When GRID 2 is released, it will have been a five year wait for fans of the original title, one that will no doubt feel that much longer following the server switch off last year. For a nice long chat with some of the developers about the game, Kris’ video interview can be found here, but I went hands on with the two demos available to us recently.
The first of these was a street race through Chicago in an SL65 AMG. Right away, I really felt the AI was trying to be quite aggressive. There was a bit of push and shove going on, which BTCC fans would be proud of, but fairly quickly I was able to work my way through the field and the AI was quite clearly on a lower difficulty setting.[videoyoutube]
A lot of the subtlety behind the AI system wasn’t able to show itself in my brief play time, and it will no doubt take the full game to really be able to show all of its tricks.
So through this race it felt similar to the original in how the leader was much faster than the pack and I had a fair bit more work to do in order to catch him up once I’d passed everyone else.
In terms of handling, this definitely felt like it was trying to be accessible and arcadey in this demo. It was really easy to throw the car into a powerslide through a corner, hold it and carry on your merry way.
This kind of thing isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes and with the TrueFeel system meaning that there won’t be assists to turn on and off, this is what the handling model is going to be like for everyone. Even so, there was still a fine line between being quick through corners and not making much headway on my deficit to the leader.
So I only had my over enthusiasm at sliding around to blame when I felt a few nudges from the car in third and knew I had to get a move on. With a more sensible head I was able to catch the 1st place man around the end of the first lap and just cruise home to victory whilst admiring the scenes.
Played on a high spec PC the EGO 3.0 engine looks really rather nice. There were a lot of onlookers lining the streets, plenty of trees on the side of the road and the morning sunshine filtered pleasantly between the masses of blocky skyscrapers and overhead trainlines all running at a nice and smooth 60 frames per second.
The only complaint I would expect come release would be that this is more of a console focused development, and detail in the surroundings might not scale up all that high to really push top end PC hardware. Even so, with 12 cars on track compared to F1 2012’s 24, and nowhere near the pyrotechnic delights of DiRT Showdown, this should be Codemasters’ best looking console release yet. That is where the vast majority of people will play the game after all.
For the second race, they’ve scaled the car count back even further to just you and a single opponent racing along the California Coast in a point-to-point race. Here I got to stuff my overly tall frame into a racing seat and played with a Logitech G27 wheel in order to hurl a Mustang along the utterly picturesque coastline.
Driving with fingertips and toes on this was really good fun, and I overhauled my opponent quite early on before trying to dance around the corners and elevation changes as fast as I could. Annoyingly, on both of my attempts at this I made a single minor mistake which hurtled me once into a mass of trees and once into the sea, letting my opponent disappear off into the distance with not enough road for me to catch and pass him once more.
Personally I enjoyed this kind of single-strike game mode a bit more than the street circuit, and it’s a good sign that Codemasters are after similar goals as they were in the first GRID. They’re not just going after a single corner of the market, but covering every angle they can.
The demos might have focused on US cars and arcade style handling, but this is just a little taste of what will be on offer. If they can get the handling balanced right to please both sides of the simulation-arcade divide, then this game should bring something to the table for everyone to enjoy.
Lets not forget that we’ve only seen racing in the US so far, and there’s that “no comment” with regards to touring cars too…