GRID 2: The sequel's finally confirmed - first play, first details
8th Aug 2012 | 07:00
The rough-and-ready suspension physics from
If nothing else, it's testament to the benefits of studio specialisation. Now exclusively a racing studio, Codemasters has the luxury of being able to pour their entire resources into their powerful Ego Engine, improving on it little by little with each game that passes. But if that makes
On the contrary, it's one of the prettier racers out there - even when it's taking in the relatively uninspiring sights of downtown Chicago. Rays of light - both natural and manmade - bounce from skyscraper to skyscraper onto the roof of your car as it screams past, using a similar advanced lighting technique as seen in EA's benchmark-setting
The visual effect is so sharp it temporarily blinded us midway through our second race, which took place on a sunsoaked Californian coastal highway. This led to us getting up close and personal with a roadside barrier - unfortunate, yes, but let's turn our mishap into a positive. The collision allowed us to take a closer look at Grid 2's much-improved car deformation physics.
Lead programmer Gary Buckley explained to us that Grid 2 calculates its deformations using what it calls 'target morphs' - that is to say, they've extensively researched how real-world bonnets and bumpers crumple under pressure, and they've extrapoloated this info into a guideline parameter which the game uses to ensure the in-game cars deform authentically upon impact.
Although the dynamic lighting is impressive, it's impossible to know how much of it will trickle down onto consoles, since the version we played was running on earth-destroyingly powerful PC. One brief demo showed off what could be achieved on high-end AMD processor - we were shown an overhead view of a starting grid at nighttime, with over fifty artificial lights dancing and flicking across the road, each individual inch of tarmac lighting and dimming dynamically as the lights hovered over nearby - stunning attention to detail if you're looking out for it, but hardly something you'll appreciate as you tear by at 120mph. Or even 30mph, come to think of it.
For all its good looks, it's on the track that Grid 2 wows. If you're not already a fan of Dirt/Grid's forgiving, front-heavy handling model, then Grid 2 won't convert you to the Church of Codemasters - despite its mega-serious exterior, Grid 2 is still firmly an arcade-sim hybrid at heart and will find itself drawing more comparisons with
Instead, it's the delicate fine-tuning that makes Grid 2 purr. The driver AI in particular catches the eye - the CPU drivers each boast three attributes from a pool of 60 which individualise them from the pack - these attributes range from aggression to precision, from reactive speed to their cornering ability.
They're also hard-wired to prioritise against their most immediate threat for track position (be that in front of or behind them), and their adaptive behaviour programming attempts to gauge your driving style and react to it in a way that best plays to their strengths. Again it's subtle stuff when you're actually in the heat of a race, of course - but we noticed that some drivers were inherently braver than others and we met with the most success when we took the time to 'feel out' the other drivers before attempting an overtake.
The original Race Driver: Grid had a thriving online community and Grid 2 will build upon that success, this time bolstered by Codemasters' Racenet social media hub, which debuted in this year's Dirt: Showdown in beta form, but will finally shed its L plates in time for Grid 2's release next year.
Since Grid 2's multiplayer portion is completely segregated from the single-player game, with its own separate XP and car unlock system, it's expected that the multiplayer structure will revolve heavily around Racenet, with weekly and monthly tournaments and time trial challenges providing an engaging framework that Codemasters hope will encourage players to keep coming back for more.
And what of Flashback? Grid is after all the series that invented the now commonplace rewind function. Codemasters promise Grid 2 will 'reinvent' Flashback, but how they would not say, and the feature was disabled during our session. At least having to live with our collisions gave us plenty of opportunity to check out the car deformation physics. Promising stuff, then, even if a lot of the game is still being kept back.