GRID 2: We've played it. We're calling it - Racing games will never be the same again

"The most important racer of this generation". That's what we called the original GRID recently. Can you imagine how good a game could be if the team that created it was given four whole years to make a sequel? No pressure, no deadlines… just developing a game in tandem with the technology that was already incredible near the start of this console generation. Can you imagine that? Well, there's no need. This is it. Look:

It's true, GRID 2 is real. We've played it. We've crashed over the Armco of the Californian coastline and into the blue sky beyond. And we're here to tell you everything we can because we're ridiculously excited about it. This has the potential to be the best racing game of the generation. Perhaps ever.

Above: GRID 2, baby! Even after hitting one of those trees. GRID 2, baby!

Codemasters has finally concurred with what we've been saying for years. "While most devs seem to think 'more content = better game', the opposite is often true." As a result, they say they are 'not playing the numbers game'. Everything that's been included is there because the team deems it worthy. There's no fluff or Premium/Standard divide. It's top quality or nothing at all.

The aim is 'Total Race Day Immersion'. To create a racing game that gives you heart-pounding action every second of the way. We're not talking about artificial, scripted events or cheap camera-shaking effects to give an impression of speed. We're talking about the roar of the crowd, the smoke from screaming tyres. Rivalries that develop organically between you and the other drivers depending on how much or how little respect you show them. This is all about the race. The glory, the spectacle and the danger.

Assistance is useless

That danger is made all the more real when you hear the games first major revelation: There are no driver assists. Automatic gears, yes, but no 'dynamic suggested line' crap, no traction control and most certainly not a hint of 'auto-brake'. Why bother having these safety nets when you can get the basic handling right so anyone can play it? Instead, the cars have been finely tuned to be playable with either a wheel or a pad (the latter of which is still 85% of gamers' control choice, we're told) and you should be able to feel how the car is behaving.

Above: You may wish to apply the brakes at this speed. Need anything else?

It works, too. Playing the Californian coastline route on a massive projector screen at Codemasters' HQ (pictured below), less daring players take things slowly. They squeeze the brakes for the corners, turn in smoothly – they drive the car like it's a Sunday afternoon leisure activity. And the car purrs as they do so. But, when pushed (by us, of course), the physics engine shines, allowing for long, controlled slides in which you teeter on the edge of control. Yet one snatched correction can all go suddenly wrong, which is how we ended up careening over the cliff.

Above: This is known as the D-Box - it's as brilliant and expensive as it looks

You're probably wondering by now why we keep saying 'Californian coast'. Fans will know that's not traditional GRID territory and sounds more like something you'd find in Need for Speed, or even OutRun. Well, it's down to GRID 2's new focus on three main driving types: Street Racing, Road Racing and Track Racing.

The California demo we played is Road Racing – a sprint from point to point, cannoning along the cliffside road before hurtling through painfully-solid trees and dappled sunlight. It definitely isn't like anything in GRID 1, but is pleasantly different from DiRT's point-to-point events too.

Everything GRID stands for is still here in spades. We can't emphasise enough the feeling of scale as you exit the second corner, staring down a slight decline to a left-hander with the full vastness of the Pacific Ocean beyond. On a 2D projection display, we're getting vertigo.

Above: That open space off to the left there is literally a 100ft drop to the ocean

The second demo we played takes place on the streets of Chicago - and it's much more like the GRID we recognise, just so much slicker. We've never seen shiner bodywork and glass effects, and that's including Gran Turismo 5's photo mode. The word here is 'hyper-realism'. It's ludicrously detailed and grounded in the real world, yet it's clearly a super-charged version of reality. Shafts of light through iron girders, a beautiful hazy distance effect on the tops of the skyscrapers... it's like a playable, CG render of concept art and exactly what arcade games would look like now if arcades had continued from their '90s heyday.

Above: Racing under light shafts like that is classic GRID. And now we want another go

Say goodbye to driver's eye

However, we mustn't allow the spectacle to gloss over the first big omission from the game: There's no helmet cam (Insert dramatic chipmunk here in your mind). Now, chances are you don't care. It's said that 95% of GRID players use bonnet or chase cam. But we care. The reason for its absence is simple – the exquisitely detailed interior shots used too much processing power to justify including them when nobody was using them, and the team would rather use that power elsewhere on the things that people are looking at. Fair enough, but we're still sad to see it go. So are the developers - they said so.

The other big omission is Destruction Derby mode. Yes, it was great fun in GRID, but you can play DiRT Showdown for that now. 'But it's not the same!' you're probably thinking and you're right. We'll miss it too. But the argument from the team is that all the destruction and close racing is present in the street racing anyway. And one of the few criticisms we have of the first game is that some of the modes were under-developed, destruction derby included. But that's not going to happen here – everything that's in is going to be done properly.

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  • reinaldocfilho - January 16, 2014 3:49 p.m.

    This review simply says that a easy to drive racing game is better. Maybe this game is better for noobs, I've played it and felt so easy to finish.
  • tig-byson - August 4, 2013 11 a.m.

    I'm calling it. GamesRadar is either on the take or completely lacking in taste. GRID 2 is an absolute disaster of a game. It strays too far from gamer expectations with this arcade take on racing. A million problems in this game and not enough room on the internet to list them all. Thanks for the b.s. review, GamesRadar.
  • KevKiev - September 21, 2013 9:21 p.m.

    Totally agree. I was shaking my head with disbelief when I read this review. - I totally regret shelling out my cash for this game. I really liked the original Grid, but Grid 2 flat out sucks.
  • sean.b - December 4, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    I registered here just to say I completely agree. G25 support was horrible (I was googling to see if there was an update), no in-car view made it feel too arcade'ish, and the handling didnt strike me as even close to realistic. I say that as an avid GT gamer with a playseat, MOMO wheel on my g25, and 2 track build cars in my real life garage. I love this stuff. All in all, this felt like if Burnout without the fun crashes, and slightly less exaggerated physics. I was seriously dismayed that I bought this on release day.
  • dubsdj - May 1, 2013 4:14 p.m.

    No Cockpit cam no buy I'm afraid. Such a damn shame it is... Have been looking forward to this since GRID which was the best racing game ever made.. The simple reason it was the best was because it had an in-car cam which made the game streets ahead of anything else. I must be the 5% minority... Maybe In a year when this hits the bargain shelves I might buy it then.. Maybe they might listen to us and put an in car camera DLC... Let's hope.
  • Spacecraft - May 26, 2013 9:10 p.m.

    This is amazing to me because everywhere I go I see loads of people saying "I must be in the 5%." There are a LOT of people in that 5%. The other thing is that I call bullshit on the claim that it ate up performance. Test Drive Unlimited 2 has MASSIVE open worlds with tons of cars driving around, great graphics, and great detailed vehicle interiors. If they could manage that then the GRID2 team could manage detailed interiors on a non-open-world racing game. CM will not see my money.
  • Woozeypastey - August 14, 2012 6:13 a.m.

    I get it that helmet cam would be a labor intensive addition, I honestly do, but their stats must be out of date. Any serious race game player uses it. Why spend all that time making it as imersive as possible and then leave out make or break content like the all important view? Loved the 1st grid and loved the idea of 2 but I absolutely cannot buy this unless they change their minds. If they do, then i'm there like a shot. Pre-order, the whole nine yards
  • jedisamurai - August 10, 2012 8:40 p.m.

    Why does it seem like the 5% is enjoying it's chance to complain right here right now? I've played more racing games than anyone I know, and I never really had a use for helmet or cockpit cam, because I mostly just found the interior distracting. I only ever used chase view and the view with nothing but the road and HUD gauges. Gird was one of the greatest racing games ever and certainly one of the most influential. Every game since including your over-rated Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 4 has been ripping off its features ever since it came out. And now the TRUE innovator is coming back. You go ahead an play your fancy-pants sims and turn your nose up. Meanwhile I'll play Grid 2 from the day it comes out, enjoy what will probably be the greatest racing game ever made! :D
  • Zero.G - August 10, 2012 2:19 p.m.

    No cockpit view = FAIL. I had high hopes for this, but it is 100% no buy if I cannot race first person.
  • vorazan - August 10, 2012 9:13 a.m.

    Also I used cockpit mode in every game it was available in, GRID included. GRID cockpit was awesome... and everyone I know that played GRID used it... so I don't know where they got this 95% number from.
  • vorazan - August 10, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    Is there any sort of customization, beyond liveries? Performance, etc?
  • boondocks50 - August 10, 2012 5:16 a.m.

    Maybe no one USED the cock pit view back when Grid was in the spotlight 3 years ago but nowadays i dont know many people that dont use the cockpit view in racing games like Dirt, Forza, GT and NFS shift. Ive gotten so used it that if i try to play i third person view i suck. I hope they add it, even if its dlc.
  • A9entOfChaos - August 9, 2012 8:44 a.m.

    Justin Towell, please quit licking these guys balls. You come off as slobbering ball licking fool. No helmet Cam. Arcade racing (not simulated) are no no's for me. Forza 4 is the most important (and best racing game this generation). From what i have read this game will not even hold a candle to Forza's greatness. Or hell even GT 5's greatness.
  • Bobby Ewing - August 9, 2012 1:44 p.m.

    Amen brother,Amen.....
  • Cmxavier - August 9, 2012 8:36 a.m.

    Sorry but i still can't believe the exclusion of the this kind of view, every time i think of it the Daytona song rings in my head. And don't get me wrong, i enjoy games like Toca 3 but we are not in 2006 anymore and even in those days a realistic cockpit view was possible. I agree with Bobby Ewing, it's "lazy" and also, a shame.
  • into the sound - August 9, 2012 7:33 a.m.

    now i'm interested. i haven't picked up a racing game since Burnout Revenge & Gran Turismo 4
  • Patcha - August 9, 2012 6:27 a.m.

    Strange... only 5% uses cockpit view? So them all are moaning, seeing how much people (me included) moaning for that missing! So you wanna save cars interiors to save calculations weight (surely consoles fault!)... so we'll have cars with dark/mirrored windows? And this is what you mean for doing stuffs properly? We'll drive "toy cars looking like" stuffs, and this is making stuffs properly? Bah... better you start developing cockpits for next patch, from now...
  • nigel-thornberry - August 9, 2012 6:06 a.m.

    So justin, how American is this game from what i read and have seen in the trailer it all seems Based in America apart from the Yas Marina track also American cars what happend to the good old day of Toca when you had like 8 aussie tracks and a ton of european mixed with american tracks.
  • Bobby Ewing - August 9, 2012 5:59 a.m.

    Are we talking driver eye view or cockpit view here because those two are different things in my world, driver eye view is what is also called helmet cam view where u see the helmet and the visor and so on, and cockpit view is where u see the cockpit with the steering wheel and the hands and so on. Because if they decide to have just the chasing and bonnet view they can't call grid 2 a racing game because if they only has this two arcade game views the game will be totally destroyed compare to the first Grid and all other serious racing games. Codemasters are on deep water with this game if they decide to take a shortcut and leave out cockpit view,because leaving it out because of performance issue is BS, Codemasters have been a bit "lazy" with some features in racing games lately, stuff in F1 series like brake bias change from in car has not been implemented and they gave not released patches even though they messed up F1 2011 with the first patch and so on. Releasing Grid 2 without a proper racing view, that is cockpit view, is to take the first step to kill the Grid series ....over and out from Sweden
  • Jasway - August 9, 2012 7:55 a.m.

    I think it's fantastic that they dropped cockpit wiew.. It's completely retarded to add a cockpit, and heres why: Our brain is used to muting out stuff including the cockpit of a car and the stem between the windows.. Our brains have no problem muting out our nose which covers around 30% of our FOV.. So if want "simulation'n'stuff" u might as well add the nose, and the FOV of the helmet... Throw in some greasy windows and the game is now completely ruined....