On May 28th the sequel to BAFTA award winning racing game GRID (or Race Driver: GRID to give it its full name) will hit the shelves. The new one's got a fitting title - GRID 2 - and if you're interested in the new-breed of racing games that straddle realistic simulator and crash, bang, wallop arcade, you could be in for a treat.
TG.com have just had had a brief go at an early version of the game. Not long enough to get square eyes, but we also got the lowdown on the single player mode. So pull up a chair, because the story goes a little like this....
Who's the best racing driver... in the world? Well Stig, obviously. Stig can't play videogames as he lives in one. So the next best driver? You. Believe in yourself. An entrepreneurial and ambitious visionary called Patrick Callaghan has faith in your driving ability and needs you to help promote his big Dragons Den idea: World Series of Racing. Patrick Callaghan is to WSR what Bernie Ecclestone is to F1 - just with less of a face (you never see him). WSR is Patrick's big plan for a UFC-style world championship, but for cars.
In UFC opponents come from different martial arts backgrounds to kick/punch/choke/all of the above each other. WSR works on the same principle, but less Karate Kid and more Seb Vet. You travel around the world taking part in various events: elimination street races in Barcelona, proper circuit races round tracks such as Brands Hatch and the Red Bull Ring, and we're pretty sure that there will be some form of drifting somewhere along the line, probably in Asia.
More pics of GRID 2
You race round the world in an act of pork-barrel politics: promoting Patrick's idea while proving your skill behind the wheel, taking on various drivers of different abilities and specialties. It starts off all very grass roots, but then as you become more popular, you get bigger garages, better cars and more sponsorship. To the point where the actual ESPN Sports Centre team discuss your racing and progress in the WSR.
‘But doesn't this already exist in real life? That Race of Champions thingy-ma-bob?!', you cry. In theory, yes. But Grid takes the format of letting the best drivers in the world from different disciplines compete against each other and extends it from a couple of tight laps around a football stadium, to full blown race tracks, city streets and point to point races across amazing scenery.
There's not a definitive car list yet. But we've seen Pagani Huayras, BAC Monos, McLaren MP4-12Cs, Toyota GT86s/BRZs, Nissan Skylines, classic Mustangs, Camaros and... Alfa Giuliettas. So a varied bunch, and there's plenty more to come. All of them are customizable and utilise Codemaster's ‘True Feel' physics engine.
This isn't like a hardcore simulator's physics engine like GT5, but a mix of genuine car feel and realism that's been slightly softened. Newcomers with no car knowledge won't get their understeers and oversteers mixed up and throw their controllers on the floor in confusion and anger screaming ‘THIS IS TOO HARD!'. If you're a petrolhead you'll relate to some of the handling, but if you're a n00b, you'll also be able to win a race straight out of the bag.
More pics of GRID 2
This is something we noticed instantly when we had a very quick go on a demo showing the variety of challenges, driving and cars in the game. First was an elimination street race in a BMW E30 through the streets of Barcelona. We weren't allowed to turn any of the assists off - which was a shame - but being an M3, we thought that we could throw the car in, claw the accelerator trigger and hold a nice drift. That didn't happen. The car moved quite predictably and linearly and then snapped into controllable and foreseeable oversteer when the physics engine saw fit. At first this was slightly annoying, as it wasn't as realistic as, say, Forza Horizon, but then you just get used to it and enjoy the amazing details and colours in the game. Of course, with the assists off it could well be a different story.
We then raced a BAC Mono - one of Stig's favourite cars - around the Red Bull Ring against Ariel Atoms and KTM X-Bows. Even though the physics were the same as the BM, the BAC had noticeably different handling characteristics akin to the real thing: fast, sharp and grippy. And was surprised us was the fiestyness of the AIs in the race. They're a competitive and clever bunch. They actively learn your driving style and taunt you. To the point where one in a KTM knew our braking point and punted us off into the Armco. We swore loudly, then noticed how detailed the crash modeling is. We've seen these cars crash at the Red Bull Ring in real life. And trust us, it was similar.
Even though we only got a brief go, we left wanting to play more. There's something for everyone: if you like track racing you can do that, if you like ragging hot hatches round city streets you can do that and if going down a Californian road sideways is your bag, that's there too. Unsure? Well story mode will help you find what you like as you go on to try and be king of WSR. There'll be more modes, cars and multiplayer in the real thing, but they're still secret. So until we know more, check out the trailer below.