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GRID 2

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Codemasters
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Racing/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Codemasters racing games are my absolute favorite. They always straddle the line between simulation and realism. They always look and play wonderfully. GRID 2 follows the playbook, and as a result, it is the finest racing game of 2013 thus far.

GRID 2 is stunning from every conceivable perspective. Technically, it is pure eye candy. Whether you're hurtling through the Pacific Bend or tearing up the streets of Chicago, the game goes out of its way to sell the illusion. This is an engine that has seen a great deal of use throughout this console generation, and it's not getting old, even as the Xbox 360 nears the end of its lifecycle. The interface is very similar to that in other Codemasters racers, which helps establish a sense of brand continuity that is very welcome. Cars look great whether they're speeding down the road, screeching through a drift, or exploding into a shower of metal against an immovable object. The sense of speed is grounded in reality, but there's a weight to the driving that makes it feel nice and dangerous.

GRID 2 sounds about as good as it looks. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the car sound effects, they sure give the impression of toughness. If you have a good surround sound system, you'll feel some serious power. I love how Codemasters racing games personalize your experience by allowing you to actually find your name (provided it's a reasonably common name) and tell the voices in the game to call you by your actual name. It's silly, but it adds to the immersion. The music mostly stays out of the way, but it falls in line with most other serious modern racers out there.


Gameplay:

The GRID series seems to be a sister franchise to DiRT, Codemasters' venerable off-road series. The difference here is that GRID is all about street racing; it is decidedly a more serious franchise, as well. Where DiRT eventually focused on the newer, more unorthodox types of racing events (DiRT 3's Gymkhana and nearly every mode in DiRT Showdown), GRID is a bit more down to earth. But regardless of whether you prefer off-road to street, GRID 2 has you covered both offline and on with a series of gameplay modes that play to the core strengths of Codemasters racers.

World Series Racing is the main course, and it's a satisfying one. It follows a fairly standard racing career that takes you through several of the established tropes of the modern racing genre. You participate in events, earning fans and sponsors, unlock more and more new vehicles with which to participate in events. There's a healthy selection of events, from standard races to time trials, drift competitions, elimination events, one-on-one races. Perhaps the most unique of these are the Touge events, which pit you against another racer in a sprint that forbids contact and ends either when the finish line is crossed or if one racer gets five seconds ahead of the other.

GRID 2's multiplayer is richly featured and full of options that range from local splitscreen to Xbox Live. GRID Online lies separate from World Series Racing; it's a persistent mode where your earnings are tracked separately from the Single Player Mode. You can join up with a party and take on the world through online events and Global Challenges. You can keep track of your Rivals through RaceNet; continue competing to get your own bragging rights.


Difficulty:

GRID 2 finds a wonderful balance between the precision-demanding simulations of Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo and the unrealistic but responsive drift-a-thons like Burnout and Need for Speed. There's a sweet science to learning how each car handles and then using that knowledge to win each event. It is quick to learn, but difficult to master. Just like games should be. That being said, the road to mastery is much shorter and less rife with pitfalls than that of the big simulation titles.

The real trick of GRID 2 is in learning the lay of each track and applying your knowledge of the vehicles you collect as you race. There are perfect lines to each of these tracks, though there are no line assists to show it to you prematurely. This may turn off some of the more casual racing fans, but those who pay attention to their opponents and those who are willing to experiment a bit will find their lines.


Game Mechanics:

GRID 2 features a rather standard set of racing mechanics, none of which are particularly new or innovative. Driving is handled identically to just about every other driving game in the post-PlayStation era. You accelerate, you brake, you turn. It's simple, to be sure, but it's in how you combine these mechanics where you're able to create your own road magic.

One mechanic acts as a difficulty buffer, but it won't surprise anyone who's been playing racing games for the last three years or so. The Flashback has been around for a while, and it's rectified an unquantifable number of otherwise fatal racing errors. If you get too aggressive with your corners or lose control of your car, you might find yourself getting a little too intimate with a nearby tree or rock. Using a Flashback turns back the clock to a moment where you deem that you were in enough control to make the right move.

GRID 2 is a bit short on surprises for those who have been with Codemasters through this console generation, but the fundamentals are nailed with such precision that this game is well worth your time and your money.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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