GRID 2 Preview

Developer: Codemasters Southam / Publisher: Codemasters / Release Date: May 28, 2013

“Be fast, be first, be famous” is the player-experience mantra behind the forthcoming much-anticipated racing title GRID 2. Developer Codemasters started talking about the game as far back as last August, and the GRID 2 team finally got a chance to put their pedal where their metal is by giving us the chance to get behind the virtual wheel and throw fast cars around varied types of tracks. As with its 2008 predecessor, GRID 2 is less about actually ‘simulating’ racing (in a dry, niggly, technical sense) than it is about the sheer dramatic, engaging fun of a total-immersion racing experience—one that aims to capture not only the character of the various cars and the nuances of how they handle, but the oil-rags-to-riches thrill of moving up from the status of unknown driver to that of world-famous motor-sports superstar.

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To put you figuratively and literally in the driver’s seat of your own rise to racing fame, GRID 2 posits the advent of a fictional, multi-discipline ‘World Series of Racing’–a sort of motor-sports analog to the phenomenon of mixed martial arts. Consider all the myriad racing styles, ‘clubs’ and vehicle-types that have been the singular focus of attention and competition over the years: open-wheel racers, touring cars, exotics, Japanese domestics, muscle cars and international ‘super cars’–which motor sport would prevail, in a battle to the finish line?

GRID 2‘s proposed World Series of Racing brings all these disparate elements together—the high-speed racers from the U.S., the ‘technical guys’ from the European clubs, the so-dubbed ‘drift kings’ of Japan and Korea—in a single meta-competition to determine the world’s best driver, period. It just so happens the still-fledgling WSR is looking for that global-media spark, that infusion of star power, that go-to wunderkind, to get the ball rolling.

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And that’s where you come in, as the up-and-coming poster-boy of the series. With luck, you’ll be to World Series Racing what Michael Jordan was to the NBA, or Tony Hawk to skateboarding. Maybe you’ll get set up first with the USA’s elite racing clubs. Once the U.S. clubs are on board and some of their drivers (and fans) have signed on, you’ll start hosting some of your own events. A series of home-base garages serve as career hubs, keeping players immersed in actual game environments rather than continually throwing them back to bland, text-based menus. The first such ‘hub’ reflects humble, early-career origins—it’s literally a garage clearly attached to somebody’s house, complete with oil-stained cement and a view of suburban streets just outside. Later, as your career hopefully takes off and the event/sponsorship invites flood your virtual inbox, your garage/office base will become more spacious and auspicious, more worthy of a world champion.

To give this fairly-unlikely-seeming motor-sports series a continued air of realism, GRID 2 uses the conceit of in-game ESPN Sports Center updates to frame the various WSR races around the globe. Since the point of the game is to immerse gamers as much as possible in the drama, glory and sense of achievement that is pro racing, you will see his/her actual name featured prominently in streams of media throughout the game—posts on fan-sites, exchanges of smart-phone messages, and eventually mentions on major networks.

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Moving onto matters more technical, GRID 2 does away with the cockpit/helmet-cam racing-view—but far more importantly, it chucks all that ‘driver assist’ nonsense, too. Repeat: NO driver assists. To be sure, there is still an automatic-gearing option…. but no auto-braking functionality, nor traction-control, none of that. Since the focus is simply on having the cars tuned finely enough to be playable with a wheel or a traditional controller in the first place, there are also no tire-walls or stacks to save you on otherwise-unforgiving corners.

GRID 2 will feature iconic locations for street, road and track racing, with a new dynamic route-changing scheme to keep gameplay unpredictable and much more replayable (remember that those winding California coast drives now have a lot of the traditional aforementioned safety-elements taken away, so you may find yourself going over the occasional cliff). At the hands-on demo we also got a look at different courses winding through sun-drenched Barcelona, as well as Chicago at night (with festive ferris-wheels, fireworks lighting up the night sky and gorgeous, show-off, shinier-than-real-life glass/bodywork visuals) and finally a special Red Bull racetrack out in a wide-open country setting.

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We told the Codemasters guys, politely, that we’d very much like it if they’d fess up to a complete list of the other international racetrack locales right now… and they told us, politely, that they’d very much like it if we’d piss off about that, just yet (at least that was the gist—the accents, you know). So for the moment, we anxiously await more info on the game’s globe-hopping World Series of Racing ports-of-call. GRID 2 is slated to release on May 28, 2013.

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