Almost everything is invented in driving games, but GRID Legends indeed brings something that we don’t usually see in simulators, arcades, or hybrids somewhere between the focus on the human part. Yes, some Need For Speed has sought a more cinematic style, the Driver series combined open-world missions well with speed, but they are exceptions. GRID Legends has made it its star mode, seeking to equate the role of the vehicles with that of the drivers and teams that make up the team. It is not a revolution, but Codemasters achieves an approach that can attract players who are not used to playing the genre.
Rivalries that make sparks fly
GRID Legends is a fairly addictive arcade game that generally rewards aggressive driving. You can take risks in curves, almost without stepping on the brake except in the most closed angles, and in extreme cases, you can use the skids. Behaviour must be nuanced according to the class of vehicle we control –although in general, the cars are more stable than in GRIDof 2019-, a pointer racing car is not the same as electric cars, different models and physics have been created, and for example, going down a ramp with a truck is always spectacular -and rewards with points-, but care must be taken not to do it halfway because it’s easy to lose control; with a few laps we will learn the weight of the different disciplines and the limits of the machines. But be careful, with several competitors that rise to 22 cars on the track, on circuits that are normally somewhat narrow, any accident will involve several cars – and therefore multiply the number of enemies.
GRID Legends offers the usual speed game modes, which we’ll talk about later, but it’s definitely worth starting with its campaign, To Glory, which we saw not long ago. It is inspired by the documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive and deals with the problems or rivalries of the drivers in this competition, among which is obviously the player, a promising young driver, Driver 22. It has been shot on a documentary basis –with the screen technology of The Mandalorian -simulating interviews with the actors, scenes in the paddock, the training sessions, the offices… In short, all that tension is normally sensed in competitions such as Formula 1, but the public does not see it. Codemasters had already done something like this with F1 2021 ‘s Breaking Point, and it becomes an interesting way to start rolling in the game.
It’s not that the level of interpretation is for a prize. Still, in practice, this supposes a succession of missions interspersed by real image videos where our driver and the rest of the grid show their friction inside and outside the race. Connected to this is the Nemesis system because the rivals have their personalities, and driving recklessly or colliding with them on the track creates enmities that are then reflected in the level of aggressiveness – for example, that car tries to block our path more often-. In short, Codemasters wants to overtake a car in the race to be more than advancing a position: it is to beat a driver with a name, surname and face that we know from the story mode. The only catch is that the story doesn’t adapt to different outcomes; if you are asked to finish in 10th place, and you are first, your team members may continue to doubt your skills because that is the filmed story.
We liked this mode -more than the story itself- for its function as an introduction to the world of GRID. Throughout their missions, we will be asked for an objective, for example, to stay ahead of such a position or pilot, participating in races of all kinds: the classics, elimination -every few seconds the last players are disqualified-, end to end – instead of closed circuits-, etc., and we will also be testing some of the more than 100 vehicles in his garage, ranging from sports cars to trucks, single-seaters, electric models or hypercars, on the more than 130 tracks, with and without modifications -ramps, turbos-. Once the story is completed, there is not much interest in replayability, as can happen in the story mode of a fighting game or FIFA, but that does not mean that it will entertain us for eight or ten hours.
But there is more. The race creator makes it easy for us to edit the competition with the circuit settings we want, the type of discipline – drifts, by teams, different combined classes, Electric, time trial or Time Trial, the weather conditions -day, sunset, night and the variants sunny, rainy and snowy-, number of vehicles, type of damage, activate or deactivate Flashback -go back a few seconds- and other settings, to play individually or publish it online. And once we look for a more serious challenge, we have a professional career, with a series of events to unlock, in different categories of increasing difficulty where to start the trajectory of our team. A vehicle store accompanies this to buy with the credits – first, you have to unlock the possibility – and a modest adjustment system to adapt the car to our liking; Nobody expects the options of a true simulator, change in the gear ratio, dampers, brake force distribution, springs and stabilizer bars, or the improvement of power, acceleration, braking and handling in a series of levels.
The virtual currency can also be invested in improvements for our mechanic –cheaper repair costs, savings on car purchases, more points for victories…- and the teammate –racing strategies, improvement in efficiency, reduction of errors -, a somewhat basic personalization of our cars -predefined vinyl galleries- and sponsorship with a series of objectives to be met.
The online mode, with cross-play, includes quick match, session search, session creation, or weekly and monthly events to keep the community hooked for a while. There is even an exciting option that we already told you about, the hop-in to enter the races of other players that are already underway, replacing one of the artificial intelligence pilots. We did not see any major problems beyond a vehicle that abruptly changed position in our games, but it was peculiar.
Speaking of the circuits, Codemasters brings us a wide catalogue of real tracks –Brands Hatch, Mount Panorama, Red Bull Ring, Sepang, Suzuka…- and others inspired by the street layout of various cities around the world, including Barcelona, London, Moscow, Dubai, Paris, Chicago, San Francisco, the port of Yokohama… We have a weakness for racing in urban locations, so we really enjoyed the GRID Legends setting, which expands on what was seen in the previous GRID. Although the lighting – slightly revised from GRIDof 2019- or the climatic effects are not the most powerful that we have seen in the genre, the developer’s work acquired in 2021 by Electronic Arts is remarkably high. Similar to the last game, yes, but this time with versions for more powerful consoles that will at least look a little better.
It is not a game that tends to pure realism, it is more gimmicky than anything else, and it works thanks to the hustle and bustle of the competition, the fireworks, and the life that an audience so close to the race exudes, at least on the urban tracks. We have played the new generation version. There are not many buts in technical matters; it even has a 120 fps mode on compatible televisions and almost non-existent loading times. In the specific case of PlayStation 5, it makes good use of the adaptive triggers of the DualSense to simulate the touch of the pedals and locks, although the haptic vibration is more discreet.
The music of the races wants to be epic, but we will not find licensed themes or memorable music; It helps add to the drama of the story mode races as long as you have a tolerance for these tunes that get a bit tiresome at times. To complete the immersion, we have the radio comments about the course of the race, the rivals that we are pissing off or the objective of the mission, so GRID Legends constantly reminds us that motor competition is not only about choosing the most powerful car, there is also a human factor.
GRID Legends is promoted as the biggest of the saga -in terms of content- and although to say that it is the best since the days of TOCA Touring Car Championship may be too much, at least it is a very entertaining arcade game with more variety than any other GRID, a leap in quality and quantity compared to what we saw in 2019; uses the base of its predecessor to polish various aspects, add more circuits and modes.
The sensation of speed, the good handling of the vehicles, the cross-play or the intention to erase the border between the creator of races and the multiplayer are enough reasons for arcade fans to celebrate their return. In the end, issues as promoted as the story mode or the return of the Nemesis system are important, but they could not sustain the rest of the sections if the gameplay or number of tracks did not measure up. And luckily, GRID Legends breathes new life into the license and finds its personality.
We prepared this review with a digital review copy of the title provided by Electronic Arts.