When it comes to racing games, there are two camps. There are the uber-serious car people, the types that buy steering wheels for their racing games and spend hours getting anal about the specs of their vehicle before each race like they're a character from Fast and the Furious or something. And then there's your happy-go-lucky, bouncy types like myself, the types that would rather fling a red shell at a problem and drive wild and carefree in a magical sound shower.
Anyway, GRID 2 strikes a happy medium between gearhead nonsense and happy arcade lunacy. You can't go around like the bastard lovechild of Captain Falcon and Officer Zed from Police Academy, but you won't be trundling around like you're driving Miss Daisy either.
There was no debate as to whether or not GRID 2 would be good. The real question was whether Codemasters would step it up and create something that absolutely everyone had to get, regardless of genre preferences. Have they? Probably not, but it's still a belter.
The ace up the GRID series' sleeve has always been the rewind feature that lets you go back a few hundred metres and try a different approach, like the Prince of Persia if he was a real ale supping, Top Gear watching pillock. It's excellent, and begs the question as to why no other developer thought of doing this before Race Driver: Grid. How many people skip out of races and restart once they crash horribly at the first corner? Exactly. The rewind feature takes a lot of the frustration out of the equation.
Then there's the racing itself. At the start you will be bollocks, frankly. You'll be cornering like late-era Marlon Brando in a Reliant Robin if his hands were made of plastic explosives and swear words. You'll ricochet off the sides constantly, crashing and banging into all and sundry. This is when you realise you can't play GRID like you would play Vanquish or something. Corners aren't going to miraculously accommodate you when you rush at them and screech around hoping for the best. GRID 2 wants you to drive aggressively, but it also wants you to take care while you're at it. After a few races and more than a few hits of the rewind button, things click. You get the hang of cornering and drifting, realise you're not going to get penalised for occasionally putting on the brakes and fly on up the leader board.
The career mode has you starting off as some street racing bum driving around in the equivalent of a crapped out old Lada, but you're thrust into the spotlight after a good performance. The aim is to gain fans and notoriety through winning races and pleasing your sponsors, even though these days all you need for a bit of notoriety and a following is to call someone a dickhead over Twitter. You can't do that in the game. Shame that.
You choose your name (I called my driver Pubert because I'm having my fun and that's all that matters) and you can choose another name for the in-game announcer chap to call you. This is one of thing that doesn't work so well. Codemasters racers always seem to have a tendency to have in-game announcers that won't leave you alone. It isn't as annoying here as it was in Dirt 3, but we miss the racing games of yore when the only thing troubling your ears was a smooth midi jazz soundtrack.
The announcer here will pat you on the head if you're doing well, so I heard lots of 'Great driving Dan' or, 'You took that corner well' and 'You smell nice today Dan.' Actually, imagine how much worse this'll be when Xbox One comes around and the game watches you through Kinect, it'll be telling you stuff like 'You're too old to have a CM Punk poster up on your wall Dan' and 'You should put some pants on Dan, mother is coming.'
However, the meat of the game is fine, and this is a solid racer that feels weighty and very satisfying once you get through it without making a dent on your ever-increasing fleet of vehicles. There's a nice sense of progression as you win ever more glamorous cars and race around even more exotic environs.
The flaws come when the game penalises you for cutting corners when you swear you haven't, and it even forgets to penalise you when you actually do. If you have a collision, you always come off worse than your opponents, too. This is an easy way to up the challenge, but it's frustrating when someone scrapes you and you go hurtling off track, whilst ramming full on into them does very little.
Multiplayer is fine too, and typically addictive, and spinning out and having people cackle at your misfortune is pretty funny. You'll go back again and again though. GRID 2 has an accessibility to it that other more serious racers don't.
It's maybe playing things a bit safe, but GRID 2 is ultimately a likable, fun, challenging game with hours worth of content. If there's a GRID 3 I hope they change the announcer to Brian Blessed or Jim Bowen though. Even Danny Dyer maybe.
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Spent about 9 hours going through the single player and got over 100,000 fans, which is more than I will ever get on Twitter in real life. Entered multiplayer races and got trashed.