Five years ago, Codemasters released GRID, an under-appreciated milestone in racing video games this generation. GRID is a game that placed itself in between racing simulation and arcade racing; its focus, as with the sequel, remains locked on pushing an emphasis on racing. Legitimate, no nonsense racing and that's what I like about GRID. You're expected to take the risks required to win and learn techniques that will and will not work. You aren't expected to hang back in the bleachers and think tactically, but actually execute ballsy moves and take the lead.
GRID 2 is a charming sequel that does justice to its predecessor, but some aspects leave you rather disappointed if you were a true GRID fan and not just a casual racer. While GRID 2 is a near perfect sequel at first glance, its flaws become evident the longer you play, but those flaws are not nearly enough to turn you off from playing.
The premise is that you're a racer on the United States urban scene who gets recruited by a motorsports tycoon that wants to take the world by storm with a world racing league. Aside from the comments on performance and how well you impress sponsors, there's no real storyline to follow. That's a good aspect about GRID - it doesn't preface the game with a Hollywood action film style story, it's just about the racing. It basically gives you this premise to justify a series of events that find you racing point to point in California, Chicago and Miami and growing to take in elimination events, drift events, time trials, endurance races and more across America, Europe and Asia.
It's been said that GRID 2 is as notable for what it doesn't have as well as what it does, but some of these indications are petty. While there is a lack of performance tweaking when it comes to customising your car, there is a decent amount of aesthetic customisation but not enough to take away from the actual point of the game: racing. Your vehicles, while stock with a predetermined amount of horsepower, handling, etc. all generally handle about the same unless the vehicle-in-question's strong point is drifting. Purchasing cars is not an option either. Instead, you gain fans through your racing and this unlocks more events and your employer will reward you with a choice of two vehicles at a time; one of these you can pick immediately, while the other can be won later on through vehicle challenges.
For the first couple of races, GRID 2 eases you into what it has to offer and while that is an annoyance for some, it rolls off the shoulders of others. You are limited in terms of tracks to race on since you are just starting out. Your AI opponents can at times be overly aggressive which is sometimes fun but also a hassle as well. Luckily, the 'flashback' feature, similar to 'rewind' in Forza makes a return and you'll be using it quite often, not only to erase your own mistakes, but to avoid the savage rear-ending you as well.
Multiplayer is another instance of development jet-lag; it seems the developers are not hip to current trends in multiplayer gaming. Instead of integrating the single player and multiplayer experiences, the two are completely segregated; multiplayer has its own level based structure, its own cars and an upgrade system. Beyond the standard gameplay, there's global challenges to compete with high scores and posted times, plus the ever-so-popular rivals mode. Whether or not GRID 2 has what it takes to compete with Need for Speed: Most Wanted or Forza remains to be seen. From first impressions, it’s a good online racer, but it doesn’t feel like a great one. I'll leave that up to your discretion as I am not much of an online racing gamer.
So what is it that makes the player want to be persistent and continue playing despite a few annoyances? The short answer: it's fun as hell. Finish off the first few races, open up the World Racing Series events and you're on your way. Make it to Europe and the game really starts to open up with new and more varied events as well as more enjoyable vehicles to commandeer. Before you know it, you'll be on the edge of your seat as you assault your way to first place. GRID 2 still has its periods of redundancy as with anything, but if you can ignore it once every ten races or so, you're golden. Plus, you'll have the terrifying downhill courses in Japan that will entertain you beyond comprehension. Overall, GRID 2 feels like a true successor to the original.