There’s a lot of different ways to make a video game sequel. You can simply add more content to what you found success with before, you can try to introduce radical new ideas and concepts or, if it’s been a few years since the last entry, perhaps you just reboot the whole thing. GRID Legends, in some ways, takes all three approaches at once.
This game looks to build on the foundations of the 2019 series reboot, keeping a lot of the same tone and twists on the racing gameplay intact and then adding more new ideas into the mix. The most notable addition will be the new story mode, Driven to Glory. Inspired by Netflix’s Formula One docudrama series Drive to Survive, it will follow a rookie driver making their way into the GRID racing championship for the first time, competing with your teammate and taking a tilt at the ever-present Ravenwest team. Expect similarities to Braking Point story mode in terms of the actual plot beats, but it will also be brought to life with real actors filmed using huge XR screens in the background and techniques that went mainstream with The Mandalorian TV series.
The focus of our hands-on time with the game didn’t feature the story, but rather a string of curated events and racing disciplines. Codemasters has added a lot of new and returning content to the game that is sure to please fans. There’s the return of Drift events and Elimination races, where the racer in last place is eliminated from contention at regular intervals. It’s a mode that can be a lot of fun if you’re competitive, whether fighting from the back and having to make pass after pass to survive, or holding position and trying not to have your position sniped at the last moment. There are also new racing disciplines.
Keeping up with the times, there are now electric cars that will whine their way around each track in the game, and Stadium Trucks which feature frankly hilarious amounts of suspension travel. They bring unique quirks to the racing action. Races with electric cars will have a boost point that you can drive through to unlock a supercharged boost to then deploy at will over the coming lap, initially putting you on a wider, slower line through a corner, but then helping to you breeze past your rivals. Meanwhile, Stadium Trucks have races with ramps. Just regular old ramps to jump over, but again, these are hilarious when you and/or the AI mess it up and go tumbling through the air to land in a calamitous fashion.
You can even combine all of this together in multi-class events. Unlike real-world multi-class races like World Endurance Racing, the fastest cars start at the back with a time gap to make up to try and win. One such race put me in the chasing pack of Rookie Cup open-wheel cars, hunting down a bunch of racing trucks, which were themselves chasing after VW Cup Cars. It’s quite a mad concept, but I’m here for it, ramping up the sensationalised racing from the last game and forcing me to try and squeeze past trucks in the cramped streets of the new London circuit!
All of these are good additions, fun expansions to what was there in 2019, but they’re coming to a game that was a bit marmite for a few reasons, and I’m not yet convinced that GRID Legends really puts those criticisms behind it.
One core feature of the game is the AI Director which looks to throw in some of the mental slips, the on-edge racing mistakes, even the dirty driving that you see in real-world racing – I mean, just look at the absolute carnage and angry chaos that was last night’s F1 Grand Prix! As you’re racing hard to pass the AI, you might see them overcook it through a corner, giving you an opening to pass with ease, you can see AI colliding as they scrap for a position, and there’s always mechanical failure that could leave a car to retire with their engine turned into a smoke machine. I actually like and enjoy this idea, and it fits in with Codemasters’ desire to capture the big talking points that you get from big races, and then condensing them into tight, action-packed 2 or 3 lap races.
I’m also here for the AI system that is built into the game, with reams and reams of generated AI personalities that you’ll go head to head against, each with different strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. During a race, if you bump someone a bit too hard, they’ll become your Nemesis, ramping up their racing ability to try to compete with you and giving you less leeway in wheel-to-wheel battle.
I’m less convinced about the handling model at the moment, though. The Normal difficulty and its assists have a lot more grip than I was expecting in the braking zone with the Ginetta GTs, but then combines it with squealing wheels and a ton of smoke and sliding as you go through the corners. I found it much better as soon as you shift the gameplay preset up to Hard difficult, but this is an area that I hope Codemasters are iterating and improving on from now until release.
If you enjoyed GRID 2019, then GRID Legends will be an easy sell for you. It takes that game and builds upon its style and tone with more bombastic and over-the-top racing than you can shake a stick at.