It’s been quite a few months for driving games. Forza Horizon 5 has hit over 15 million players with another solid entry thanks to Xbox and PC Game Pass. Gran Turismo 7 has you covered for pixel-perfect simulation too with a reinvention of the series. How about something in the middle between those? That’s where GRID Legends comes in with its fifth entry in the series (and arguably much more if you consider the TOCA days stretching as far back as the late 90s). How does GRID stack up against Sony and Microsoft’s heavy-hitters? Let’s find out.
GRID Legends harkens back to the days of TOCA Race Driver while borrowing from Netflix’s Drive to Survive – a Formula 1 documentary bringing you under-the-hood (pun intended) of motorsport’s biggest events. It skips a conventional career mode for something more along the lines of a docu-drama. With real actors playing roles, it leverages the same tech you would have seen in The Mandalorian to pull off some impressive mixed reality results. Actors look like they’re genuinely in the pits and it’s incredibly immersive. I’ve been a huge fan of the series over the last 20+ years (thank you Xtravision for all those one-week rentals as a kid!) so it’s mind-blowing to see how far graphically it’s come.
Story-wise? You play ‘Driver 22’ as you take part in 36 racing events across multiple tracks, weather conditions, race types, and car types. You’re part of ‘Team Seneca’ which is a struggling racing team and the story brings you through the trials and tribulations of about one season of racing – on and off the track. Cutscenes are interspersed between races and I will give props to EA/Codemasters here for trying something new. The story, while predictable enough has its moments and kept me engaged enough for a couple of hours but it really is a short story. It’s about two afternoons worth of content.
GRID Legends nails the basics. Visually it’s impressive, with up to 120 FPS depending on what console you’re playing on (which is great for racing games). Weather simulation is excellent and the 100 routes are detailed and full of life. Handling also threads the needle well between arcadey but still requires some skill to get some good placements. GRID Legends has a decent number of tracks and additions to keep things interesting with drift and elimination events mixed in to keep things varied. There’s also the return of the Nemesis system where if you annoy a driver enough or hit them, they’ll try and wipe you out of this, and the next few races which encourages clean racing. GRID Legends also has a points system to reward good driving like sticking to the driving line, slipstreaming, etc which I love in games. Where GRID Legends starts to run into issues is when you finish the short story.
Those points you collect? Turns out you can spend them on upgrades for your team, cars, etc. The game never once prompted me to check this out mid-story when I could have used them. Post-story, there’s a bunch of options laid out through the menus to race but after a few, I felt like I saw nearly everything that GRID had to offer. Even in the story, this could have been more immersive. TOCA Race Driver did this well nearly 20 years ago with a pit, being able to tweak cars and more versus GRID Legend’s linear story. If EA and Codemasters were going to borrow from Netflix, I would have looked at some of their interactive shows like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch to at least give some incentive to replay a story.
There’s a lot to like here, and GRID Legends gets a big thumbs up from me for trying something different. EA and Codemasters have built a really solid foundation here but I feel the series really needs to pick a direction. If we’re going full-on storyline, give me a lot more content, a bit more interactivity, and multiple seasons (even DLC) and you’ll have me hooked. Or, go deeper with a more engaging single/multi-player outside of the story mode. EA already did this with FIFA and its Ultimate Team and career modes.
If you see GRID Legends with a bit of a discount, it’s a great title to pick up for a weekend of fun. It’s hard to recommend it over the heavyweights of Forza or Gran Turismo but it does enough to stand out from them and do its own thing well.
GRID Legends was reviewed on Xbox Series X with a code provided by EA.
GRID Legends is another great entry for Codemasters and EA’s arcade racing series that tries something new. Worth checking out!