine. Again, there's plenty of jostling and unsporting conduct on show (some of it might be our doing), but then there's also a lot of laughing and shouting echoing around the swanky Park Lane car showroom that's playing host to the multiplayer racing shenanigans.
After hours of playing GRID 2's various modes, it's abundantly clear that Codies is stepping up its game for the sequel. The story-driven aspect of the game looks to be more involving than the first GRID, while the livery editor promises to enable you to put your own stamp on your WSR ride's image. As you progress, you'll move out of your dirty hovel of a garage into more cutting edge digs, rising through the ranks of the WSR as it gains global recognition, enjoying coverage on ESPN and a multitude of high-profile sponsors.
With a lot still to be refined, balanced and polished, GRID 2 is nevertheless shaping up to be a worthwhile follow-up to the first game, building upon Codemasters' enviable racing pedigree and its EGO Engine, with some truly fantastic lighting and visuals. Whether it'll be enough of a step up remains to be seen, but on this showing, GRID 2 is looking good.
GRID 2 is out on May 28th in North America and May 31st in Europe. There's a dozen new screenshots in the gallery.