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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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47 comments

  • DirkSteele1 - August 8, 2012 12:24 a.m.

    Wow. It has been a while since I was excited for game coming to current consoles. This has certainly caught my attention. Hope the final product delivers.
  • Rub3z - August 8, 2012 12:59 a.m.

    I'm quite a racist myself. :D
  • Hobogonigal - August 8, 2012 1:42 a.m.

    I really enjoyed the first GRID so I am genuinely excited to see more of #2. Codemasters really know how to make super-realistic and sexy racing games!
  • joabbuac - August 8, 2012 2:54 a.m.

    Grid 1 is still to this day my favorite racing game. I think what it does well is that its Authentic but not realistic, arcade but feels like the real thing - loved the career mode too, hope they have something like that again with the yearly structure though you can pick and choose the events you like. Better than the tear structure of Dirt.
  • suicidali - August 8, 2012 2:58 a.m.

    Improved weather tech? I can imagine the tagline now: "Grid 2. It has rainbows." In all seriousness, I'm a little bummed about no Destruction Derby mode, but this will still be a day 1 purchase for me... I could do with a new decent racing game to get me off of Forza
  • ninja-key - August 8, 2012 3:07 a.m.

    '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.' DUDE WTF
  • bass88 - August 8, 2012 4:39 a.m.

    Very excited for this. Just curious Mr. Towell, did they mention that the PS3 version would be technically identical to the XBox360 version or is it still too early to say anything about that?
  • GR_JustinTowell - August 8, 2012 8:49 a.m.

    They sure did - because I asked them! Check out http://bit.ly/QfkBbk
  • bass88 - August 8, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    Cheers. After reading it alarm bells are ringing in my head. I think PS3 owners are getting sidelined again. Hope I'm wrong though.
  • GR_JustinTowell - August 8, 2012 12:47 p.m.

    Really? I would expect AA to take a slight hit, but that's unfounded conjecture, just what usually happens with multiplat. I honestly couldn't say... though they didn't look at all worried when I asked them. Fingers crossed - my wireless Xbox wheel's playing up again and I'd love a decent PS3 racer for my Logitech GT Driving Force wheel :D
  • bass88 - August 8, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    Sorry. It's just when I didn't read them delivering a definite answer I foresaw a port with the same issues as past EGO games. I'm a pessimist so I do perhaps looking for the worst and that sent me off. However, spending four years on it did give them a chance to improve performance and if the F12012 guys are delivering a proper port then it does seem very likely that the PS3 will be identical to XBox360. Plus the best thing about pessimism is that when you are proven wrong, it's a wonderful surprise. Again, thanks for the write up. I know decried the game earlier but I am still anticipating it.
  • webbiker - August 8, 2012 6:34 a.m.

    Now make a motorcycle game with similar ingredients. Current gen has zero decent ones.
  • FoxdenRacing - August 8, 2012 7:56 a.m.

    Looks beautiful, and hopefully revitalizes the concept of the 'arcade racer'. I just hope it doesn't have one of those forsaken "online passes"; stunts like that are a dealbreaker for me. I am not a criminal, and I refuse to be treated like one as a paying customer.
  • RareHero - August 8, 2012 8:14 a.m.

    Justin, how would you compare the physics in Grid 2 to the first game's? My biggest problem with the early Ego engine was that the cars felt very disconnected from the road surface, almost as if they were pivoting on some sort of central axis. Realism aside, it just didn't feel natural. Codemasters has come a long way and I think they addressed that with the recent Dirt titles and F1, but it's been a long time since we've seen any sports car racing from them. I have to be honest, I am pretty dissappointed about the lack of interior cam, but the loss won't be too great as long as Codies gets the bumper and chase cams perfect. No shaking, no drama, make it simple and static, so it doesn't interfere with my driving. Don't pull the chase cam too far away from the back of the car. Then I won't mind. Aside from that, I am very excited for Grid 2. The market for this sort of racing game is shrinking: Turn 10 is playing it safe every two years and refusing to innovate, while Kaz lost his mind somewhere between the release of Tourist Trophy and GT PSP. Grid 2 needs to be brilliant.
  • GR_JustinTowell - August 8, 2012 9:08 a.m.

    The first game's physics were a bit too unrealistic for my liking. You could throw the cars into crazy corners and they would make a fuss but usually stick. Here, they're just as fun to drive and easy to get into a powerslide, but in a more natural-feeling way. And I skidded off into the wall at Chicago by playing like I would have in the original. That said, the California demo is very, very realistic. Helped by the wheel and pedals set-up of course, but the feeling of having actual tyres underneath you and of teetering on the edge of control is sublime. You'll love it, don't worry :)
  • ObviouslyCheesy - August 9, 2012 5:20 a.m.

    It's like I'm reading back part of a comment I made on another website. It's the part about the cars pivoting on some sort of central axis. This seems to be a typical Codemasters thing. You get used to it after a while but it's still weird looking. In games like even GTAIV the handling of cars feels a lot more lifelike.
  • LSZ - August 8, 2012 9:46 a.m.

    My Driving Force GT wheel has been gathering some dust since lately since I haven't gone back to GT5 in a while. This is the game that will pull me back in. I want.
  • MidianGTX - August 8, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    I like numbers. How many cars/tracks are we getting?
  • jackon680 - August 8, 2012 10:25 a.m.

    It sucks that there's no cockpit cam, i really liked it. it made the game feel more realistic than it already was.
  • shashank-duggi - August 8, 2012 10:27 a.m.

    Funny how they had four years, no pressures and dead lines and yet decided not to add the cockpit view :\

Showing 1-20 of 47 comments

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