Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
PRICE: $59.99
DEVELOPER: Codemasters Southam
PUBLISHER: Codemasters

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following review has been constructed from e-mails sent by Max during his time playing Grid 2. Max’s 1996 Forest green Toyota Camry was found embedded in the roof of a local eatery, The Chicken Hole, at 4:38 AM this morning. The restaurant lies at the base of Mt. Groucher, home of the famously treacherous roads known collectively as the “Death Curves.” Initial forensic reports indicate that Max lost control of his vehicle while attempting to take the first turn at speeds approaching 90 MPH, and subsequently plowed through the guardrail. Authorities are still combing the wreckage for a body, but considering the violence of the crash and subsequent fire, it may be some time before any human remains can be parsed out from the mass of mangled chickens carcasses. Until then we can only assume the worst.

JUNE 9th, 5:38 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Initial Impressions

Got Grid 2 in the mail today, I’d just like to say for the record that as pointed out during the team meeting, I am not a big racing guy, which means this review is going to be from the layman’s perspective. Personally I think we should have given it to that new guy, even if you think he’s weird and intense and has a stupid jacket. That being said, my initial impressions are good. Well, mechanically anyway. Story-wise I’m a bit underwhelmed, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Grid Screenshot #1 (Scale)The general conceit is that you’re helping eccentric hojillionaire Patrick Callahan develop “World Series Racing,” a multi-national competition consisting of a variety of race types, though all of them tend to be some variation of car + paved road/track. The game actually cold opens with you in a race, which impresses Callahan and gets him to recruit you as his poster boy. You have to win races against local clubs specializing in a particular discipline (standard street, elimination, checkpoint etc.), which will get them to sign up for the WSR, which in turn lets you put on unified events. The measure of your progress is fans, and there are certain fan thresholds that must be met before the campaign can progress. Other than the club and WSR competitions, you also have vehicle challenges to unlock cars, and promos that consist of specialized events designed to boost your fan rating.

In theory it’s a perfectly serviceable excuse to pack a variety of competition types into a single game. In practice, it often feels half-baked. Your nameless (at least I think he’s nameless) mechanic buddy/race advisor will call out rival drivers from different clubs, but since you never hear their voices or see them outside of their cars there’s no real sense of rivalry. It’s hard to get mad at, say, Harrison Carter when he’s just a random name on a scoreboard. The actual WSR events themselves also lack a sense of importance, as aside from some track changes and a post-event fake ESPN spot, you never really get the sense that these events are any more popular/wide-reaching than the local club competitions. The cold opening really sums up the whole thing perfectly. On the one hand, it’s exciting and gets you established immediately as a bad-boy street racer. On the other hand, since you haven’t even entered your name yet, it’s ultimately a pretty hollow victory when Player One gets the call from Callahan. It’s like being at a deli and getting a slice of dill pickle with your sandwich. It’s obviously better than no pickle at all, but it’s also a reminder of what could have been. Really though a racing game is all about the racing, so I’ll get back to you once I’ve got a good sense of the mechanics.

JUNE 9th, 11:47 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: On Second Thought…

Alright I was wrong; I hate Harrison Carter with every fiber of my being.

JUNE 10th, 6:22 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Mechanics, Graphics and the Learning Curve

Grid Screenshot #2Having put a few more hours in, I have to say that so far I’m really digging the driving in this game. In the past I’ve primarily been more of a Crazy Taxi than a Gran Turismo kind of guy, but this seems to hit a nice sweet spot between arcade and simulation. There’s definitely a learning curve, but after pinballing hard during my first few races, I’m getting better at hitting my corners and keeping my speed up through the different course types. The game also makes it fairly easy to pick the right car for the job, both by restricting certain races to certain cars and by highlighting the main attirbute (drift, grip, balanced) for each vehicle. Not being a big gearhead I can’t speak to how well the different cars mimic their real-life counterparts, but there is a noticeable difference between the types, though not so severe that I wasn’t able to succeed in car-specific challenges.

I will say it’s a good thing the driving is easy to pick up, as the game offers very little in the way of instruction. In addition to offering emotional support your mechanic will occasionally give out performance tips, but these tend to be either vague to the point of uselessness (“remember, fast in, fast out!”) or beyond my limited automotive acumen. Also, if a player needs to be told that 3rd place is a good spot from which to take 2nd, they’re probably not cut out for this whole racing thing.

Another big plus in the game’s favor is the presentation. Not only do the various tracks and cars look gorgeous, I was very impressed with the sound design. Listening to pylons whipping by or hearing the tires rumble over a stony road really creates an exhilarating sense of speed. Oh, and the cars also mash-up real good, which is something you’re going to see early and often because the AI drivers in this game are insane. Playing on medium difficulty (it’s the lowest setting where damage affects car performance), I often found myself limping early after being involved in a multi-car mosh pit, and even in one-on-one competition the AI rarely has a problem “trading paint” to use the racer parlance. For racing purists I can see it being frustrating, but as the Patterson family crest so proudly states, “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’” and I personally found the chaos matched my own aggressive driving sensibility. It’s nice being able to use someone’s door as a bumper for that just sharp enough turn.

Grid Screenshot #3If things do go badly however, Grid 2 does have a secret weapon: Flashback. It’s a feature carried over from the original Race Driver: Grid and man if it isn’t the rookie driver’s best friend. While I occasionally used it to undo a particularly unsporting bit of contact from my competitors, where it really shined was on the odd (ok, not that odd) turn that I took just a bit too hard, causing my car to make sweet, passionate, grinding love to a guardrail. Part of my frustration with racing games in the past has been the last-minute wipe that costs you the race, and while I realize that the tension is part of the fun, it can also be controller-smashingly infuriating. Flashback helps save me from myself, and given the fact that it’s presented as a limited resource it feels more like a legitimate tool than a cheap win button.

Outside of the actual racing, the options are fairly bare-bones. There’s no upgrade system outside of multiplayer (more on that later), and while you can customize your car’s look it’s limited to color and a set number of patterns. Again though, this is a case where I don’t see this so much as a flaw but as a deliberate design choice that is going to appeal to a certain type of player. The focus is squarely on the racing, and I actually liked that it only took me a few minutes to slap together a not-crap looking paintjob for my ever changing whip. I wouldn’t know what to do if I had to tweak my bearings or clean my carburetor or bamboozle my whirligigs, so being able to quickly pick and modify my cars was a bonus, and I never found myself longing for Forza levels of potential tweaking.

JUNE 11th, 3:27 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Multiplayer

Grid Screenshot #7I may not be much of a racing guy, but I’m even less of a multiplayer racing guy, and so my online time was brief and focused mainly on gaining an overview of the system. Unlike the single-player campaign, progress in multiplayer is tracked via XP and money earned from races, with higher levels unlocking the ability to purchase new cars. You can also pay to upgrade your vehicles, though it’s a fairly straightforward speed/handling bonus versus any sort of detailed parts-level improvement. Still, considering you have the full complement of vehicles, tracks and modes from the single player there’s a lot of content here, though the two modes being completely divorced means that the gains in one won’t transfer to the other. It almost feels like two distinct but still very similar versions of the same game, and I suspect people while gravitate towards one or the other. Also, the game will apparently match you up with similarly skilled and tempered drivers based on performance, but I always seemed to find myself lumped into the “aggressive idiot” category which…is actually probably fair.

JUNE 11th 8:37 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Seriously

Fuck Harrison Carter.

JUNE 12th, 1:27 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: The Big Stumbling Block

Alright, so I’m deep into the career mode now, and things are starting to get a little rocky. First off, while I mentioned before that the game offers a decent number of event types, the overlap between them is becoming more and more obvious. While there’s a few distinct standouts like Drift and Overtake (in which points are accrued for passing pace trucks), most of the race types boil down to time trials and either single or group races of varying lengths.  I’m not going to fault a racing game for having a lot of racing, but the various events do tend to blend together after a while. I also found it frustrating that in the later seasons certain events penalize you for making contact, which wouldn’t be a huge problem if it didn’t seem like I was the only one being DQed. Cut off an opponent and make them run into you? Disqualified. Get cut off by and opponent and run into them? Disqualified. Adding to the annoyance is the fact that you can’t Flashback out of a DQ, so even if you bump fenders with 5 seconds left it’s back to the starting line. Considering the game had basically given you the thumbs up to drive like a lunatic early-on, it seems odd to suddenly be following driving decorum.

Grid Screenshot #5The biggest problem though has to be the sudden spike in difficulty. With a few exceptions I’d been managing to consistently make it to the podium on medium, but after hitting Asia suddenly I found myself constantly struggling to meet my fan quotas. Turning the difficulty down to easy helped, but I still found myself getting wildly inconsistent results. Where before my skills seemed to be improving in pace with my advancing career, now I feel stuck without any sort of clue as to how to improve my performance. I could look up guides online, but I feel like “ask the internet” shouldn’t be a necessity for a modern game. The Drift events are the primary culprit, as I could never seem to get a consistent result and the game basically just leaves you to your own devices. Sure cranking down the difficulty allowed me to progress, but it’s not particularly rewarding being king of the crap drivers.

JUNE 12th, 11:32 PM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Enough is enough.

After sinking in some more time, I still find myself running into the same frustrations. How is it that within the same series of checkpoint races, against the same group of drivers, I can go from finishing 1st in one race to 7th in the next, despite what seems to be a consistent performance on my part? The whole “just get in and race” mentality just breaks down when I’m hitting my head against a wall, restarting dozens of times to try and squeak by with enough fans to advance. It’s a shame, as Grid 2 has a lot to offer and had it stayed consistent it would have been an easy recommendation, but the inconsistent difficulty combined with the relatively limited nature of the racing turn the latter part of the campaign from fun to chore. I think it’s still a solid racing experience, especially for those new to the genre, but ultimately I have to place it at a (strong) 3.5 out of 5.

JUNE 15th, 12:31 AM
FROM: Maxwell Patterson (
TO: Justin Clark (
SUBJECT: Easily impressionable.

So after doing all that video game racing for the review, I figured it was high time for me to try out the real thing, and after speaking to some very helpful automotive enthusiasts at the local high school, I’m gonna head up to old Mt. Groucher and get my drift on. These teens assured me that the roads there are a “piece of cake,” and perfectly suited for a burgeoning racer like myself, so I’m pretty excited. Who knows, if things go well, maybe someday I’ll be gracing the cover of the popular racing periodicals. Drift Weekly? Is that a thing? Anyway, I figure it can’t be any harder than the last third of the Grid 2 campaign! Ha, POW! Nah, seriously though, that game was pretty good, and I’ll crank out the review when I get back. Wish me luck, ttyl!

Grid Screenshot #6


Out of 5

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