GRID Legends is the newest entry in the long-running series that has roots in the gaming industry as far back as 1998. While the later games adopted the GRID moniker, the series itself, developed by prolific racing games studio Codemasters, has existed for a little over two decades. The games existed in the late 90s and the early 2000s as TOCA (Touring Car Championship).
Although the series has been around long enough, I personally wasn’t quite into them as I preferred the simulation-style experience offered by games such as Gran Turismo or even Codemaster‘s F1 series. So essentially, GRID Legends was my introduction to the series and over time, I began to appreciate the veneer of a sim-style racer but with the core mechanics of an arcade racer.
To some, the game’s commitment to the arcade feel might be a little off-putting, to others, it could be the reason they pick this game over others that might be a little too inaccessible. GRID Legends exist in a grey area between the Hollywood-style arcade games a la Need for Speed and a simulation-heavy experience such as Codemaster’s F1 or Asseto Corza. Depending on how you like your racers, GRID Legends can be a fun, casual experience that has a lot to offer than it might initially appear.
GRID Legends – The Sim-Cade Racing Game for Everyone
In my mind, GRID Legends is perfect for players who have enjoyed arcade racing games for the most part but are also intrigued by the simulation aspect of racers. Players might want to take the action from illegal street racing to professional, sanctioned racing where they can manage aspects of their car, team, as well as to conduct some off-track business. GRID Legends caters exactly to that niche as it provides players with plenty of accessible, simple, and fun arcade racing experience without bogging it down with complicated racing terms and tasking the players with the tuning and alignment of their cars.
All of that sounds pretty standard and vanilla at this point and from what I’ve been able to see from past games in the series, the games have been providing exactly that – so what exactly does GRID Legends have to offer that the last couple of games hasn’t been able to?
For one, the game shines the brightest in perhaps the unlikeliest of places – the story mode. This caught me off-guard, but I quickly learnt from my research of the older games, Codemasters have always had a strong focus on storytelling and off-track drama when it comes to this series and it looks like they delivered again.
Story – Drive to Survive
F1 has always been one of the most popular motorsports in the world, attracting an audience of millions that tune in each year to watch the best drivers in the world duke it out across the world in a variety of circuits. While that has been the case for a large part of its history, 2019 saw a major boom in terms of the audience numbers as Formula 1 shot right into the mainstream and became part of the pop culture conversation in a big way.
This was the result of the hit Netflix documentary – Drive to Survive. It was clear that the documentary was responsible for a large portion of the new audience but its influence can also be felt all over GRID Legends. The story is presented as a Drive to Survive-style documentary where the filmmakers interview drivers, team principals and cover all sorts of off-track drama.
For one, this adds a level of immersion that a lot of players might find refreshing as it doesn’t ham it up as much as certain racing games can with their live-action cutscenes (we’re looking at you, Need for Speed). Codemasters accomplished a similar feat with their Story Mode in F1 2021, called ‘Braking Point’, but even that wasn’t done with the same finesse as GRID Legends.
The story is extremely entertaining and contains what I presume were callbacks and throwbacks to previous games in the series as I could tell certain character reveals meant more than I could understand. Perhaps fans of the older games will find it doubly enjoyable as they would have complete context as to what it all meant in the grander scheme of the series.
In terms of gameplay in the Story, it’s pretty standard, the Story mode exists to ease players into the game – introduce them to the mechanics and different kinds of races. For all intents and purposes, it is a tutorial mode that doesn’t do a lot of hand-holding as the only agency players have in the mode extends to the race itself and some tuning before each race.
A major highlight of the Story Mode is the performances of the acting talent involved. Virtually all actors stepped up to the plate and did a great job, however, it was Ncuti Gatwa from the hit Netflix series Sex Education, who managed to steal the show and provided the most amount of entertainment and memorable scenes. His character brought a ton of levity and playfulness to the story and his effortless charisma was one of the bigger reasons I dropped my usual cynicism and distaste of story modes in racing games.
A large part of why I love racing games with no story mode is that it allows me to craft my own stories in my head – take my team to the top in my own way. Imagine scenarios and on-track rivalries and resolve them in my head myself. However, GRID Legends was a surprising anomaly and came through with a Story mode that I enjoyed and might even revisit sometime just to see Ncuti Gatwa’s scenes.
Gameplay and Performance
GRID Legends is one of the prettier games I’ve played on my PS5 to this point and the weather effects certainly make for some cool photos and even gameplay opportunities. The lack of a photo mode really was a missed opportunity here because the attention to detail when it comes to the tracks and the lighting of it all was truly outstanding and deserve a lot of credit.
The game ran at a steady 50-60 FPS with virtually no framerate drops or texture pop-ins, however, there were a couple of hiccups in my playthrough. On a certain track, I think Moscow, the texture on the steering wheel of my Super Truck seemed to disappear and reappear for no apparent reason. Additionally, the shadows occasionally were rendered in super low resolutions, but it didn’t happen too often for them to become a major inconvenience.
Something I look forward to with a lot of excitement when it comes to racing games is how the developers implement haptic feedback to the controllers. Suffice to say, Dualsense’s Adaptive Triggers and Haptic Feedback technology provide plenty of opportunities for developers to experiment with to create a unique gameplay experience for players.
GRID Legends did a decent job at that – especially when it comes to braking. Braking abruptly into a fast corner relays strong feedback to the L2 button and pushes back against the player’s finger, truly creating a sense of loss of control for the player. The accelerator functioned in a pretty standard way with nothing really of note.
Easily one of the most standout aspects of the presentation that coincides with gameplay is the visual damage the vehicles take during the race. Super Trucks, especially, show signs of damage the best and seeing car parts barely hanging on in a steep corner is something I don’t think I ever got tired of looking at.
In terms of gameplay variety – there’s a lot to enjoy here, with a Race Creator that allows players to create their own races and pick things such as Discipline, Class, and Vehicles. The Race Creator is fun for a while, but eventually, players will move on to the Career or the Online Multiplayer.
Online Multiplayer has a clever trick up its sleeve as selecting Quick Match will drop players into the middle of an ongoing race – letting them take over an AI driver in the process. The player’s success isn’t determined by their final position – but rather by how much progress from their initial starting point was they able to make. This makes Multiplayer both quick as well as fair.
While the gameplay feels smooth, responsive, and most importantly for an arcade racer, fast and action-packed – GRID Legends is nothing players haven’t already seen before. While sure, there is quite a bit of off-track activities such as levelling up your Partner or Engineer or getting Sponsors, they aren’t really as in-depth as something seen in F1. GRID Legends, as opposed to trying out a lot of different things at surface level, chooses to stick to only a few modes, but sadly, even they aren’t really explored in depth as much as players would like.
Customising and levelling up your team feels fun for a while, but there really isn’t a lot of places to go once players have cleared the Rookie or Semi-Pro stages. It all feels pretty standard as it doesn’t look like Codemasters is looking to take any risks. GRID Legends, apart from its fantastic Story mode, lacks a real sense of identity. It isn’t quite comfortable with the arcade-racer tag as it tries to also be a sim-experience with the aforementioned team-related activities and stats, but its gameplay and lack of any real progression let it down in that department.
GRID Legends is a real treat, but only in parts, as it doesn’t quite excel in any one category apart from the Story mode. Even that isn’t quite enough for the game to be a complete knockout as there’s only so many times a story can impress you with its charm and earnest presentation. Visually and sonically, the game is pretty awesome to look at and listen to, but I am willing to bet that it won’t quite be as technically impressive as something like Gran Turismo 7, which comes out next week, and is priced just as much as GRID Legends.
Final Score – GRID Legends
GRID Legends gets a lot of things right – the fun, arcade gameplay and charming storytelling – but fails to separate itself from the pack of its contemporaries. It boasts of features that look like they could be interesting but ultimately lack any real depth and pale in comparison to what its competitors are doing.
In many ways, the game feels like Codemaster’s attempt at providing players with a pro-circuit alternative to Need for Speed since that franchise seems to have abandoned series’ like Pro Street (a personal favourite). The game, despite its earnest attempt at variety and ambition, ultimately does not offer much in terms of variety or uniqueness.
The game is still a pretty fun introduction to the GRID series and perhaps could even blossom into a couch multiplayer game if Codemasters were to implement the fan-favourite feature. I can see this game becoming a party-favourite should the developers ramp up the arcade-ness of it all and added features such as a couch co-op splitscreen mode as the game is simply begging for all kinds of carnage to take place.
The game is available for purchase now on PS4,PS5, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts and reviewed on a PS5.
GRID LegendsRs 3,999
What Is Good?
- A fantastic Story Mode that is earnestly charming.
- Great visual car damage and effects.
- Clever multiplayer matchmaking.
What Is Bad?
- Lack of in-depth mechanics.
- Team customization and progression is surface-level.
- Not enough fresh ideas.
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