GRID 2 Review (Xbox360)

Grid 2 is all about the racing. Career mode has no unnecessary fluff, presenting you with a list of races and then handing you the keys. There's a backbone tying it all together - you're competing in a new racing franchise and must accrue fans in order to boost your reputation - but that's it. More fans unlock more advanced events and the chance to win more cars, allowing you to focus on the action that takes place on the tarmac.

The drift system takes centre stage, with drifting incredibly simple to perform, meaning you'll be flying round corners within your first couple of races. What makes it so rewarding, though, is that mastering the system requires a deft touch and there's a real skill to approaching a corner at the right speed, controlling your car during the drift to stop it spinning out or under-shooting, and then exiting the bend with maximum acceleration.

The game looks beautiful, and features lens flare that JJ Abrams would be proud of

It's a system that rewards bravery and daring. Whereas in Codemasters' F1 series the rewind system provided a reminder that you need to drive very carefully, offering a limited number for long races, in Grid 2 the rewind system feels more like a challenge. You get 5 rewinds on medium difficulty races - races that last around three minutes on average - which encourages you to take big risks and really push those long drifts on corners. If you end up careering down the mountainside towards the sea or skidding into a barricade at 150mph, it doesn’t matter - you can just rewind and approach with a bit more caution the second time.

The trick is all about adopting a balanced racing style that the game rewards. Drive aggressively when you need to - brake late, ease other cars out at corners, fly full throttle into drifts - and then use rewinds to correct your mistakes should you make them - be they ones that cost you valuable track time or, often worse, bits of your engine. Racing like this will quickly teach you how to maximise the drift system and when its wiser to utilise more caution, and there's enough forgiveness to make those lessons lack any sense of frustration.

The track design supports this, and setting different tracks in the same city adds a real sense of familiarity as you progress through them. Different tracks overlap each other to, so where at the end of one straight you might turn right, at the other you turn left, offering a whole different experience. It gives a sense of deja vu, and keeps you on your toes even when racing a familiar track as you can't always quite remember which variation it is your on (that's possibly attributed more to my poor memory than an actual positive of the game).

It's all about burning rubber - if your wheels aren't smoking, you're doing it wrong

The damage system is subtle and works well: major crashes can write you off completely (unless you’ve got one of those handy rewinds to save you), but you’ll get away with a few little knocks throughout a race without seeing much noticeable difference. However, should those knocks start to accumulate and do real damage to your car, it'll become problematic. Trying to keep a solid racing line as your battered car pulls to the right or has a burst tyre is extremely difficult, and you'll have to make sure your keeping your car in good condition, especially in the longer race formats.

Races appear in formats that are mostly standard for the genre. You've obviously got your first to the finish line, but then there's also eliminator events which task you with staying out of last place as the field slowly gets eliminated, . The most interesting races are the ones that remove your mini-map from you, leaving you blind to upcoming corners and forcing you to really pay attention to the track in the moment and learn each corner on the first lap.

Unfortunately, the events aren't really ambitious enough to ever test you. Endurance races don't really feel very endurance-like as they're still not that long, and series events - where you rack up points for each race- barely extend beyond a few races, meaning there's no real sense of fight in the leaderboards. You're also able to restart each individual race within a series at the end, so retrying to get that coveted first place is all too easy.

There may not be a huge range of cars on offer, but the type of car you choose to race in makes a real difference, with drift cars being ideally suited to more open tracks, while grip cars are perfect for tracks featuring lots of tight-winding corners. Some races force you to choose a specific car, but others give you the freedom to choose one that suits your style. Custom paint jobs also make your car feel like your own, and allowing you to apply a pattern across every car in your locker is a nice touch.

Cars are kitted out with sponsors that offer special race objectives

The AI is mostly pretty easy to beat, but you’ll usually meet one fierce competitor per series, with a few of them cropping up in the more advanced events. It makes a lot of the AI racers inconsequential as you leave them behind in the first few corners, but those few who challenge you throughout the career mode become bitter rivals, always pushing you to the last corner in the various races. Medium difficulty does feel more like easy, and the fact you don't need to win every race to progress means these rivalries never become truly taxing - it's created in your head more than it is shown on the track.

Grid 2 is a racing game that rewards skill without punishing you for the tiniest mistakes, letting you master a simple system with a forgiving attitude. It may stray too close towards the easy side of the scale at times, and it'll be interesting to see how the game works online (which unfortunately wasn't tested in this review), but its career mode is well worth playing and you won't be satisfied until you've mastered every single corner.

Best Game Moment: Aggressively drifting round a final corner to take first place and win a championship.

Platform Played: PC

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