The rough-and-ready suspension physics from Colin McRae: Dirt 3. The state-of-the-art aerodynamics and tyre/surface interaction from F1 2012. The exhilarating speed and flair for the dramatic from the original Race Driver: Grid. Like a rich boy racer, Codemasters is assembling their next big racing hopeful by plucking only the most powerful custom parts off the shelf.
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 Race Driver: Grid 2 sound somewhat of a Frankengame, then rest assured that as we found out during our recent hands-on session at Codemasters' Southam HQ, it's been put together so slickly you won't be able to see the stitches.
This is one of the prettiest racers out there...
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 Battlefield 3. The reflections form a convincing shimmer effect that leaves your car looking as though it belongs in the world it inhabits - a trick many racing games still struggle with to this day.
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.