Grid 2 is a good racing game, but that may not be enough
Grid 2 leans a bit more toward the arcade style than games like Need for Speed: Shift and its own predecessor, Race Driver: Grid, but it's hard to justify spending $50-60 on a new game for a slightly tweaked focus and few improvements over games that are half a decade old.
Grid 2 is a racing game that, unlike many games in the genre, is primarily focused on making sure the player has a great time, rather than obsessing over the tread patterns in each car's tires, or the glossiness of the paint finish.
Grid 2 occupies a stylistic gray area between the classic arcade and simulation racing genres. It doesn't fit neatly into either, and throughout the game players have the opportunity to indulge in all manner of racing styles from sedans in Dubai to million dollar supercar circuits to open road muscle car races.
This is one of the reasons why Grid is one of the most palatable racing series for non-hardcore fans. The developer doesn't ask you to obsess over one single style of racing while tweaking the minute details of your car's performance. Rather, in Grid 2, the focus is on offering depth via a variety of race styles so that you're focused on gameplay rather than navigating complex menus and parts lists.
Many racing fans may love that sort of minutiae, but Grid 2 seems to have been designed with the more casual racing enthusiast in mind. Not quite for the average gamer a la Burnout, and not quite for the hardcore gearhead as in Gran Turismo. It switches from activity to activity to ensure those who are less engaged with the sport of racing can stay interested.
By and large this is a boon for Grid 2 and it makes it a more fun game overall, but it also leads to some confusion at times. For instance, because it's an arcade-styled racer the best strategy is sometimes to ram the living hell out of your opponents. But because it's also a sim-styled racer the narrator will brow-beat you for your choice to play that way, and the realistic damage-modeling will make your car less effective. It has the feel of an arcade racer designed by simulation enthusiasts, and racing is often a series of compromises between the two styles.
Back in time
The “Flashback” mechanic allows you to rewind time in a few instances per race, whenever you see fit. Don't worry about wrecking on the last turn of a long race, your performance up until that point won't be wasted.
You simply press “Y” on the Xbox 360 controller and you can select the exact time you want to resume the race. It's a tremendous time-saver, and helps you learn more about the racing system as you can see instantly how changing your approach angle or speed can affect the turn, or how an entire disaster can be averted if you just move your car a few inches to the left to cut off your opponent's passing path.
It's not exactly a new idea, and it seems to be spreading through the racing genre, but it's still welcome.
The online mode in Grid 2 is just as, if not more, extensive than the offline single-player mode, and you can spend hours leveling up without repeating too many race styles. It even indulges in some different game play focuses as well, as you're given more free reign to upgrade your cars' parts and performance.
While you gain the ability to improve your car and play against live competition, you lose one of the prime factors that makes the offline mode such a success: the ability to rewind. Of course, it'd be a disaster if every player in an online match could reverse time at will, but that is perhaps my favorite aspect of the single player game. Without it, the online races are left feeling a bit standard; you've played these online modes in this style before.
Grid 2 is the sort of game just about anybody will have a blast with in two years when they buy it on steam for $5-10. It's likely you already have several-year-old racing games in your collection which rival Grid 2. This is a high-quality, competent, polished racing game, but it's hard to find a reason to justify the price for a new game when the shelves are stocked with titles that can say the same thing.