The loading times aren’t great, but are still being optimised
Yeah, so whether it’s my decrepit TEST PS3 or just this reliance on everything being a solid, tangible thing I don’t know, but Grid 2 takes a while to get things done. There’s a widescreen throwback to Need for Speed: Undercover’s loading screen that you’ll see a lot of (albeit one interspersed with Codemasters’ love of slowly scrolling statistics) but it’s in things like switching between cars that’ll really test your patience – a feat rewarded with a view of just a wheel and a bumper, by the way, despite only having a tiny card to choose from.
It’s a similar story in-game, too. Some of the events involve multiple runs at the same track, and whilst each individual bout can be over in a minute, there’s a fair chunk of loading that goes with it, too. And then once its done you’re treated to the exact same circuit flyover before the game starts. Yes, you can skip the video, but you can’t help wonder why this wasn’t all streamlined.
The review notes do say that load times are still to be optimised though, so although the code is marked as ‘review’ it wouldn’t be fair to assume that the waiting times won’t be improved when the game is mastered for retail. Bear this in mind when you read the reviews doing the rounds today – whilst I’m not expecting the loading to completely fix itself (and Codemasters don’t give much away in terms of numbers) we’ll take another look at this when final review code rolls around, hopefully in the not too distant future.
The cars – they’re there, but they’re not the stars
It’s true. Grid 2 has loads of cars, but they’re not really the focus. The game tries to make you think that you are, as you’d expect, and that comes across in the game’s lengthy career mode which puts the player right in the centre of everything’s that going on. The game taps into current social networking attractions (like YouTube) and ranks your performance in terms of fans – even the post-race audio commentary likes to chip in with how you’re currently being perceived outside of your team.
Does it work? Yes, and it gives a real sense of progression. Whilst the menu system doesn’t always highlight the best way forward, the game does continue to pile on the ever-increasing stats, and the integration with RaceNet promises (I didn’t get chance to really test it) to ensure that there’s always competition between friends and rivals for the best times for each track.
So whilst the game happily dangles fancy metallic carrots in front of the player throughout the game, in Grid 2 the cars really aren’t the focus. You start with four (one of each of the game’s classes, which means there’s one from the fastest to play with from the off) and are faced with multiple decisions over which ones to choose from a supplier and which to enter into races (although some races are for specific car types) but this is a racing game about the racer, not the ride, it’s all about the career.
There’s the quirky, centralised handling system again
The game starts you off with a big fat muscle car, but the first choice you get – the one that opens up a more spritely Nissan Silvia – doesn’t necessarily change the handling a great deal. The fact that the game things a heavy Mustang Mach 1 should line up specs wise with an S15 tuned for drifting is baffling enough, but out on the track there’s not a massive amount of difference between the two. Yes, they do handle differently, but not by nearly enough. The game opens up fairly quickly (after the first couple of seasons) and the options highlight the handling more acutely, but at first it’s not evident at all.
This isn’t helped by the external camera view making you feel like the cars are spinning on a central pivot rather than turning at the front wheels. I’m sure they’re not doing this and it’s just an optical illusion, but early Codemasters games did suffer from this issue and when the camera’s swinging so violently from side to side it’s hard to establish what’s going on at all.
What’s also worth noting is that there’re no assists to switch on and off. The game attempts to figure out what you need and what on the fly, which may or may not work for you.
Thankfully, the in-car view is much, much better. Sure, the dashboard viewpoint is gone (there’s just the bumper view and one from the centre of the bonnet) but the game controls far more convincingly from the first person settings. It’s a little twitchy, especially at first, but given enough practice it’s not hard to coax the vehicles around the corners with a little drifting – they’re heavy, but not heavy enough so that they’re not fun to drive at high speed. It’s a fine balance between accessibility during the street courses and keeping the cars on the track during the long point to point ones, and Codemasters have done a good job.