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GRID Legends Review: A story worthy of a Netflix documentary


 

Developer: Codemasters, Swordfish Studios

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Reviewed on: PS5 + Thrustmaster T248

Also available on: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Release Date: 25th Feb 2022

Rating: PG

 

GRID Legends is a game that managed to slip under the radar for a lot of people, with the release of big name titles such as Elden Ring on the same day and Gran Turismo 7 just a week later it’s understandable that this one might have been overlooked. Fortunately for me though I didn't overlook GRID Legends and am extremely grateful.


Inspired by the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive, GRID Legends introduces a story mode called “Driven to Glory”. This very narrative focused story mode features a number of professional actors such as Ncuti Gatwa who you may know from the Netflix hit series “Sex Education”. Ncuti portrays Valentin Manzi, the lead driver for Voltz racing and one of your biggest competitors amongst some similarly accomplished actors. You, the player, takes on the role of a rookie with the Seneca Racing team. With your every move being tracked by a TV crew you get to experience life as an up and coming driver. This includes interviews with some of the fictional stars of the sport. Each interaction reflects your current position through your rise to glory and honestly they all flow on really well and add a layer of emotion and investment into the game. Story mode can be skipped for anyone not interested, however just know that doing so not only means you'll miss out on some really engaging gameplay, but a whole bunch of achievements too if you're a trophy hunter.

Grid Legends is less driving sim and more just a good time, it's more arcade style of gameplay and it's absolutely top notch graphics and presentation really make for a very fun experience overall. Just like Gran Turismo 7, I have played this one mostly with the Thrustmaster T248 steering wheel and while it isn't quite as compatible as GT7 was in terms if the T248’s Telemetry, the gameplay style of Grid Legends makes playing it with a steering wheel even more accessible to even more people. In fact, Even my parents in law who have never gamed in their lives jumped in and both had a bloody good time. My father in law also managed to pull himself from last place in his first race to 3rd about 10 races later. This is a testament to both Grid’s challenging yet easy to master gameplay and the T248’s excellent force feedback which even had my mother in law in absolute awe.


Graphically Grid Legends looks fantastic, there's not quite the attention to detail in terms of vehicle design as games such as GT7, but the actual track design and the environments are easily as good if not in some ways even better. The environments are usually very tightly packed and closed which allows for a lot of detail to be crammed in. Every person in the crowd looks different and has their own animations, every building carefully designed to replicate that of the real world and the level of fidelity on just about everything is almost second to none. One thing in particular that Codemasters have nailed here and an aspect so many racing games get wrong is how fast it feels like you’re going. Like I said, a lot of games either dial this up to a 10 and end up with a blurry mess, or they stroll in at a 2 and you have time to make a cup of tea between corners. Grid Legends gets this spot on.



But it's the gameplay that really makes Grid Legends come alive. The combination of the very compelling story mode, the likable characters and the gameplay itself truly does keep you coming back for more. In fact, in terms of drawing me back in, I'd say that Grid Legends makes me want to play just a little more than most. Especially if I have a limited amount of time, I know I'll get more out of Grid Legends than I will other racing games.

The “Nemesis” feature is back, and if you don't know what this means exactly, basically if you crash into an opponent too many times or cause them to drop out of a podium spot for instance they will take it rather personally and will proceed to make your life a little harder. They will pursue you, they will aggressively block your movements and will basically make it their mission to beat you. This is a feature I like a lot because not only does it make me a much less aggressive driver, but when it does happen it adds yet another level of both difficulty and personality to what could quite easily be another personality-less racing game.

One of the most impressive aspects of Grid Legends are some of the crashes that happen around you. Unlike a lot of racers your opponents in Grid Legends feel surprisingly real, they all seem to have their own personality and so it's not surprising that some of them occasionally get caught up in some of the most epic crashes I've witnessed in a game. From rear-enders to full on flips, I've even witnessed a barrel roll resulting in a car ending up on its roof. The animations are amazing, the damage looks real and when it happens it sends a whole bunch of debris flying across the track with everyone else scrambling to avoid it. It's a very cool feature that breathes even more life and personality into what is an already lively game.


Career mode involves selecting one of the car classes and progressing through each of the 4 difficulty levels. Once complete and all the requirements are met you progress to the next level of races. Doing so earn you in-game credits, these credits are used to upgrade things such as your car, your teammates ability and your mechanic. While these upgrades give the feeling of progression, they are ultimately pretty pointless as the bonuses it gives are very minimal and well your teammate never really benefits from any of the upgrades to their ability. Some of the requirements to unlock new events can be pretty tedious. For example, some require you to unlock certain upgrades etc on specific vehicles which means embarking on a bit of a grind fest and replaying already completed races until you have driven the car enough to unlock the required upgrade levels. I'd have liked some of the story elements from story mode to have carried over as little to the career mode and injected a little bit of life into what ends up being a very repetitive gameplay loop. The customisation, while there appears to be some on the surface, ultimately just like your manager and team mate deems pretty fruitless. Race creator however, is excellent. I feel this is where a lot of the replayability is going to lie with Grid Legends.


There are however a few glaring issues with Grid Legends. The menus are clunky and rather messy to navigate. Things like unlocks and progression are never really explained until you stumble across them in the menus. That brings me to my biggest issue with the game. While a good solid 80% of the time Grid Legends is a fantastic experience, there are certain types of races that really, well, aren’t! For me these are the trucks and 4WD super trucks, see the trucks are slow and cumbersome, much like a truck would be and the 4WD super trucks, well they are extremely floaty awful to control and take all the fun out of an otherwise really fun game. Luckily these types of races are pretty few and far between, but still something I really didn't enjoy. This I know is personal opinion, and there will be people out there that this will be their favorite part of the game, but this review is my honest opinion and that's all I can give. Another issue i ran into was a graphical glitch that occurred after using the flashback feature, see below for what I mean:


Complete List of vehicles in the game: (Alphabetical)

This is the full list of cars within the game on launch, however more will be added throughout the year with future updates and DLC.


Overall, Grid Legends is a lot of fun, it's visually one of the best looking racers to date and almost every aspect of the gameplay and the story mode in particular are quite compelling and immersive. I highly recommend you play this one with a racing wheel if you have the opportunity as it's honestly one of the best games I have found to use with a wheel. If not, don't worry, the controls still feel great with a controller. Grid Legends had me wanting more from about the moment I jumped in. If you want something a little less driving simulator and a little less playing by the rules than GT7 then Grid Legends is as good as it's going to get.



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