Grid 2 certainly looks prettier than the original (which is really saying something), but apparently there’s plenty more happening underneath the hood. “For Grid 2, we’ve brought in TrueFeel Handling, which is all about putting the player at the center of the action,” says Gowing. “We want to make sure that anyone can pick up the controller and get to grips with it within a couple of laps, be powersliding around corners and doing spectacular stuff. But then we’re also very careful when we work with all of our cars to make sure there’s some real depth to them so the hardcore players can really take the time to learn the nuances of their favorite vehicles and really get the most of out the game.”
Fundamentally, this is the same basic approach the series has always taken: simulation meets arcade, challenge meets fun, nuance meets spinning-donuts-in-your-opponent’s-face. My hands-on time certainly bore this philosophy out. The developers lined up three preset events -- a checkpoint race in Chicago, an elimination race in Barcelona, and standard race on the Red Bull Ring in Austria—and handed over the keys. The results were the same each time: My first attempts always ended with slamming my car into a wall or six and failing to hit the next checkpoint (or survive the inevitable round of elimination).
While the team’s efforts are clearly starting to pay dividends, there were a few important elements missing from my demo. For one, I wasn’t able to try one of Grid 2’s new “open road” races, which, unlike the street and circuit races mentioned above, challenge players to sprint from point A to point B in a head-to-head battle. I also wasn’t able to test the franchise’s trademark Flashback mechanic—a real shame since there were a few occasions when rewinding time would have saved my ass—or the previously announced Live Route System, which promises to dynamically alter the layout of certain tracks with each passing lap.
Clearly there’s still plenty yet to learn about Grid 2, especially since its multiplayer component remains entirely under wraps. But for now, I’m just happy to see Codemasters back on track and out of the Dirt.