We give our thoughts on the latest racing title to come from the British studio, Codemasters.
When I got to try out Grid Legends and its story mode a month ago, I was not at all impressed. Sure, the graphics were nicely done, but the driving controls and the feel of the cars was almost catastrophic. It was a big disappointment that everything felt so jerky. It was like driving bumper cars on any amusement park and constantly being hit by someone. Fast forward a month and the review code landed in my lap. I did not get very excited and thought that I would have to suffer for several more hours. But to my great surprise, Codemasters has improved the game a lot since then. Sure, the driving feel is still not where it should be and not near, for example, Forza Horizon 5, but the biggest issues from the preview-build are erased. The problem that remains, however, is that it is still not very fun to drive. It's not realistic enough for me to be able to get that simulation feeling, and it's not as fun as an arcade racer should be either.
There's another thing I do not really understand and that is how Codemasters has succeeded so well with small details and at the same time failed with important others. They have managed to get the spectators on the side of the track really well made. The audience does not feel as static as it can in some games, but there are spectators who hang over the barrier to cheer on the drivers. These are the little things that make me happy. At the same time Codemasters has failed with such a thing as the way water splashes on the cars when you drive in the rain. If you are placed right behind another car in drizzle, you will not see any extra water on the windshield if you choose to drive from the cockpit camera view. In fact, it hardly splashes at all. Driving in pools of water makes no difference - at all. And I was quite disappointed with what it's like to drive in the snow. There is snow on the side of the road, but it never snows more than a few small flakes that slowly float to the ground. Driving in the snow also does not cause wheel marks, with feels like a racing game from 2003. It's sad when the different weather (sun, cloudy, rain, storm or snow) actually looks very good. The rain is pretty, the snow on the side of the road looks great, but it's that little extra thing that is missing.
This is an ad:
Where Codemasters should receive great praise is for how they have designed the various tracks. We are offered 22 different ones where all have many different variants (over 130). It is the city tracks that impress me the most. Places like London, Moscow, Paris and Chicago are all very nicely done. If you have been to any of these cities, you will immediately recognise yourself. "I've walked that street!", "Oxford Street, now I want to shop at Primark" and "Look, Golden Gate Bridge!" is certainly something that people will think. In addition, the different versions of the city tracks are different enough that it should not just feel like I am running a shorter version of the same track. Two races in a row in the story mode were in Moscow and the courses were totally different from each other. And that's probably where the developers have put 90% of all their collected effort, the story mode.
They did a very good job with the story mode "Braking Point" in F1 2021 and have tried to use their magic wand here as well. Instead of computer-generated characters, they have chosen to invest in real actors in what is laid out as a type of documentary with the same dramatic feel as the very popular Netflix show "Drive To Survive". It all starts with a big crash where my character is involved and then time is winded back to show everything that led to this. From being a nobody who gets a contract with Seneca Racing just days before the premiere because their second driver chose to quit. Seneca is a team with big problems and that changes of course when Driver 22, as he is called, comes into the picture. But problems arise from time to time and the story is okay. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a hard time feeling particularly involved in the story. In F1 2021 we played as a driver who had clear character traits and personality. Driver 22 is never visible. He / she never talks. Never shows their face. It's hard to feel anything for such a character. The actors in general do a pretty good job, but on the whole the 36-chapter story does not reach Braking Point's level of quality.
If you want to play something else, there is also a career mode. The content is good with many different types of competition, from electric cars to touring cars. We start at the rookie level where there are eight different categories. Complete enough goals to unlock Semi-pro and then Pro and so on in 250 career events. However, it feels like race after race after race without any personality. I know many will like it, but I would have liked to have seen something extra. You can create your own racing teams logo and car look. However, it is not possible to then use this look with decals and colours on all cars, you have to go into each car and change the look manually.
This is an ad:
Multiplayer consists of up to 22 drivers online where you can create the race you want, if you do not want to jump into a lobby. 99 laps on Strada Alpina in snow? Sure, go right ahead. Friends can also jump in and ride with you in career mode with a hop-in feature. In fact, we can jump in the middle of a race your friend is running. Do you see a friend online and think they should get some competition? You can then jump in the middle of the race and take over a computer-controlled driver. Multiplayer is cross-platform. Grid Legends has got a lot better in just one month and it's really impressive in itself. But the question is how I would have felt if I had only played now and not before. I probably would have thought that the game as a whole is quite mediocre where there are pieces that are really impressive, but where the driving feeling is not good enough to keep me here for long. In the end... Codemasters are so much better than this.
6 / 10
Nice environments. Story mode is solid. Great variety of cars and car classes.
Mediocre driving feel and physics. Stale weather effects than feel old. Boring AI. Lacks variation in career mode.