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Grid Legends review (2022 updated)

By Sean Carey,
Grid Legends quickly lets you know that Nathan McKane is the villain. Not because he’s arrogant or dressed all in black, but because he enthusiastically tells us all about the exciting new restaurant down the road that lets you choose which lobster you want to kill for dinner. It’s a subtle piece of exposition that sets up McKane to be the bad guy in Legends’ story mode and a bit of writing, among many, many others, that’s so bad and so cheesy, you kind of have to admire it.

Driven to Glory, Grid Legends’ story mode, puts you in the shoes of Driver 22, who joins Seneca Racing in the amateur leagues of the Grid World Series and is tasked with working their way into the pro division and on to glory. The story is presented as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, following manager Marcus Ado and team Seneca’s progress. Between each of the 36 races in the mode, we’re presented with FMV cutscenes, explaining who the main characters are and the rivalries between drivers, but it’s honestly hard to care about any of them as this type of documentary-style storytelling only really works if you already have an interest in the subject and the people, and thanks to some poor acting and woeful writing, (with the exception of Seneca’s mechanic, he’s great), it’s easy to dismiss the characters and Seneca Racing’s plight in the big leagues and focus on the racing, which is where Grid Legends shines.

Grid Legends

Throughout Drive to Glory, you are whisked across the globe to compete in 36 races in a variety of different disciplines. Races can vary from your usual circuit races and time trials to the more exciting and arcadey Elimination (two racers in the final two places are eliminated every 20 seconds, culminating in a 1v1 showdown) and Head to Head races, all of which ask you to drive a different type of vehicle and complete an objective to progress.

On the surface, Grid Legends doesn’t look all that different from its predecessor, but peeking under the hood; things have clearly changed. The cars, of which there are over 120 and of great variety, feel weightier and handle more realistically when compared to Grid (2019). In the previous game, it felt like the cars were a bit floaty and light and didn’t grip the roads — here there’s a bit more heft to certain cars, and at times the racing feels almost sim-like thanks to more truthful physics. However, what brings it back from the brink of sim racing, is the damage system, which as far as I can tell, doesn’t do much unless you absolutely cream your car into a barrier or another player. It takes a hell of a lot of work to damage your car in Legends, and at times, I had to double-check the setting was actually on even after a string of pretty intense crashes.

Grid Legends

The cars do look the part, though, even when damaged. In fact, Grid Legends as a whole looks fantastic. There are 22 tracks with a combined 137 different layouts, which are a real visual feast for the eyes, especially the circuits that are located within cities. Dubai, London, Paris, Shanghai, these city tracks really steal the show and have been expertly crafted, not only from a visual standpoint but also from a gameplay standpoint. A lot of these city tracks are narrow, with plenty of opportunities for cars to bunch up, spin out, and send sparks flying — they really are an absolute joy to blast around, and I can’t praise the team enough for making some truly exciting racetracks. They’ve also done an excellent job in making the game look fantastic in adverse weather conditions. Entering the cockpit view while rain realistically lashes down on the windscreen, obscuring your vision, really adds to the experience.

As for the AI, Grid’s Nemesis system makes a return in Grid Legends but with a couple of tweaks. Codemasters has been hard at work further blurring the line between AI and human drivers and making the racing experience feel more realistic. Instead of AI vehicles sticking to the racing line, they’ll veer off to perhaps ram into you if you’ve upset them, or they’ll stick solidly to your bumper while blasting down a straight — it almost feels as if you could be playing against other real-life players, and I simply love it. In my time with the game, I didn’t come across any of the dreaded rubberbanding that plagues so many racing titles. If you’re out in front, you’ll stay out in front, providing you don’t make any mistakes in the bends, which the AI will punish you for. The AI also makes mistakes too. Sometimes cars will spin out when taking a corner, or they’ll clip one another, resulting in a spectacular and deafening crash, where chunks of metal and car parts fly across the screen — it’s terribly exciting. However, this AI can go a bit wonky in places. In a fair few races now, I’ve seen an AI-controlled car just spin out for no reason or turn straight into a wall. This occurred frequently enough for me to jot it down in my notebook, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge issue, and I’m sure Codemasters will patch it down the line. It just felt a little cheap when the cars either in first or second place would suddenly beeline into a crash barrier, leaving the race open for me to steal a win.

Grid Legends

There also seems to be an issue with Grid Legends’ difficulty, especially in the story mode. It’s just far too easy, and even after cranking up the opponent AI to Legend and turning off things like traction control and ABS, I was still winning the story mode races and completing the objectives with ease, so much so that it spectacularly undermines the narrative, with the gameplay not matching up with what’s being said in the cutscenes. The game outlines an objective that you need to achieve before each race, which is usually always finishing higher than a certain position to keep the Seneca dream alive. However, with the game’s difficulty the way it is now, you can easily smash past these objectives and nearly always finish in first place. After winning numerous races, beating my own “racing legend” teammate, Yume Tanaka, I was still being told that I still had to prove my worth as the rookie. Even after humiliating Nathan McKane in multiple races, all anyone could talk about was how well Ravenwest were doing, despite me schooling them in each and every race up until that point. I get that Codemasters haven’t designed a game that takes your results into account and crams that input into the narrative, that would be a monumental undertaking, but it could have at least made the story somewhat more realistic by really putting up a challenge and forcing us into the story’s narrative.

Thankfully, the game’s career mode leaves all of the fluff and pomp from Drive to Glory behind. If you’re looking for pure, unfiltered racing, this is where you want to be. In the career mode, you run your own team and have to work your way through three ranks: Rookie, Semi-Pro, and Pro. There’s also a final set of races called ‘The Gauntlet.’ Each of these ranks features numerous events that you’ll need to complete before you progress to the next rank and unlock more events to compete in and cars to drive. Here there is a good amount of variety in terms of race types and vehicle restrictions, and you can choose what you want to do and when.

Grid Legends

Cars, your teammate, and your team’s mechanic can also be upgraded, with currency won from races and by completing sponsorship objectives. The car upgrades are locked behind a distance driven requirement that you’ll need to meet for each car before unlocking, and while they feel a little basic, they do add an extra layer of depth. So too do the teammate and mechanic upgrades. For example, you can improve your teammate’s ability to drive in the wet or improve your mechanic’s haggling skills so he can get you up to 15% off the purchase price of cars, and you’ll likely need that mechanic upgrade as Codemasters hasn’t been all that generous with the amount of currency it gives out per race. There’s also a Racecraft score that’s awarded after every race, depending on your driving skills. This unlocks player levels, which you’ll need to then unlock further upgrades for your team.

If you’re finding the game a little too easy, even on the highest difficulty settings, you’ll definitely want to check out the online multiplayer, which is where the real challenge resides. For me, the multiplayer worked flawlessly, and I couldn’t fault it. You can either jump straight into the action using Quick Race or use the Session Browser to find a discipline with a vehicle category you prefer. There’s also a race creator where you’re in charge of all the variables, from the race type, location, number of laps, and AI difficulty. You can even level the playing field by turning off vehicle upgrades for all players, which is a nice touch.

Grid Legends

As for the Grid Legends achievements, you’re going to need to grind a bit to unlock later-career-related achievements such as ‘What a Legend,’ but this is nothing compared to Grid 2019’s ‘Around the Globe’ achievement. In an interview with Grid Legends’ senior game designer Paul Lovell, he told us it would take players between 50 and 70 hours to unlock the full 1,000G, and I think that estimate is accurate.

Summary

Grid Legends is one of the cheesiest games I’ve ever played, thanks to its Drive to Glory story mode. Putting that to one side, there is a good racing game here with an excellent AI system (that can go a bit awry), some beautiful and well-designed tracks, and cars that feel great to drive. However, Grid Legends is dragged down a bit by the easily-forgettable story mode, and the game is just far too easy even on the highest difficulty. Still, there is a competent racer here that offers plenty of thrilling moments and enough cars and modes to keep fans of the genre happy.

7 / 10
* Sean spent 22 hours in the driving seat in Grid Legends, playing through the story and career mode, as well as a bit of online multiplayer, on an Xbox Series X. EA provided TA with a review copy of the game.

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