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GRID 2 preview: Codemasters' last hurrah of the console generation

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Screenshot from the GRID 2 game

© Codemasters


GRID 2 is the eagerly-awaited return of one of Codemasters' most-requested franchises. The follow-up to the 2008 title is getting away from the genre's escalating race to pack in as many cars and tracks as possible. Instead, it's focusing on being the most immersive racing game ever using a number of technological advances from its recent DiRT and F1 games.

For a game so revered by its fans - as well as its creators - why has the wait for the sequel to GRID been so long? Codemasters explains that it's been waiting for the technology to catch up with its lofty ambitions, and three F1 and three DiRT games later - an entire console generation's worth of cutting-edge racers - the studio finally felt confident enough to fire up a sequel worthy of the original.

As the studio discusses the philosophical directions it's taking on GRID 2 - mostly that it's focused purely on on-track drama rather than playing the numbers game of reeling off cars and tracks - the most tangible improvements and additions, at least from this early first look, are under-the-bonnet.

Screenshot from the GRID 2 game

© Codemasters



Handling and physics revamped for a more intimate ride

Firstly, there's a revamp of handling. Given the snazzy title of the 'TrueFeel' system, Codemasters is dropping the use of assists to help tweak its vehicles, a bold and surprising move for any racer today.

The move will ensure that each car feels individual and distinctive. But to retain that depth and maintain a level of accessibility, the studio is working with car manufacturers on realistic, real modifications - such as weight balancing - rather than its own amendments to handling to retain that authentic feel.

Meanwhile, the physics engine works at a rate double that of its racing competitors, meaning that the painstaking measurements taken from real-world tracks are truly taken into account for the first time.

Elsewhere, opponent intelligence is expanded to 60 behaviour types to create individual personalities, and on the visual front, expect improved damage and car deformation, increased environmental detail and vastly improved ambient lighting - on PC, this tech is described as being on the 'cutting edge'.

Screenshot from the GRID 2 game

© Codemasters



Hands-on impressions of the racing sequel

GRID 2's presentation boasts more artistic and cinematic flair, too. The art team has more of a direct impact on the look and feel of cityscapes and locations surrounding the track, while replays and flythroughs have been inspired by the likes of director Michael Mann and photographer Laurent Nivalle.

The end result of all this? Going hands-on with a Chicago street racing stage dominated by skyscrapers coated in moody lighting, handling feels tight and responsive, but with more than enough give to slide comfortably around bends. Colliding into barriers sees the camera jerk excitingly to the side; a brief and dizzying spot of disorientation before the viewpoint sharply snaps back again.

Swapping paint becomes a guilty pleasure again as car bodies crumple and bonnets fly, and the enhanced physics are genuinely noticeable even to the casual observer, especially as you rattle the car over a grid of steaming vents as you speed out of a tunnel.

And while it was running on a souped-up PC rather than current generation hardware, we'd say it's probably the best looking racer we've ever seen. These new elements are all seemingly subtle, and there are tangible improvements when you take to the track.

Screenshot from the GRID 2 game

© Codemasters



The world beyond the track

Back to the philosophy, the world of GRID 2 is less focused on being an all-encompassing racer bursting with tracks and cars, and instead opts for a handpicked, crafted experience to provide more immediately satisfying and exciting races.

Cars of all different disciplines are mashed together into various tiers based on performance rather than raw horsepower. For example, expect the saloon-style BMW E30 M3 to take on muscle car Mustang Mach 1, all the way up to heavyweights such as the Koenigsegg Agera R versus the Pagani Huayra.

Not unlike Forza, players can make their own path through the globe-trotting campaign, choosing the events and cars that they want to play rather than being railroaded through specific events that don't suit your play style or mood.

While players will be able to get their grips on nippy, thrilling cars from the off, your position as a young, burgeoning racer will be reflected not only in your humble garage hub but throughout the world itself, with the same tracks evolving from quiet venues to being swarmed with crowds, sponsors and cameras the higher your abilities and stature grows.


Elsewhere, new to the series are road races; long, high-speed drives through winding tracks well off the well-worn tarmac, often surrounded by trees or cliffs with no barriers for safety. These locations offer a neat contrast and change of pace between the existing street and circuit races.

Finally, there's multiplayer. Codemasters said that racing games were once the dominant form of online multiplayer, a crown taken by Call of Duty and its first-person kin. GRID 2 is its attempt to take it back, and while the publisher isn't talking specifics, expect progression and a suite of modes independent of the campaign, with races and modes tailored towards the strengths of being networked with others - and again, an experience that feels personal to the player.

GRID 2 will also be the platform that launches RaceNet, Codemasters' racing social network, one that will be integrated with asynchronous gameplay and a level of persistence between all of its titles including its DiRT and F1 games.

It's a platform that launches at the tail end of the longest console cycle yet, and undoubtedly readily prepares the publisher for the next one in good stead. GRID 2 however is the culmination of years of experience and technical know-how from pushing the Xbox 360 and PS3 to their limits, making this an anticipated last hurrah for both systems.

GRID 2 will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in summer 2013.

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