Though Codemasters’ games tend to be fun, if rather flawed in many ways, the original Grid was overly difficult in a way that can only be described as extremely off-putting. Dirt 3’s campaign mode was particularly lacking, and its aesthetic choices left a lot to be desired, while Codemasters’ Formula 1 series tends to be as dry as it has become in real life.
Don’t get me wrong, all of those games shine in several areas, but they lack the refinement necessary to be racing masterpieces. Grid 2 however hits all the right notes with greater success than any other Codemasters game, and is as a result without a doubt their best racing game to date.
The release we have on hand is the “Reloaded Edition” which includes all of the additional content; 25 new cars (bringing the total to around 70), the Demolition Derby game mode, and a variety of new tracks and layouts for existing tracks (bringing total layouts to over 80). Online multiplayer is also included in the Steam version on top of split-screen capability for both Steam and Mac App Store versions.
Surprisingly, Grid 2’s greatest strength is its lengthy, well-paced campaign mode. Codemasters have dipped their toes into the well of racing game “storytelling” in many of their previous games, and often to rather cringe-worthy ends, but Grid 2 manages to provide a compelling premise in which to frame your racing career: A start-up racing league dubbed “World Series Racing”, or WSR for short, has formed and they’ve picked you to be their premier driver. Starting in small-time races in your ancient Mustang Mach 1, you’ll have to race against a variety of other leagues all across the globe in a large variety of different styles to attract fans, win new cars, dominate the world and, most importantly, become the greatest racing driver on planet Earth. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but unlike Codemasters’ other attempts at it, this premise works and gives the player a solid sense of progression. It also succeeds in easing you into the various types of racing and the slow and steady rise of difficulty as the game advances.
And what a variety of racing there is. Your standard staples are here; drift modes, point to point, and circuit races will make up the majority of your racing career, however there’s also plenty of deviations such as touge, checkpoint and eliminations, overtaking challenges, and good old fashion time attacks to keep you interested. As you progress you will earn some cars for free, while others require you to do a manufacturer’s challenge to win the car.
New to the series are these little races called LiveRoutes. In essence, LiveRoutes are procedurally generated racing routes through any of the various cities in the game. This is a fantastically cool idea that in practice I found was a glamorized checkpoint race that would loop me around the same three blocks over and over for the duration of the race. A rather small blemish since these races are very few and far between, but still a mark on what is otherwise a fantastic career mode.
On that note, Grid 2’s multiplayer is also a bit strange. Multiplayer is separated from the single player on the start menu and feels almost like an add-on (or perhaps an afterthought) rather than an integrated part of the experience. It’s certainly not bad, though. In fact, it retains some features that some might be disappointed to not find in the single player (such as performance upgrades and the ability to earn cash to buy cars). It’s a whole lot of fun and I’m thankful to see the elusive split-screen option in a modern release. It just feels weird how it’s laid out (or rather isn’t) for the player.
The car handling is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Codemasters title. This is arcade racing through and through and it’s very fun indeed; cars all handle relatively uniquely, although none of them require the finesse that you might need in a racing sim to drive them fast.
Codemasters have simplified the car selection process by grouping them into three styles – “Grip”, “Balanced”, and “Drift”. After extensive experimentation I found almost all the “Grip” cars to be far slower than their equivalents in the “Drift” class, but your mileage may vary, as they require very different styles of driving.
By all accounts, no matter what type of car you pick, it feels like Dirt on tarmac more than the weird semi-realistic handling of the original Grid. If there are any complaints to be made about the driving model, it’s that it can sometimes seem a little inconsistent. Not a terrible problem considering the standard rewind feature, but every once in a while it felt like I’d take a corner and crash, only to take it again in the exact same way and come out completely fine.
There’s also damage modeling, both cosmetic and mechanical, and while it seems well put together the mechanical aspect rarely came into play in the campaign. It definitely looks cool to see your hood fly off at 120 miles per hour regardless and adds fun to the demolition mode as well.
If you’re looking for a graphics showcase, Grid 2 is probably the best you’ll get as far as racing games on the Mac. Just like other Codemasters games on Mac, it runs buttery smooth and looks fantastic, so a big thumbs-up to the Feral guys for that. While Dirt 3 was very nice to look at, Grid 2 seems to have a definite edge in overall graphical fidelity. It’s a very filmic looking game, and while the car models and texture quality won’t win any awards, the lighting is absolutely gorgeous and especially beautiful in the various city stages at night. Fireworks, camera flashes, backfires, and streetlights all bounce and reflect off objects in a convincing way. The game scales well too but unfortunately it does lose much of its luster on lower settings. If you have a machine capable of cranking it, you’re in for a delightfully pretty experience.
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a musical score to compliment the visual flair. In tune with the filmic look, music typically only comes into play at intense moments (usually the final lap) of a race. While the music fits, it is also entirely forgettable. I wouldn’t want it gone but it’s nothing you’d load onto your iPhone for certain.
That said, the soundtrack of engines and squealing tires is more than enough to compliment the intense visual feast the game has on offer; backfires sound as punchy as they look, every car sounds about how it should, and the later GT racing cars have a particularly spine-tingling snarl to them. Codemasters’ choice to avoid music in games seems to be a conscious decision and also the correct one. They know exactly what I want to hear anyway.
Grid 2 is so close to being one of arcade racing’s greatest – the career mode is great, but the final bits become frustratingly difficult in a similar fashion to the original Grid; the multiplayer feels detached; despite the great amount of route variation, many of the tracks look and feel a bit too similar; and the way handling can sometimes feel inconsistent is off putting.
So despite thinking it’s by all accounts a better game than Dirt 3, I came away from Grid 2 feeling in many ways exactly the same. Though it’s certainly the best of its kind on the Mac, and well worth your time, it’s still got issues, however small, that are just enough to keep it from being a classic.
- Lots of content
- Excellent graphics
- Fun handling model
- Car physics can seem inconsistent
- Unexpected and unwanted rise in difficulty towards the end of the career mode
- Segregated and forgotten multiplayer