All things to all people.
Patrick Callaghan has a dream. That dream is the WSR, a world-spanning racing league designed from the ground up to answer one question: If drivers from every organization, from every corner of the world, went head to head, who would come out on top?
This question is the axis upon which everything in Grid 2 rotates. The problem, though, as I see it, is that this question is improbable and far flung. A mock ESPN Sportscenter video attempts to liken the concept to Mixed Martial Arts, but this comparison rings hollow in my ears. It feels like an artificial way to get us excited about cars and racing, a tactic Codemasters has never had the need or inclination to employ before. But behind this questionable premise, what is Grid 2?
It's an every-racer, for every person, a game that throws everything from drift-ready Japanese imports, to European supercars at you while occupying a safe middle ground between arcade and simulation. It features a variety of modes from standard circuits to elimination and checkpoint challenges, giving the player a buffet of different racing flavors to sate their appetites. As such, Grid 2 appears to have a little something for everybody.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with trying to deliver an experience that a wide berth of people can enjoy, but the art of the balancing act can be tricky, and at this stage, I don't know if Codemasters is nailing it as cleanly as they can. For instance, cars seem to have an amount of grip I would expect from an arcade racer, but then they exhibit a level of under/oversteer that I'd normally associate with a simulation. There's a wide variety of true-to-life, licensed cars rendered in stunning detail, but not a single tuning option (yet). No one's going to put down the controller and say, “This isn't for me.” But as a fan of both sim and arcade racers, I didn't feel like Grid 2 was scratching either itch.
Of course, I can't argue with the production values, something Codemasters has always excelled in. The daytime lighting and nature-based environments are particularly impressive, with judicious shader usage giving surfaces just the right amount of luster without getting overly aggressive. Opening up the throttle in an F1 car on the Red Bull Ring in Austria is a real delight for the senses, though we were playing on high-end gaming P's attached to prototype 4K monitors and Astro A40 headsets. What it will look and feel like on a console with standard equipment is anybody's guess, but based on the developer's track record, “pretty damn good” is a still a safe bet.
If it sounds like I'm being a bit harsh, it's only because of the high level of expectations I place on such a thoroughly impressive team. Time and again, they've proven their passion and know-how for this genre, and I was expecting to see that shine through as usual. So far, I don't think it has fully, but having said that, the worst thing I can say about Grid 2 is that it looks like a decent all-around racer designed to be accessible to car fans of every stripe. That's not bad by any means, just a bit less than I've come to expect from this bunch over the years. But then, the game isn't due out until May 28th, so there's still plenty of time for Grid 2 to make some tweaks and become something special.