The street racing demo is very much like GRID's San Francisco events, actually. The racing is close and hard-fought, the constant rubbing with opponents yields bits of broken bodywork which can get stuck under your car, making one heck of a noise as they rattle underneath the car's chassis and having a noticeable effect on handling. Damage will affect handling in the final game, but for our demo that was turned off – the team didn't want people breaking their cars and then complaining the game's handling is off.
Above: We played the PC version, but it's been built for current-gen consoles
We asked the team about the damage system and it's another leap forward in terms of tech. Nothing is scripted, but each one of some 30 different impact zones have realistic behaviours ready to play out in an accident. Metal will bend according to real-life crash test data and every part of the car that falls off will remain in the game world as a physics object. The game stops short of deforming the cockpit, so you can't squish your driver into strawberry jam, but it does have more animation points in the damage so it will look even smoother when you watch it at super-low replay speeds.
Massaging the EGO
The EGO engine has been developed throughout the process of making this game, and it shows. Perhaps the most noticeable overall benefit is that GRID 2's physics engine runs at 1,000 samples a second, which is twice as many as is closest rivals, Forza and GT. It makes for a very smooth ride. And it seems they can play the numbers game when they want to.
Above: Those wheels' physics are calculated 1,000 times a second
But that's not impressive enough for GRID 2. It does all of this while modelling and warping the tread of the tyre in 3D, morphing the rubber according to the forces placed on it and calculating the grip of the tread that's touching the tarmac as a result. To be scientific, that's just mental.
Online, Codemasters Racenet will be integrated into the game, giving a greater sense of community to the proceedings. The online mode will be separate from the single-player's XP level, meaning your online career is whatever you want to make it. The idea is that you'll tell your own story – and be able to set up your own goals and smash them if you so wish (which sounds a lot like Metropolis Street Racer's 'Kudos' system - no bad thing). You can set up your own event type, choosing everything, or just jump into a quick race.
You'll be given some Tier 1 cars to choose from at the start to get you going. There are four tiers, with cars ranging from a Ford Mustang Mach 1 – the first car in the game – through to a Pagani Huayra and Koenigsegg Agera R at tier 4. If you don't know what those last two are, they're the very latest supercars – the former being Pagani's second ever car after their world-famous Zonda. Suffice to say they all look as enticing as a cool beer on a hot day. Or lemonade, depending how old you are.
Above: Who wouldn't want the chance to drive one of these beauties at speed?
After the issues that the first game reportedly had with the Ferrari license (which the team don't wish to discuss), we couldn't quite get a confirmation that Ferrari will be appearing in this sequel. But with F1's licensing going so well, it wouldn't surprise us at all if Ferraris did appear in the game.
Another area the developers wouldn't be drawn on was the potential for wet-weather racing. It was conspicuously absent in GRID, but then as the team point out, nobody really missed it. We suggest perhaps the F1 games' weather tech could be borrowed, which they countered by saying 'well, we never borrow tech without adding something to it ourselves'. So... we're expecting rain effects, only better. Perhaps with accurately forming rainbows in the spray?
Above: Fat tyres, close racing and up to 40,000 spectators per track. We like this
We had been a touch concerned at Codemasters' decision to go down a 'racing games only' route. F1's been consistently great, but with review scores for DiRT arcing slightly downwards in tandem with the increased frequency of releases, we were wondering whether quality was suffering at the expense of prolific output. But now we've played GRID 2, we understand.
The past four years have been spent creating that is already very special. If DiRT Showdown was throwaway popcorn gaming, this is the crème de la crème of a cordon bleu speciality. The game's not coming out this year (it's down for 2013) but it is coming to current gen machines. The timing has been chosen deliberately - the team is getting end-of-generation performance from both consoles. And who knows, perhaps the maxxed-out PC version is going to be a launch game for next-gen?
Even if it's not, it doesn't matter. If you have any interest in racing games, get excited right now. This is going to be a very big deal.