The gritty, noisy visuals – they’re back
If you thought Codemasters would abandon the noisy, sometimes distractingly overly busy visuals that made up Race Driver: GRID (and most of their games afterwards) you’d be wrong – Grid 2 looks like a mix of Need for Speed: Shift’s dramatic camera angles and pretty much every lighting effect available right now. It’s meant to be edgy, of course, and succeeds to a certain degree, but it’s to the detriment of the frame rate, which (on consoles at least) starts at 30fps and fluctuates down when there’s a lot going on. There’s a bit of tearing too, which doesn’t help.
I don’t personally mind what the developers have done here, the special effects and jaunty angles help to convey a sense of motion and spectacle that accentuates velocity and acceleration, giving the impression that there’s more going on, and faster, than there really is. It’s a shame that the stability has suffered a little, but most people won’t even notice, and nobody was really expecting Gran Turismo levels of clinical clarity, were they?
Environmental details are pretty rich, the colour palettes diverse, and there’s a certain sense of branding that the Codemasters games have pretty much stuck to since the first Grid game that would be lost if everything wasn’t soaked in layers of filters and post-processing. It’s not what the real world looks like, but as we’ll see throughout this article, Grid 2 does away with the notion that this is a simulation as soon as you first get behind the wheel – this is arcade racing wrapped up in oddles of official licensing. And a few Photoshop tricks.
There’s Codemasters’ usual juxtaposition of user interfaces
But first, let’s try and navigate through this confusing mix of ooh we’re terribly modern simplistic vertical menu structures and oh why haven’t they changed this yet first person ‘immersive’ but completely different sub-menus. I like the quick flicking up and down to choose between single player and online (which didn’t work in our review build) because that’s what we’ve had since the ZX Spectrum; I don’t like then trying to figure out that a PC monitor holds a myriad of multi-layered race types that have to be explained by an unskippable voice-over.
A good rule of thumb is this: if you have to stop and think in a menu structure as to what to do next, or how to get back, you’re in a bad menu structure. Grid 2 seems happy enough to try to emulate what it’s really like for a small racing team but fails to appreciate that not everyone has the patience to figure out the way the developers have decided everything after the top level should pan out.
Again, this is one of Codemasters’ things, but whilst it worked in DiRT because you could see the whole thing and move back and forth in a 3D environment, here you’re navigating a menu, looking around for another, then you’re into a silly faux-website based system trying to guess which race you’re meant to do next. I’m exaggerating a little – it’s messy but hardly rocket science – but it shouldn’t be this way. The grace period for you doing this, Codemasters, is over – can we just have menus next time, please? And ones that load quickly?