Codemasters arcade racing game review with a “Drive to Survive” twist RaceFans
Fresh off a 2019 series reboot, Codemasters’ multi-discipline motorsport franchise Grid returns to current-gen consoles and promises a richer racing experience than ever before.
The first Grid title to be released under the EA banner, the latest edition comes with a big-budget story mode designed to expand the Grid fantasy racing universe and deliver a bold vision of what racing could be.
If you’ve never played a Grid game before, it’s important to know that this series isn’t aiming for the same kind of realistic racing action that the official F1 series from Codemasters, Assetto Corsa, Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport are trying. to provide on console. There are no pit stops, strategies, yellow flags, tire degradation or fuel loads to worry about in the world of Grid. Aside from the lack of checkpoints, time extensions, and a coin slot, this is pure arcade racing.
While this may cause a lot of people to immediately dismiss the game, don’t let that put you off. The Grid series always knew exactly what it was and what kind of racing game it wanted to deliver. And if you’ve had any experience with the series – especially the 2019 release – you’ll know exactly what to expect from Legends.
Across nine different car categories ranging from touring and GT cars to trucks, drift cars and even the debut of electric vehicles for the first time, Grid Legends features the most diverse selection of cars in the series to date. The game’s 22 total locations are in addition to a master track list of 130 possible circuits, with street circuits based on the real roads of major cities such as London, Paris, Chicago and Dubai, with a handful of real-world racing like Suzuka, Mt Panorama and Brands Hatch added in for good measure.
Handling in Grid is extremely forgiving, to a degree where it’s almost as if understeer and oversteer just don’t exist in this world. Races are short, intensely action-packed affairs where you can throw yourself headfirst around corners without worrying about whether you miss the top or not. AI racers actually race pretty hard on the highest difficulties, while your computer-controlled rivals are programmed to crash, spin or crash regularly in front of you, keeping you on your toes. With grid sizes exceeding 22 cars, the overall racing effect is reminiscent of racing rental karts on the local go-kart track, but using actual racing cars instead.
Although Grid Legends offers a host of wheel supports, it’s designed to play with a controller and works well for it. Even with all assists such as stability control, traction control and ABS completely disabled, you’re unlikely to struggle to keep even the most powerful models on the road.
Grid Legends’ main new feature – which the publisher has been focusing on in preparation for its release – is the expanded story mode known as Driven to Glory. It spans 30 chapters and is interspersed with a mock documentary on the wall which, as the editors themselves admit, owes a heavy debt to the Netflix F1 series Drive to Survive.
Parallels should also be drawn with the Braking Point storyline in Codemasters’ previous F1 2021 release. the details of which we will avoid disclosing.
The production standards of the mode’s main cutscenes are the best thing about Driven to Glory. Created from a mix of real footage and renders, the effect is impressive and helps bridge the gap between narrative and action.
Players of previous Grid games will note the return of longtime rivals Ravenwest, who put the “pantomime” into the “villains”. But rivalries between you and other characters aren’t just something you’re told about in cutscenes: various figures are named as key adversaries in gameplay and will show you no mercy if you try to outrun them.
I think it’s fair to approach “Driven to Glory” while largely suspending your disbelief. After all, no real-life motorsport series in the world involves such a diverse roster of machines as this one, ranging from open-wheel cars to GT cars to race-to-race stadium super trucks. Accepting it for what it is, the unconvincing depiction of the inner workings of a racing team and the sometimes ridiculous street circuits get a free pass.
Sometimes the story takes too many liberties with realism, especially in its depiction of a character’s return from a serious injury. Other decisions seem quite peculiar: mixing disciplines within a race adds a new dimension, but when you race in a truck cab, watching poor nemesis Nathan McKane pedal in his Mini, the feeling of being bullied by the wrong Guy is a bit lost.
A more lingering weakness of Driven to Glory is the generally incidental role your character plays in it. There’s that all-too-common pseudo-narrative dissonance where your in-game performance has minimal bearing on the plot beyond pushing the story from chapter to chapter.
It can be comical. If you get to a team and win every race for them, you’ll always hear the commentators bashing your performance compared to your teammate. Part of that is because the story repeatedly skips past races in which you play no role, which in itself is shocking. When your rivals have monumental crashes, fight in pit lane, and commit other acts of underhandedness, you end up feeling like a small player in a game where everyone is the star.
How is Driven to Glory most popular? Should you run it first or get some experience with the rest of the game beforehand? After playing everything, it seems wise to suggest first gaining experience in the normal career mode and learning the tracks and cars. Then you can tackle story mode on a higher difficulty level (if you consider yourself a competent driver, upgrade to “Expert” early on) and enjoy a sense of accomplishment for pushing the story. Otherwise, much of the challenge stems less from racing and more from dealing with an onslaught of unfamiliar tracks and cars, which is far less satisfying.
Not that the different disciplines feel too different from each other. As accessibility and maneuverability are the goal, there is no substantial difference between different car types. GT cars, prototypes, single-seaters and electric cars all feel basically the same to drive, with only minor differences. It makes it much easier to switch between cars, sure, but it definitely lessens the appeal of having a relatively large list of vehicles to choose from.
Presentation wise it is largely similar to the 2019 entry. The races have a festival atmosphere with fireworks exploding at the finish line, neon lights everywhere and a live PA announcer reacting enthusiastically to the incidents under the roar of the engines. But despite appearing on current-gen consoles for the first time, it still feels like an upgrade over last-gen, rather than a major new graphical advancement.
However, the game runs perfectly on a PS5 and the visual quality is definitely there with the colorful circuits all of which can be raced in a myriad of weather and lighting combinations. Don’t be disappointed by the lack of a photo mode to capture those chaotic moments – Codemasters has confirmed that one will be fixed post release.
On PlayStation 5, the haptic feedback is disappointing. Adaptive triggers help you feel like you’re locking the brake pedal at speed, but with all the action going on, the rumbling sensations are barely noticeable at times.
Should you rush to drop £60 on this new release? It’s hard to say. If you’re familiar with the 2019 reboot, there’s definitely a better game here – but it’s hard to justify paying top dollar for an experience you’ll feel largely familiar with unless you particularly like the style of the game. action of Grid. There’s a lot of content here, but due to the short bursts of racing action the game is designed around, you might find it all starts to feel a bit repetitive – especially as you have to tick off events to unlock the ability to customize your cars.
With the racing game juggernaut that is Gran Turismo 7 just around the corner, it’s a brave time to release a game like Grid Legends. However, in a games industry that has leaned more and more towards authentic and realistic representations of motorsport in recent years – which is very welcome – it’s also nice that someone is always ready to produce a title more casual where the focus is on shameless fun.
Grid Legends Trailer
Race Fans Ranking
Publisher: EA Sports
Published: February 2022
Price: £49.99 (Steam PC) – £59.99 (Xbox/PlayStation)
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