Wherever you look, the motorsport scene is seemingly sewn up. Xbox has Forza, PlayStation has Gran Turismo and PC has all manner of hardcore racing sims. Hell, Nintendo Switch has got the Gear.Club franchise too – although the less said about that, the better. But that doesn’t mean the racing kings at Codemasters haven’t been able to make a name for themselves across the formats and over the years it has been them who have created some of the best of all the racing series’: F1, DIRT, GRID. Surely the latest in that latter franchise, GRID Legends, will therefore be a hit?
Well, if it’s on-track action you are here for you’re going to be in for a treat with GRID Legends. That;’s not to say it’s the perfect racer, and there are certainly bits and bobs that hold it back, but on the whole, it’s a more than acceptable offering from those who do racing best.
GRID Legends is the latest in the ever-increasingly long line of racers from Codemasters and whilst a few new ideas are being implemented this time around, for the most part, if you’ve played a Codies racer, you’ll know what to expect in Legends.
It plays host to a ton of game modes, it covers even more vehicle classes, it’s got some nice solid online multiplayer opportunities and, in all, there’s enough to keep you racing for weeks and months on end.
The new story is the main focus in what is on offer here though, most clearly inspired by the brilliant Netflix and F1 documentary series of Drive to Survive. Driven to Glory (yep, perhaps a less similar title would have been better) is a decent little attempt at providing some narrative to a genre that doesn’t necessarily need a narrative.
Playing out across thirty-six chapters of racing, each split with brilliantly filmed cutscenes highly reminiscent of Drive to Survive, it sees you joining the rookie team of Seneca Racing, as their latest driver – Driver 22. From there, the usual glitz and glamour of motorsport plays out as you look to prove yourself to your team owner, your teammates and those who race alongside you. There’s a nice roster of main characters involved in Driven to Glory and whilst I’m not overly sure that all the actors hit their mark with every line, it’s a well created docu-racer that comes with a ton of twists and turns. For a story to cover a racing season, it’s a good effort.
It’s left pretty open too, allowing Codemasters to expand on this story should they see fit going forward. If anything though, I’d like to have seen more included from the get-go as this really does boil down to one-off races and scenarios, brought together by the cutscenes and narrative that is sitting behind them. It’s a bit too scripted for my personal liking, but that said, it’s still been a fun little playthrough. Whether you will ever want to drive through it a second or third time after you’ve seen the chequered flag drop at the end of proceedings is another matter. But that’s something which could be said for many ‘sports stories’ that have slowly been entwined into the gaming scene.
Thankfully there are plenty of other racing opportunities present and correct in GRID Legends, so many that you’ll rarely find yourself bored with what is on offer.
The Career is super deep, taking you from rookie status, through the semi-pro ranks and into that of the pro scene and then the Gauntlet. Unlocked as you progress, there are a host of car classes and categories to get involved in here, from single seater open wheel racing to GT beasts, track day options and electric motors. Each of the categories is likely to take you a fair old amount of time to work through, as you hone the racing skills needed for each of the different multi-classes that are in place.
It does feel a bit of a shame that certain events are initially locked out, opening up as your status increases, as progress is made and as sponsor objectives are hit, but on the other hand that does then allow for some kind of focus.
Some of the cars you’ll be racing in are real treats too. Aside from the Stadium Trucks that rarely excite, and the drifting which just annoys (and I fully understand that will be a personal thing), you’ll find vehicles having homes in Touring, Tuner, GT, Track Day and Open Wheel Racing categories – each of which require a slightly different driving style for success to be found.
There are those Electric racers too (the future of motorsport), with the added joy of Boost gates adding a little more strategy to the events, whilst certain Special one-off vehicles make up the roster.
The cars look good too, never on Forza Horizon 5 levels of detail but acceptable none-the-less. No matter what your camera angle – and there are a few – you’ll always know what car you are racing in, whether that be due to the visual look, the feel that Codemasters have infused into the vehicle in question, or its sound. There’s obviously a major difference between racing a little stock Mini Miglia and a huge Super Truck.
It all looks good in terms of the tracks you find yourself racing around too, with Codemasters once again taking you around the world, throwing you behind the wheel of cars that are requested to tame the mean streets of many a city; London, Brands Hatch, Moscow, Indianapolis, Barcelona, Sydney, San Fran and more are all present. Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of these tracks have been imported straight from previous GRID games, and the appeal of having to learn the circuits is therefore lost on anyone who has grown up with a Codies racer. Perhaps this is something that track based racing titles are always going to struggle with, and the new found draw of an open-world racer that has been honed by Forza Horizon is always going to allow for more variety, but a larger, newer, fresher, set of race circuits would have been preferred here too.
The racing is good though, with a Nemesis system ensuring that too much arging and barging will cause repercussions from those you share the tarmac with. With the opportunity to make GRID Legends as easy or difficult as you so wish, adding tuning options, assists and dialling up or down AI aggression at will, it’s easy enough to get this playing how you feel it is best suited. When you include the variety of disciplines – circuits, drifting, elimination, head-to-head, multi-class and both time trial and time attacks – there’s little missing from this racer.
The multiplayer is good too. Aside from a few moments of madness where spectating races shows nothing but cars glitching in and out of barriers, creating their own racing lines in the process, the online scene is fairly robust. Quick races will see you thrown in as the Codemasters gods see fit, whilst searching out your own session or creating your own is all doable; they are all hugely viable options. Admittedly it’s a little bit slow in matchmaking your online sessions, but once in a race or event, you’d rarely know that you were competing against real-world people alongside the AI. It’s pretty much lag free, runs solidly and is able to ensure that when you feel the time is right to test your skills against others, it’ll let you.
There’s a brilliant Race Creator option too which lets you bring everything that GRID Legends has, together as one. It’s up to you how you set this up, picking your race type, car classes and vehicles, locations, routes, conditions and whether or not the likes of terminal damage or vehicle upgrades are allowed. It’s a hugely deep system that will basically let you race how you wish and credit must go to Codies for actioning it.
But I started this piece talking about how GRID Legends was a treat of a racer. But there are problems. Thankfully, much like Codies did with DIRT 5, I’d expect them to fix the vast majority of little issues in the weeks from launch, building it out to an altogether better game. There isn’t much to work on, but getting into an online multiplayer race can be a bit hit or miss, whilst navigation of a few of the menu systems just feels a bit like one too many button presses are required. These are all fairly minor annoyances more than anything though and in terms of the actual racing, GRID Legends more than makes up for the odd problem.
What this all amounts to is that GRID Legends is another great Codemasters racer. The story may be the main focus this time, but it’s the depth away from that which will appeal to the more hardened racer; in terms of that, Legends is far from lacking. Aside from the odd problem and a lack of really new tracks, GRID Legends proves that once again Codemasters know exactly how to make a racer.
GRID Legends is downloadable from the Xbox Store