GRID Legends is the fifth mainline entry in the racing game series from developer Codemasters that puts a serious uptick in graphical acuity and overall car control, but the racing game remains exactly as advertised, a racing game.
The overall improvements over the fourth entry in the series, simply titled Grid are graphical, and overall gameplay improvements that make the driving feel better and more worthwhile, while upping the ‘action’ during the repetitive gameplay. Simply put, GRID Legends is a racing game, for racing game fans.
There is a story mode that kicks off with the Grid staple bastard character, Nathan McKane (Callum McGowan), racing dirty and forcing someone to crash at the forefront of the introduction, causing a huge multicar pileup that somehow doesn’t sideline the unnamed player character called ‘Driver 22.’ This is a lot to digest, but it is a solid way to dive into a racing game, a huge event that excites the player, and excitement was achieved. McKane is immediately thrown into the antagonist role, as in an interview with the real actor showed his disregard for playing by the rules, and for others safety. This is the most exciting part of GRID Legends.
There is a notable cast of acting talent here, as the storyline is not mere digitized character models, each cutscene is played by actual actors in the fictional GRID Legends setting. Award winning actor, Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) plays a rival racer Valentin Manzi, and a whole band of actors fill the narrative out with solid, believable performances.
“GRID Legends doesn’t hold the players hand by introducing typical racing game controls…”
GRID Legends doesn’t hold the players hand by introducing typical racing game controls, RT is still accelerate, LT is still brake, etc. This is a good thing, lengthy tutorials can destroy interest for the player, and this title already started with one destructive sequence. The gameplay in GRID Legends is very smooth and works incredibly well. Watching other drivers spin-out uncontrollably is also very entertaining and gives the player a helpful easy pass during some races. With up to 22 cars being presented at once in any given race, there is real turmoil, and smashing other drivers gives you experience, which is cool.
What is uncool, however, is that at the end of these races, you incur ‘costs’ that take away your in-game currency earned due to how much damage you cause to other vehicles, which takes away some of the fun of hitting others. GRID Legends doesn’t take itself too seriously and lacks realism in aspects—this is a good thing—to throwing realistic cost penalties at the player for playing fun ‘bumper cars’ with CPU drivers. A serious buzzkill. Another notable buzzkill is to play online at all, an EA account is necessary. A player cannot utilize online services without an EA account, which could deter some players from accessing more of the title’s offerings.
There are many race types: Circuit, Drift, Electric, Elimination, Head to Head, Multi-Class, Time Attack, and Time Trial. My favorite of these types is easily the Electric, there are boost gates to driver through which allow the player to utilize an arcade-like boost during racing that gives an edge, and the sense of speed is greatly improved while it happens. My least favorite is the Time Trial based types. Small errors of driving off track, which is sometimes difficult to discern, voids your entire lap time unforgivingly. This can waste precious time, and just feels bad.
“The multi-class type is also not fun.”
The multi-class type is also not fun. Slower cars start WAY ahead of faster cars, and the player must wait 50 seconds to start driving before the race. The 50 seconds feels like 50 minutes, as you just sit in a queue with driver names on the screen, and a timer that somehow makes the wait feel longer, basically being hungry and waiting for a microwave to finish, just worse.
There are ‘Car-PG’ elements here, as a player drives a certain car multiple times, they can ‘level up’ and unlock more upgrades for the vehicle which improves performance. All the typical customization options are also here, allowing the player to customize their vehicle how they see fit which is a great addition. Confusing game menu design might frustrate the player into even attempting this though, I really dislike the menus.
The career mode feels repetitive. Each race lasts what feels like an eternity—not to mention the truck themed races—and the game suffers from poor AI difficulties which could be improved with a dynamic setting. Normal and Hard are far too easy, but the difficulty one notch up becomes unbearable. There is NO music in career mode. This is exceptionally good for those who like car noises, I’m unfortunately not one of those. I prefer soundtracks in racing games, and the story is provided with one. It makes no sense why there isn’t music in Career Mode also.
GRID Legends is a racing title that does what it sets out to do, be a racing title. There aren’t many notable inclusions to deviate from the typical racing formula, while also feeling cumbersome during gameplay. However, the story inclusion is a worthy attachment that gives the player emotion during each race, and makes the player really want to stick it to Nathan McKane. A good racing title for racing fans, but just a little too repetitive for its own good.