Game review: Grid Legends (PC)

Is Codemasters’ latest entry in its Grid road racing series ready for another round or is it time to get going? We discover.

Fresh out of PlayStation’s Gran Turismo 7, racing in Grid Legends seems like child’s play. The two games are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum. Gran Turismo 7’s uncompromising physics and handling are a far cry from the “simcade” racing style of Grid games. GT’s cautious turns are replaced with thrilling, if over-the-top, epic slides and drifts.

Grid Legends is the first title in the series since EA Games took over developer Codemasters last year. After F1 2021, it’s the second game released since the takeover.

Anyone fearing an appearance from EA’s DJ Atomica or some other questionable EA fiction can rest easy. While the screen is busy with race accolades and scores, it’s really no different than Grid 2019 reboot. It’s actually the similarity to Grid 2019 reboot that makes you wonder what you pay.

The game features many of the same circuits as the last Grid game. All given a bit of polish, but essentially the same. There are 22 slots, each with several different circuit configurations. Add different times of day and weather (including snow), and you’ve got some variety.

The biggest addition to Grid Legends is the story mode. This is a live-action drama that unfolds around a racing team and their new driver, Driver 22 – the player. Your mileage with this will depend on how much you get back from watching the game rather than playing the game. Narrative campaigns have been a staple of EA Sports titles for some time now and have certainly played a part in previous Codemasters games like Race Driver and F1. To be fair, the footage isn’t terribly long and adds a bit of drama to the game that spills over even onto the track.
There is always a career mode that can be played in addition to the story mode drama. This allows the player to progress through the game by unlocking cars and races in a more traditional way. There is also a social mode, which serves as online multiplayer, for a quick online race or to browse the race lobby.

If none of the above does it for you, the Race Creator allows players to create their own races, selecting race type, vehicle class, weather, time of day, laps, number of pilots, damage, difficulty, etc. So if you want to race around Brands Hatch against 22 other big rigs, at dusk, in the snow, with ramps, you can.

The actual racing is quite breathtaking. As I mentioned, it’s a far cry from Gran Turismo, but no less exciting, allowing players to become racing superstars with relatively little effort or self-control. Disable the rewind function and other driving aids like racing line and break indicators and things start to get a bit more strained.

Driving the car doesn’t have the dead weight of the Gran Turismo game, but the cars roll over their chassis realistically enough for braking and inertia to influence cornering speeds. You can feel the cars sway and the tires sink into the asphalt when you brake. It’s all a bit more forgiving than it should be, but makes for a very accessible and fun racer. With rewinds and driving aids, the gameplay scales quite well, providing thrilling racing for players who may not be fond of the intricacies and self-control required for proper racing simulation.

Grid Legends uses Codemasters proprietary Ego racing game engine rather than Onrush’s Evolved game engine used by former Codemasters Evo in Dirt 5. This gives the game the same look and feel as previous games Grid and those of the Dirt series, before to the fifth iteration. I think the Ego Engine visuals are much better, with stunning lighting and environmental effects, and fine-tuning to deliver a stunning frame rate.

Grid Legends offers jaw-dropping races that, while not the most realistic, are certainly thrilling. The game is gorgeous and the story mode offers something a little different, although the usual career mode is still there. It’s a great addition to the franchise that should delight fans.

Grid Legends is available now on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. A PC version of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.

Assessment: 8.5/10