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October 2022

GRID Legends

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Codemasters
Release Date: Feb. 25, 2022

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'GRID Legends'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on March 17, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

GRID Legends is a high-stakes driving experience that combines thrilling motorsport action, incredible race variety and an immersive story that puts the player at the heart of the action.

Buy GRID Legends

With so many racing games out there, many compete to be known as the most realistic. At the extremes, it tends to make racing games feel almost sterile in their precision; for example, the Forza Motorsport series is realistic, but I wouldn't call it a particularly joyous affair. GRID Legends hits a sweet spot that few games in the last few years have managed to do. It's a focused, fun motorsport romp that rewards skill but leaves plenty of room to let itself breathe.

The marquee element of the game is Driven to Glory story mode. Heavily inspired by Netflix's "Drive to Survive" series that covers the real-world action of Formula 1 racing, Driven to Glory is touted as an underdog tale where you play as Driver 22. The story is presented in the style of a modern documentary (again, inspired by "DTS") but is portrayed using live-action cut scenes with real actors. The documentary covers Seneca Racing, a race team making its way up the grid thanks in no small part to the skill of Driver 22.

In the beginning, you are an unsigned driver hoping to get the attention of Marcus Ado, who is the young team principal of Seneca Racing. Seneca's star driver in Yume Tanaka is none too thrilled about the team's tendency to bring you onboard, but the lead engineer Ajeet Singh is happy that you aren't putting their cars into barriers over and over, like some of their previous drivers have done. As the story progresses, you'll spark rivalries with drivers on other teams, including Nathan McKane, who has been a character in the GRID series for a long time.

The use of actual actors works extremely well in this context. It's overly dramatic at times but not at the expense of the actors staying in character. You'll learn to appreciate Yume even though she certainly had her doubts about Driver 22, and you'll learn to hate the arrogant jerk that is McKane. The cut scenes are used frequently within the story mode, sometimes before and after a chapter, and they move the story along. It works much better than other "story modes," such as F1 2021's Braking Point mode, as it allows for the racing gameplay to proceed without trying to tell a story at the same time.

It is also relatively unique from a modern context. Most racing games stray from telling a story, and the ones that do rarely use live action to do it. While previous attempts in the Need for Speed franchise have done so, they can't help but almost wink at the camera while doing so. The difference in approach is that GRID Legends takes itself seriously, as do the actors in their performances.

The world of GRID encompasses a variety of racing disciplines and types of vehicles, and the drivers must perform well in all of them to reach the "GRID Gauntlet" and ultimately become the champion. Sure, there's basic circuit racing, and you can do so in everything from sporty sedans to open-wheel race cars. The game isn't afraid to stretch its wings and pit the GRID racers against each other in stadium super trucks that fend off others in electric race cars or best each other in the elimination mode, which eliminates the last two positions from the race every so often until only one remains.

The bouncy nature fuels a lot of the joy that you can get out of GRID Legends. Play a few events of one type with one category of vehicles, and keep things fresh by jumping into something completely different. The career mode has many options. Your credits and other progress carry over between all modes, but the career mode is where you can focus on leveling up certain cars (via driven miles) to unlock better upgrades.

If playing alone isn't your thing, you never really have to. The story mode is only playable solo, but you can let your career mode races be open, so friends or the public can join. You can also open the session browser and find a session to join, including ones that are already in progress. If you join one that's already running, you take over one of the AI cars in its current position in the race. Even if you don't own a suitable car for the session, you can "lease" one, with the downside being that you only gain about half of the credits you otherwise would.

To its credit, the AI does a good job, both at padding out the 22-car races and in seeming competent. AI drivers stray from the racing line, especially as they try to pass one another, and they'll occasionally make mistakes. The AI occasionally suffers failures, from a blown engine that sends smoke trailing behind it to colossal losses of control that end with the vehicle flipping over and skidding off the track. There are times when it seems obvious the game went, "You know what, I'm going to cause some drama for no reason … here!" but the moments always create some enjoyable drama.

The nemesis system is back, and it affects how AI drivers treat you. In general, the AI defends its positions but is professional about it. Some contact here and there is OK, but slam into one, and it may become a nemesis. Nemesis drivers blatantly shove you onto the grass, aggressively block your attempts to pass, or initiate harder contact. They maintain this state even between races, but they cool down after a while. It gives you a reason to avoid unnecessary contact even if playing alone, since racing against rivals is tougher, since they can be unpredictably aggressive.

Car behavior is somewhat simplified compared to what a racing sim can be, but the game doesn't feel arbitrarily "easy." There are a variety of assists that can be turned off to make the experience more rewarding, but even with all of them turned off, GRID Legends isn't as punishing as it could be. The game has no problem making it easier to control throttle-induced oversteer as you exit a corner in some rear-wheel drive monster, which is all in the name of fun, but it also no issues with you messing up your apex and losing traction into a corner. It's motorsport with an eye toward realism, but it very much subscribes to the "rule of cool."

There's a duality to this that's tough to pin down, and that's part of the game's charm. It's not a strictly serious racing game, since you get points toward your vehicle level for making light contact, you get points for going up on two wheels — and really, the fact that you get points at all. It takes itself somewhat seriously when it comes to car handling; you can feel differences in elevation changes through a corner or if you hit a curb with an imbalanced car. The only game that comes close to this balance between fun and a semblance of realism is the Forza Horizon series, and at times, I'd argue that GRID Legends does it better despite what the arcade-like presentation would lead you to assume.

There are times when I want to play a racing game that requires a wheel and incredibly nuanced changes to my car's setup. GRID Legends provides a counterpoint to that style, and it's a ball of fun that never feels like it loses focus on being a competitive racing game. It's a racing game that isn't afraid to become a spectacle, while at the same time managing to take itself seriously in the areas that matter. The story mode is the flashiest, but the game remains just as compelling in any other mode. GRID Legends is a great excuse to have some automotive fun.

Score: 9.2/10

Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 2070 Super, Xbox One Controller

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