by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
A Great Love of Cars
Codemasters has a distinguished history of making racing games. From the arcadey kart racer F1 Race Stars, to the rally simulator DiRT series, to the hardcore Formula 1 franchise. In 2008 the developer released Grid, a game that combines all elements of road racing into one package. Five years on, it remains my favourite driving game of all time, and later this year the sequel, Grid 2, will be released. The original still holds up even to this day, so a brand new game has certainly got me excited.
Grid 2 will build on the successes of those other Codemasters games to make it the ultimate driving experience. The technology behind tyres and the way they degrade over time will be brought in from the super realistic F1 series where the cars really need to grip the track. Accurate suspension models have been taken out of the DiRT games where the cars have to handle all sorts of terrain. The developers have worked closely with the car manufacturers themselves to perfectly model each individual car. They have obtained information about crumple zones, and the way each material acts under stress and torsion to have a realistic crashing experience. They brought in real world drivers to confirm the way each car handles. These guys love their cars, and they hope that you do too.
This time around, Codemasters want to bring a bit more storytelling into the game. The main campaign sees you as part of a burgeoning race scene called the World Series of Racing. At the start of the story, you are approached by Patrick Callaghan, a kind of Bernie Ecclestone type character, who wants to put you at the forefront of his WSR idea after noticing your driving talents. You start off by taking part in unadvertised events that draw small, curious crowds, but soon begin to draw in more and more fans. As the game progresses you will see larger audiences and more advertising around the streets and circuits you will be racing at. To gain popularity, you must tour the racing clubs around the world and prove that the WSR is something to take notice of. To keep things interesting, each club has its own style, so you will be taking part in events using all the different types of cars on offer.
Grid 2 is a road racing game, but there is a great deal of variety within this discipline. You will be racing in anything from compact, super grippy cars like the Ariel Atom to huge American muscle cars like the Ford Mustang. Race events are pretty standard for the genre. You will be taking part in point to point races, laps around real world circuits like Brands Hatch and the Red Bull Ring, as well as participating in elimination races, where you have to fight to stay out of last place before the timer counts down. As you progress you will gain access to more cars and different events, and your home base garage will improve in size and quality. This is definitely a game about following your dream from humble beginnings to international acclaim.
Presentationally, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Not only from the lovingly crafted curves of each vehicle, and the beautiful lighting and particle effects of each location, but down to the pre and post race camera angles that make you feel like you are watching a sportscast. The great replay system makes a return allowing you to watch all the action from exactly where you want, and at the speed you want. As you would expect from a Codemasters game, the crashes look just as good in slow motion as they do at full pace. The game does lack the traditional cockpit view however, which is a controversial omission. We are told that the ambition of the graphical quality meant that something had to give because of the limitations of ageing console hardware. The cockpit camera was the first thing to go in order to increase texture quality, and enable other graphical flourishes.
The developers are planning to separate the multiplayer from the main section of the game, much like many first person shooters do today. This means that there will be content in multiplayer that will not be available in the single player mode, and vice versa. This is all being tied in to the new online “Race Net” feature which will be implemented with the launch of the game. This entirely new multiplayer experience will have multiplayer specific race types. I am hoping to see the return of the destruction derby mode from the first game. However, firm details on multiplayer are unavailable at this time.
Gamers have come to expect a high level of quality from Codemasters racing games, and Grid 2 does not look like it is going to disappoint. The starting line is just a few months away, and everyone is preparing their engines to delve deep into the new story mode and check out the interesting new multiplayer features.