This game is not like any other Codemasters racer. They went full on Arcade this time, with a big focus on drifting. A normal race is more about drifting around corners than about finding the fastest racing line. It is almost like OutRun, you just are slower if you don't drift your way around corners. The rewind feature makes a return, further solidifying the arcade direction the series has taken with this sequel.
There is no cockpit view or car setup and tuning options are minimal and only available in multiplayer. Multiplayer may appear deserted and it does suffer from low population because of matchmaking regions being based upon your Steam download server's location. There is a lively multiplayer community, but to play with more people you need to change your Steam download region to UK - London and preferably also own all of the DLC packages to get better matchmaking.
In multiplayer your goal is to gain money and experience to level up to unlock new cars and upgrades which you then have to buy with the money you earned. Your multiplayer experience can be a mixed bag then in itself. In "Playlists" there is no voting on game modes or choice of circuits, instead the lobby is assigned a random track, car tier and gamemode. Players then have the ability veto the combination once. If the combination is vetoed you are assigned another random combination without the ability to veto it. There is also the "Custom Events" option which are events hosted by other players. You gain less money and experience from participating in "Custom Events," and only the lobby host can decide the settings of the event. The host has a wide variety of changeable settings, varying from type of event to forcing every player to use manual gears. There is a system called "Impact Ratings" in the multiplayer, which shows other players how dirty their opponents race. These are represented by circles with exclamation marks in them, with the ranking going White-Green-Yellow-Red from the best to the worst. Players with too little data to assign them an "Impact Rating" show as grey. The rating persists over races, and can change over time. Lots of online races tend to have people crashing into each other a lot, so do not pay too much mind to your "Impact Rating." When "Impact Ratings" are enabled, you gain a small cash bonus at the end of the race based on your rating.
Also available in the Multiplayer menu are the "Global Challenges." These are a set of random events raced on certain circuits with either a certain Tier of cars or a specific car. Instead of racing head-to-head with another player, this game mode is leaderboard based. The game tracks your performance in the events and compares your scores to your friends. The person on the top of the leaderboard is considered to be leading the event. There are medals on the events, granting you small amounts of money and experience for passing their requirements. Based on your position on the leaderboard in the specific events you gain points for the overall leaderboard which shows who among your friends is the best racer overall. The set of events changes every few days with the leaderboards wiped at the same time.
The "Singleplayer Career" mode casts you as the rising new talent in the fictional new racing series called World Series Racing or WSR for short. In the singleplayer you proceed through "Seasons" of the series, completing events and unlocking new cars from challenges. As you progress through the career you gain access to more exotic cars, going from the old muscle cars and small European hatchbacks of Tier 1 to immensely powerful and rare cars like the Koenigsegg Agera R in Tier 4. The car selection has more of an emphasis on normal street legal cars rather than Touring Cars and the like. There is no Circuit de la Sarthe or the LMP class cars to be found in this game. The circuit selection varies from fantasy street courses to real life race tracks like Brands Hatch, Indianapolis and Yas Marina. Unlike the multiplayer, the cars are simply unlocked by completing separate challenges, and cannot be upgraded. The looks of the cars can be customised with paint colour, vinyls, wheels and sponsorship logos. The sponsors also have specific challenges for you to complete. Your progress throughout the career is tracked by the amount of "Fans" you have. You gain fans from completing sponsor objectives and placing well in events. The "Fans" statistic is hidden in Codemasters' "Racenet" service in the multiplayer, and has no real effect on that part of the game.
I don't like how the AI can nudge your car around but you really can't do the same to them. I played the game mostly on Medium difficulty, and it is easy if you just race very physically, using the other cars to navigate corners. The AI gets really challenging on Hard and becomes a far more frustrating experience. In my opinion there is noticeable gap in the AI skill between Hard and Medium that really shows in the way they react to you driving aggressively.
Graphically GRID 2 looks very impressive. The crashes look nice with parts flying off and shrapnel scattering all over. The stages look nicely detailed: urban stages have detailed buildings surrounding you as you race down the streets. Forest stages look threatening with hills and dense forest just outside the track, ready to punish from the slightest mistakes with formidable damage. The game is also very well optimised and runs well even on older hardware. Sounds are probably the weakest part of the game, with similar engine sounds for most of the cars and a very annoying tire squeal sound effect. There is also the sound of crowds cheering, but beyond that ambient sounds are nonexistent.
Grid 2 is a solid arcade racer with great graphics, but is sadly hamstrung by its emphasis on drifting over real racing lines, stagnant AI and multiplayer which frequently devolves to a demolition derby. Fans of more arcade racing games like the Need For Speed series will find much to like here, while fans of the more realistic approach of the first game should give this game a pass.
Posted: February 9th, 2014