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PlayStation 3 Review: “Grid 2″

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monologuegameinforenderAs I know I’ve written before, you have your arcade car racing titles and you have your simulations, and it’s the rare title that attempts to straddle the line between the two.  Codemasters’ latest, Grid 2, does just that however.  Are they successful at it?  Mostly.  The game isn’t without some pretty sizable flaws, but it mostly works.

As the story within the title goes, you’re a rookie racer looking for his big break.  After a race, you’re spotted by a big investor who decides to try to build a whole racing league around you.  You then have to go out and earn fans by doing well in other races.  Having fans allows seasons of the new league to be unlocked and you just go from there.

It isn’t exactly the most in-depth of plots, but it’s there.  Really, it’s just a way to have races and cars unlock as you move along.  Why this needs to be accomplished with a story as opposed to a traditional earn “x” number of stars/points/wins/whatever and new things unlock, I couldn’t say.  But, in the end, the story neither adds nor detracts from the game, it is just… there.

If you have played one of the Dirt titles (also from Codemasters), you’ll find that your home base in Grid 2 has a similar feel.  Actually, the racing has a similar feel as well, right down to the ability to use a predetermined number of “flashbacks” (the ability to rewind time) when things go awry during a race.

In terms of actual racing, you will find that Grid 2 offers a whole lot of cars, tracks, and styles of races.  You will run elimination races, timed ones, point-based affairs where passing quickly and cleanly counts, and more standard circuits.  The title also offers what it calls “liveroutes” which means that rather than having a handy-dandy map of the course on your HUD, you’ll see an icon that says that there isn’t one as the course is going to change as you progress.  Rather than being beneficial to the game, it’s annoying.

You see, most of the time the game seems to want things to feel like a simulation, not an arcade game (okay, yes, it’s got the rewind ability, but still).  This is really present in how the cars handle, and what kind of turns they can make at what speed.  The more sim-based a racer is, in my experience, the more important your racing line is (the guy in your ear during races mentions lines a lot), and a key to knowing the best line is knowing the layout of the track.  A track that changes and where your HUD is useless (and you can’t prep by looking at a map in advance) destroys your ability to have a good racing line and undercuts the apparently desired sim nature of the game.

As for that guy on your team in your ear telling you what to do during races, he really isn’t the most useful of fellows.  Like a play-by-play commentator in a sports title, he is regularly wrong about what is taking place, where it is taking place, and the best way to proceed.  If the noises made by revving engines and squealing tires weren’t quite so great, I would say to turn the volume down so you wouldn’t have to listen to the commentary.

Much of the racing itself in Grid 2 is quite fun.  There is a reward to entering a turn at the right spot and the right speed, and exiting equally appropriately.  Different cars respond differently and it will take a minute or two to figure out the capabilities of each vehicle.  Plus, rub another car and you’re likely to find yourself needing the flashback.

Where this last part fails is with the fact that all too often AI cars won’t wish they had flashbacks of their own.  Crash into another vehicle (or if one crashes into you) and you’re probably going to end up in the wall/tree/cliff/whatever there is at the side of the track while the AI car speeds merrily along on its way.  In fact, in hours and hours of play we can count on one finger the number of times we saw an AI car take a serious spill… no matter how often we banged into them in ways that ought to have caused ridiculous amounts of harm.

That really is a shame, because crashes look pretty good.  There is a certain false way that parts of your car fly off after you rub a wall, but the crash itself is nice.   As a whole, the game looks relatively realistic, although we did notice the occasional slowdown, particularly when starting a flashback.  In fact, sometimes the game failed to respond for so long for a flashback that we were unable to flashback far enough as too much time had passed.

Grid 2 doesn’t supplant Need for Speed: Most Wanted as my current favorite racing title, but that just means that it doesn’t hit the insane highs of NFS:MW.  It is a much more down to Earth title.  It won’t get your adrenaline going quite as much, but it will require you to think somewhat more on the various tracks.

If you are looking for a pseudo-sim racer, Grid 2 is a pretty good choice.

Grid 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.