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The original Grid delighted racing fans and newcomers alike when it was introduced almost five years ago. Grid 2 does nothing to tarnish that reputation, sporting gorgeous visuals, captivating environments, scads of intensely powerful vehicles, and meaty offline and online campaigns. While some may take issue with several key design decisions--particularly the hardcore racing fans who prefer endless tinkering with cars or cinematic storylines--there’s no denying that Grid 2 is a slick racer with a lot to offer racing fans of all stripes.
From the moment you slide the disk into the console, you’re behind the wheel and on the track; no need to worry about extraneous content or a cutscene-heavy storyline getting in the way. A simple, streamlined narrative guides the single-player career mode as you work with an investor to create a World Series of Racing. To do so, you participate in dozens of events across the Unites States, Europe, and Asia. Doing well gains you fans, and as your popularity increases, larger events are unlocked that become an increasingly challenging series of races; while you start on city streets and back road courses, as your success increases so does the difficulty of locales and tracks like Red Bull Ring and Abu Dhabi. Grid 2 is focused like a laser beam on getting you on the track, and the simple menus make it easy to do just that.
"...Grid 2 is a slick racer with a lot to offer racing fans of all stripes."
The races themselves are wide and varied; multi-car sprints, time attacks, eliminators, and drift accumulators are just some of the options. Winning the main events along the way will open up the World Series, with side races letting you unlock additional rides, as well as an available-anytime test track for you to practice (or just have some fun without the pressure of competition). The locales all look spectacular, from redwood forests in California, to the Champs D’Elysses in Paris, or the gritty streets of Chicago--and many, many more. It’s clear that the development team has built upon its large foundation of previous titles to squeeze the maximum visual fidelity from the consoles. There isn’t a single track that looks anything short of fabulous.
It takes time--and a bit of practice--to get used to the rather jumpy handling of the vehicles. Grid 2 sits right in the middle of purely technical racers like Gran Turismo and full-on arcade games such as Burnout; with no adjustments available to the cars, you’re stuck with the setup and have to learn how to make it work for you. While the controls can feel a bit unwieldy at first, it doesn’t take longer than a few trips around several tracks to get the hang of them. What’s more, the turns tend to be rather forgiving, and you won't need expert handling to quickly brake, turn, and gun it to make it through a difficult corner. Thanks to the return of the "flashback" mechanic--the ability to rewind the action a bit several times per race--it doesn’t become a significant challenge to be victorious on standard difficulty until you’re well into the second major campaign. Multiple difficulty settings ensure you’ll find a comfortable level (even if it seems like the leader zooms way ahead at the start of some of the races).
"There isn’t a single track that looks anything short of fabulous."
It’s not all gold trophies and winner’s circles, though. Unlike its predecessor, there's no cockpit view in Grid 2. While the majority of racers eschew such a challenging in-game perspective, hardcore fans will take issue with this decision. Another curiosity is the inability to upgrade or adjust your cars as you collect them (although this feature is available in the separate online mode). Also, the single-player in-game currency is your total number of fans, which opens new races as your fanbase increases. That means there’s no shopping for cars with cash; you unlock them as you go with little choice as to what you want in your garage.
Speaking of the cars, there are more than 50, broken up into four tiers. As the campaigns unfold, you’re offered rides specific to the region, easing you in with lower-tiered vehicles to get a feel for them as well as the speed of the races. When you venture online, you can sometimes find yourself in a top-tier vehicle you may not know how to handle. It’s particularly jarring to go from driving a swift Volkswagen Golf to a hyper-charged McLaren--which is why it’s recommended for newcomers and casual racers to get pretty far in the single-player mode before heading online. The differences in cars are stark and wildly entertaining.
"...hardcore fans will take issue with [the absence of a cockpit view]."
Grid 2’s online mode is entirely separate from the offline one. In limited sessions, it's riotous--as with any online game, playing with friends and similarly-minded people virtually guarantees a good time. Cars are unlocked as you level up and can be purchased with cold, hard cash--a distinct difference from the single-player methodology. In addition, Global Challenges offer ways for you to compete asynchronously against your friends as well as pre-determined goals, allowing additional opportunities to gain valuable cash. RaceNet--Codemasters’ service that ties all Grid 2 competitors together--further powers your friendly rivalries to expand Grid 2’s appeal once you’ve completed the single-player game.
As a whole, Grid 2 is a slick, powerful racer that's the result of a clear vision of intense, streamlined competition. It takes few risks yet scratches many itches, offering a compelling experience to fans on all sides of the racing spectrum. While some will question a few design decisions, the overall package delivers on many levels. Put simply, Grid 2 deserves your attention.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.
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