This time, with feelings
I’ve been playing GRID since before it was even called GRID. Back when I was a kid, hanging on the edge of the sofa watching my Dad play the latest racer on the PS2, Codemasters was putting out a steady stream of racers under the name TOCA Touring.
Even now, some 20 years later, there’s still a familiarity that takes me back to those Saturday nights, begging my Dad if I could have a go. I could never because I was absolutely awful at them. I’ve gotten better over the years, and so has TOCA, but familiarity is the name of the game, and after having recently gone back to 2019’s GRID, that’s even more apparent.
Release Date: February 25th, 2022
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Steam, Retail (Amazon UK/Amazon USA)
I reviewed 2019’s GRID and really enjoyed it. That was back before EA swooped in and put Codemasters on its payroll. Has the shift in gear to EA had a detrimental effect? No, thankfully, but who knows what the future holds. I still remember when FIFA had a decent Career Mode and Fifa Ultimate Team was still an exec’s wet dream.
This latest instalment comes with something that’s new to GRID, but not new to Codemasters: a narrative. Yes, a story, in a racing game. Who knew it was possible? Codemasters has been playing this game with the F1 series for a couple of years now, so the experience and know-how is there, but the execution is, at times, questionable.
I get it and I love the idea of giving cars on the track some personality by having their names attached to a face and a person you can sort of get to know via the between race cutscenes.
But… Those cutscenes are fully live-action. Real actors sitting in front of real cameras while they read their pretend stories. And for me, it’s jarring. The on-track racing is good fun and while it looks superb (I played on Xbox Series X) it’s at odds with the yank back to reality for the mini-story episodes.
Not that the story would have been better had it been served up by digital characters, but the shift from arcade racing to super-real people threw me off every time.
The story is itself by the numbers – you start off as a nobody who gets their big shot on a racing team. No big surprises there. And of course, there’s an arsehole to hate, which I found very easy to do. I suppose that’s a credit to the fine acting?
So that’s the big chunk of what’s new. You’re getting a story mode that, depending on if you want the backstory, too, will give you a six-to-seven hour experience. It’s not bad by any means and it was a nice change of pace rather than just going race to race with menus separating the action.
But elsewhere, it’s all a bit familiar. A lot of tracks and cars have been lifted from the previous game, which I suppose is fair play as many of them are damn good tracks and bloody good cars, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d done it all before. Perhaps my recent re-binge of GRID in preparation for GRID Legends may not have helped. But until publishers start putting out a PSA that says “don’t play our previous game if you don’t want the new one to feel familiar,” I’ll continue my tradition of playing originals just before the release of their sequel. I can’t be the only one who does it…
On the tracks, GRID Legends plays the part to near perfection. Roaring around corners and shimmying through some tight chicanes is still a thrill, and the arcade handling doesn’t disappoint. It still felt familiar, which in this case isn’t a bad thing to be carrying over.
It’s far away from the simulations of Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. It’s more what the DiRT series is to the WRC Championship games. A lighter, easier, more forgiving and for the casual racing fan, more fun experience.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to get stuck into, and there’s still a fair challenge for those who want it.
The Career Mode – separate from the story – has a whole roster of events and championships to play through and unlock; it’s a more standard progression system of play more, win more, get more. For me, this is how racers have always been, so naturally, I enjoyed this a lot more than the we-tell-you-what-to-do story mode.
You can unlock cars – old familiars and new arrivals alike – and race more to your own tune. There’s also a race builder if you fancy crafting your own bespoke experiences, and there is online if the robust, albeit at times clumsy, AI isn’t pushing you far enough. Personally, I get hammered enough by the computer, so I don’t need to go online to know I’m worthless, thank you very much.
Is GRID Legends still worth a look, even if it does feel like more of the same? Definitely. The story mode, while being cheesier than my feet, is a nice addition and it brings a bit more flavour and character to the cars you’re racing alongside.
Likewise, the arcadey Career Mode is robust and enough of a standalone experience that if you can’t deal with the dodgy acting, you’ll still be getting your fill with the massive roster of events and cars.
It’s more of the same, yes, but GRID 2019 was an excellent game by all accounts, so I wouldn’t say it’s a terribly bad thing. Let’s just hope microtransactions can be kept at bay a little while longer.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox Series X|S
Summary - FantasticSummary - Fantastic
- Story mode is a nice, albeit jarring, addition to the GRID series
- Extensive Career mode, a robust online, and an easy-to-use race builder
- Same quality that we've come to expect from Codemasters and GRID
- Occasionally the performance can tank during violent pile-ups
- The interstitial live action scenes can come off cheesy, despite some good acting