Even though there’s a lot of anticipation for Gran Turismo 7, we were really eager to go hands-on with GRID Legends as well. After all, Codemasters (with DiRT 5) were the first developers to embrace next gen in a racing game, so we were curious to see what they’d do with the GRID franchise almost a year and half later. Our review is based on the PlayStation 5 version.
In its story and gameplay, GRID Legends leans heavily on team mechanics, giving you a central position in the success of a larger whole – deciding on things like sponsor deals and what your mechanics should focus on. In its story mode, titles “Driven to Glory”, you start as a relative unknown in the lower ranks as you work your way up against all odds. The latter ties into your team initially not doing well, in a story brought to life through live actors rather than digital characters. It feels like a break from the norm at first, but all of the video is well produced so you quickly learn to roll with it, and the excellent in-game visuals make the transitions feel relatively seamless as well.
While it’s an important driving force for the campaign, the story itself is quite predictable as it’s riddled with clichés and “twists” you can see coming from a mile away. But as with cheesy movies that do the same thing, the end result is entertaining, and it provides context for when you enter into a race and are faced with one of your bitter rivals.
This is also where the arcade-like nature of the racing works in the game’s favor – banging into a rival might not be something you want to do in a sim, but it feels gratifying here. And because GRID Legends, much like DiRT 5, takes you on a tour of many different locations and vehicle types, it never gets boring. The DualSense supports helps in that regard as well, because the difference between driving an electrical vehicle and an entirely mechanical powerhouse is like night and day.
Speaking of which – GRID Legends supports racing at different times of the day, and in various weather conditions. This adds to the diversity of the experience in terms of how the cars handle, but especially in how the game looks, with stunning scenery and weather effects, especially when driving from a first person perspective. The glare from the sun may look nice, but it’s rainy conditions where first person is truly a stressful experience.
The handling model is, as mentioned, arcade-like, but you can intensify the experience by turning off some of the driving aids once you’ve mastered drifting past opponents in the corner and can squeeze past two dueling racers in the rain. Sometimes you won’t want to be careful like that though, and that’s because of the nemesis system that returns in GRID Legends. Other riders can become enemies on the track, and when they do they’ll stop at nothing to keep you from a win. That can include knocking you into a wall, or delaying you just enough so that you lose valuable championship points.
What GRID Legends does well is integrate the team element into the rivalries. You can use racing strategies where your teammate will try to block or even take out your enemy, which creates an interesting dynamic and makes for some thrilling races in which an NPC suddenly feels like an actual teammate.
The included career mode offers an even wider range of race types, cars and courses to race on, and it structured a bit like the career mode in DiRT 5. Doing well allows you to unlock additional cars, so in addition to the diversity that the different race types and locations offer there is also a sense of progression while playing. Useful, but the same race type will always come back after four races or so.
There’s a Race Creator mode for those who want to get even more mileage out of the included content, but it doesn’t allow you complete freedom to create what you want. While that kind of freedom is an inhibiting factor for people who get overwhelmed with track creation suites, we can see enthusiasts being underwhelmed here. Essentially, the track editor here is a case of adjusting sliders and the option to select the characteristics of the track you want to race on, after which the game generates it for you. You can still share it and it’s fun to play other people’s creations, but ultimately it’s limited in how much you can make these tracks “your own”.
Those who lean more towards the sim end of things will probably look towards Gran Turismo 7 instead, but if you enjoy a more arcade-like experience then GRID Legends is excellent. Without a new Need for Speed or Forza on the horizon, this could very well be the arcade racer of 2022.