GRID 2 – This One’s for the Fans

Are you ready to be the best driver in the WORLD? …. No? Well lucky we have created a series of events that will take you to that title, ready or not! There’s a brand new racing series taking off called “World Series Racing” and you’re going to be the first star driver. What an opportunity. You don’t even need to be good, just show up and make the sponsors happy. Heck, you don’t even need a drivers license. Who’s gonna check? You’re already on the grid, good luck!

GRID 2 came out in 2013 and it wears that year on its sleeve. The first few achievements I got were, “Here’s My Number, Call Me Maybe”, “SWAGtastic”, and “T3XT M3SSAG1NG I5 GR8”. That last one hurt to type out. This wasn’t even a cool way of speaking in 2013 but in 2019 it’s just a sad time capsule. This is a game about being the best racing driver in the world but instead of getting points and setting good laptimes, you’ve got to increase your number of fans and grow your social media presence. There is also this ominous feeling that you’re only really a puppet in this new racing series business, with the CEO constantly in your ear telling you exactly what to do.

It’s a good thing this game is a LOT of fun to play. The handling is not realistic but it is very responsive, and encourages drifting through the corners instead of traditional braking and gentle acceleration through the apex. Now you can carry your speed by being aggressive with acceleration and correcting the steering after. At first it was difficult for me to “unlearn” how to brake and slow down but I got used to it pretty quickly, as the game is very forgiving. Gunning the pedal or ripping the handbrake halfway through the corner and correcting the drift is just plain faster, and gives you a pretty nice sense of speed. You have a lot of control over the car when sliding, and even more than some sim games. I was really impressed at how responsive the throttle control was with a controller. It feels amazing to slide out wide and just miss the wall while correcting the steering and holding the throttle. This is one of the best handling driving games I’ve ever played.

The track design is pretty exciting too, you mostly drive in busy cities or fast stretches of country road, with the occasional real world racetrack. Most of the tracks have unfamiliar layouts because they just plant the races in big cities that would never be able to hold a race so casually. There are people cheering at every corner and the grandstands are all completely full, no matter how small the event. 2 minute elimination rounds? Yep, the whole family is going. It creates this feeling that the entire world is engaged with racing which is unrealistic but a wholesome feeling nonetheless, similar to the festival feeling in the Forza Horizon games. I swear there are more people at the Dubai racetrack in this game than the actual population of the city.

If there’s any downfall to GRID 2 it’s just the same thing that affects so many racing games, the bland presentation. This CEO guy hyping up your rise to fame is super generic and won’t shut up, with advice like “do a good lap” and “overtake” that gets old real quick. One thing that amused me though was being called “Big Dog” because it was the closest thing they had to my driver name, Grub Dog, in their voice recordings. “You’re doing great, big dog!”. Why thank you. He says it so casually and out of the blue, even in menus, and it just cracked me up every time. “Where are we going next, big dog?”.

Aside from some cheesy dialogue there’s not much else going on though. All the sponsors you can drive for are just boring generic logos, with no backstory. They have their own objectives you can meet to increase your number of fans, but it feels a bit soulless. The music is also quite generic and oddly depressing with some minor key ambience in the loading screens that makes you question the meaning of life instead of get hyped for a race.

Gameplay is what matters though, and besides the dull visual and creative side of the presentation, the structure of events flows hard and fast. There’s a good variety of regular races, elimination, checkpoint, time attack, drift, and some stuff I’ve never heard of like Touge. In Touge you race one single opponent, and if you get a 5 second gap on them you instantly win. I got excited by every new track and track layout because they vary dramatically, some having really surprisingly tight corners and parts where the track splits in half. There’s also a type of race in street circuits where the layout is constantly changing, with no mini-map. So it’s quite a new challenge looking ahead and trying to figure out if the next corner is right or left, like driving in traffic with a slow GPS. We’ve lost signal. “Screw it I’m going right!” … *crash*.

GRID 2 is a very fun game to play and one of the best racing games Codemasters has made. It’s fantastic and genuinely captures the spirit of racing through the gameplay. It can be enjoyed casually with wild drifts or taken seriously if you attack every corner hard and barely scrape the wall to victory. The handling model is very satisfying and there’s enough variety in cars, tracks and modes to keep things fresh. I was bracing myself for it to feel like every other sim-like game, but it surprised me with its quality. They worked very hard to get the physics and sense of speed right. It feels so refreshing compared to other stiff racers out there. The cars feel alive like they should in real life when you’re actually sitting in them. Apparently I made millions of fans in the game so if any of you are reading this, you’re welcome! I did my best.

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