Review: GRID 2 is not the simulator you're looking for, and that's not a bad thing
If there was one detail confusing me about GRID 2's existence, it was the fact that I wasn't sure whether Codemasters wanted to create a simulator experience based on real-world car physics, or if they were shooting for more of an arcade racer. The game's pre-launch trailers certainly hinted at a lot more realism. Not even a minute into my first race, it was clear; GRID 2 is as close to a simulator as Surgeon Simulator 2013 is close to a real-life kidney transplant. Well, you get the point.
It's not a bad thing though. I know where to turn if I need to get my simulation jollies off, and, just as much, I know where to turn when I need my completely unrealistic cops vs. racers experience. GRID 2 blends those lines, much like the Shift series did by offering a realistic racing setting and championship, with tight car controls that allow you to drift around corners at high speed.
GRID 2 comes complete with a silly story about an up-and-coming racer (hey, that's you) looking to make a name for himself by -- none other than -- winning races and making World Series Racing into an accepted sporting event. You work your way up from your garage to impressive showrooms, and netting first place will also increase your fame through various social networks. The story might take itself a little too seriously at times, with real live Sportscenter actors chatting away about the WSR, but the cheesiness sometimes works toward the game's charm. When it comes down to it, it's all about the racing, which is pretty fantastic.
You'll be racing in over 40 high-speed vehicles that range from classics like the 1970 Ford Mustang to the modern 2013 SRT Viper GTS. No matter what your preference, they're all fun to drive, each having its differences in handling.
Most of your single-player career will take place in the aforementioned championships, head-to-head races, and completing sponsor challenges. Before the WSR can take off, you'll need to impress a series of racing teams. After they're on board (and you have amassed enough fans), you can take them all on in lengthy championships.
Outside of standard races, you'll partake in vehicle challenges that task you with beating a track under a certain time, or undertake Promo races that will have varying objectives to gain fans. Some races will throw randomizing tracks at you, which will change out the layout on the fly, meaning you could go one way during the first lap, and then go a completely different route once you make your way back. These are definitely some of the more exhilarating races that will keep you on your toes.
There is also an event which awards points as your pass cars. Clean passes award points and multipliers while crashing takes those multipliers away, meaning you'll have to balance fast driving in order to pass a lot of opponents, but still retain precision as to keep that multiplier high.
The Rewind button, which made its debut in GRID and found its way to the Forza series, is back, and it once again alleviates the aggravation of restarting an entire race thanks to a tiny slip up on the road. Serious racers will avoid this forgiving feature altogether, but it's nice to have as a crutch to lean on.
The sound design is as impressive as the overall package. Not only do the cars sound incredibly powerful, but the environment you speed past reacts to your car placement. Race past some columns, trees or fences will give you a visceral audio feedback that almost makes those objects tangible. A surround sound/headphone setup will give you the most out of this experience.
GRID 2 unfortunately doesn't include the original game's cockpit cam, which is going to be a letdown for those looking to make their arcade experience a little more realistic. Though, it is important to note that if you are playing the PC version, there are mods that enable this view.
While it may not contain the staggering amount of cars from other racers, the 40+ offered here are all fun to drive. GRID 2 may not live up to its simulation claims, but rest assured that after that corner you drift around, hitting your opponent hard enough to send him spinning out of control, you'll be in high-speed bliss.
[Reviewed on PC]