The racing genre is divided between arcade and simulation fans. While other genres have fairly interchangeable skill sets, what works in an arcade racer will send you straight to the hospital in a racing sim; the no holds barred action of Need for Speed caters to the former, while Gran Turismo appeals to the latter. But every now and then a game arrives that blends together the thrill of arcade racing with the down-to-earth realism of simulation, tying the genre together. Codemasters’ classic 2008 title Race Driver: GRID was one such release.
GRID is considered by many to be the perfect marriage of arcade and simulation, offering a gateway to more realistic driving for novices, and providing a fun alternative for veterans, while introducing a greater audience to disciplines of racing such as Touring Cars and the Le Mans series for the very first time. Despite it being five years old, it’s still a beloved title, putting its sequel Grid 2 under plenty of pressure. But can Codemasters make lightning strike twice, or are the arcade and simulation genres just too dissimilar to find a middle ground?
End of season reviews presented as a mock ESPN SportsCenter broadcast help add an air of legitimacy to proceedings, but ultimately this is a nonsensical career mode, and simply an elaborate way to funnel you through various disciplines and vehicle types around the globe. Given how attractive and robust GRID’s career was, it’s disappointing to see it stripped down this way, and with no real-life events such as Le Mans, it ends up becoming little more than a tour of the game’s various modes and tracks.
And that’s an area where GRID 2 really lets itself down. Aside from frankly baffling omissions such as Time Trials and lap time leaderboards, the track selection is barely noteworthy, with most of the environments set on the streets of a handful of cities around the world. While the first game had a balance of permanent tracks and fictional routes around real cities, the variety here falls squarely into the latter; while these are allegedly authentic to the area that they represent, in the end they all look very similar, and it can be hard to discern whether you’re racing in Paris, Barcelona, or Chicago. The lack of tracks is particularly strange when you consider Codemasters’ other licenses and the wealth of routes available to them.