Preview: GRiD 2 combines high speed racing and gorgeous visuals

Codemasters has pretty much defined what a current-gen racing game is supposed to be.  If you haven't played any of its outstanding off-road DiRT games over the years, then chances are you might have played GRiD, a street racing game with plenty of attitude – and realism to boot.  These games helped define the company's legacy in the genre, and its forthcoming sequel, GRiD 2, should have no problem continuing that momentum.  We recently had the chance to go hands-on with a couple of tracks from the game, just to see how it was coming along.

In the game, you're a driving star working his (or her) way up the ladder, hand picked by some race sponsor named Patrick Callahan who wants to show his finer appreciation of racing to the world.  So he forms the World Series of Racing, a league consisting of the best of the best, competing in both official track races and street events, using different kinds of race cars to help you earn your stripes.  Like the original GRiD, you'll find quite the variety here, from the Formula 1 style BAC Mono to more traditional vehicles, like the stylish Chevrolet Camaro, among other licensed types.

It's the mixture of events that manage to keep things fresh in GRiD 2.  If you prefer the quiet countryside racing, you'll find these events up to, ahem, speed, as you cruise around turns like a pro while rubbing tires with the opposition.  The "official" tracks, placed throughout the world, including Europe and Asia, will make you feel like a globetrotter in no time flat.

Grid 2 - Drifting

Likewise, the street races are awesome as well, as you cruise through city streets while keeping a close eye out for turns with the help of your headlights.  These track designs are just as impressive, bursting with city life as you careen around the corners and avoid collisions with your rivals, staying on the straight and narrow for a first place victory.

But the real delight with GRiD 2 is the gameplay.  The original game offered quite a challenge, which some players had a hard time getting a grasp of.  The sequel is a little more balanced, based on what we've played, thanks to tweakable AI, more responsive controls with acceleration and braking, and a lofty rewind feature, which lets you erase over any mistakes you make, albeit temporary, so you can proceed with your run.  (They weren't in the build we played, but the final game will have them to those in need.)  We had no problem getting into the handling of each car – even the Formula 1 style vehicle has the kind of precision that feels right on with Codemasters' approach.

But if you're a die-hard fan of the first, don't think the game will take it too easy on you.  You'll still have to overcome feisty opponents and beat challenge times in order to prove you're the best of the WSR ilk, and the game is sure to offer plenty of online competition through RaceNet, Codemasters' designated racing network.  Though the extent of its involvement hasn't been fully revealed yet, you can expect leaderboard times to topple aplenty, along with direct competition with some of the best virtual drivers out there.  GRiD devotees wouldn't have it any other way.

Grid 2 - Racing a Mustang

With the use of the enhanced EGO engine, Codemasters has created its most visually stunning racing game yet, even eclipsing the chaos that DiRT Showdown created last year – and that was with flying car parts and all.  The multiple view points are nice too, with everything that a racing fan would want to be accustomed to.

GRiD 2 is easily sprinting towards the finish line like a winner, judging by what we've played so far.  But we'll save our final judgment for the review when the game arrives for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on May 28th.