Review – GRID Legends

How the mighty have fallen. From being one of the biggest names in racing games to just another EA subsidiary that lost it’s way. To be clear, I’m not blaming the EA curse in any way. Codemasters has long lost its way as a racing game developer with subpar game after subpar game. Most notably this very game’s predecessor, 2019’s GRID. It was right on the hells of Dirt Rally 2.0, which is in my opinion one of the greatest racing games ever made. It could also very well be the high water mark that Codemasters will never hit again. Because, while GRID Legends is better than the last game to carry the franchise’s name, that wasn’t a high bar to clear. It’s an example of putting time and resources into the wrong things, failing to really learn from your competition, and simply failing to find a point in existing. 

GRID Legends

22 is your identity during the story, and that’s all you really need to be.

I’ll start with what I liked. GRID Legends comes with a story-based campaign that also acts as a tutorial of sorts. It’s a chain of races split up by FMV cinematics. And yes, normally, the idea of FMV cinematics is off-putting and sounds terrible. Here, though, they really work, and the whole thing comes off as an overexaggerated (in a good way) racing drama. You have GRID’s staple villains Team Ravenwest playing their part, and the plucky underdog Seneca aiming high. It’s not an original story, or even really a good one, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. And the story opens with bang that does a great job of getting you invested. Sadly though, it’s very short. I doubt you’ll get more than five hours out of it. Nor is it particularly replayable. 

The rest of the game is downhill from there. Career Mode is linear, unexciting, and again, not exactly replayable. Car Progression is actually kind of interesting, in that you unlock upgrades per car depending on usage. The more miles you put on a car, the more upgrades you unlock for it. Sadly, upgrades are linear straight power upgrades, instead of a more versatile system such as Forza‘s. And then there’s multiplayer, which seems fine enough except the game’s already hurting for players. Which I can hardly blame people for, as there’s loads of racing games out right now. Many of which simply do a lot of things better. In a market like this, you need to do something to stand out. Like NFS Heat’s style and atmosphere setting it apart from Forza Horizon. This game doesn’t have that. 

GRID Legends trucks

To the game’s credit there is a wide variety of vehicles and classes, there’s just not much diversity to what you do in them.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t try to be different. It’s just that nothing it does it does well. There’s the driving and handling model, which is fine, but only fine because it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It presents itself as very sim-serious, which isn’t a surprise for a Codemasters game. But then you take a corner and suddenly you’re in a Need for Speed game, with the drift system sliding your car all over the place. It’s a minute-to-minute thing, where the kind of game you’re playing changes. It doesn’t feel good at all, and totally failed to land with me. It’s not a simcade game like Forza, which can to an extent deliver the best of both worlds. It tries to deliver both experiences at once and it just doesn’t work. 

Then there’s the Nemesis system. Basically, whenever you contact someone, they become your nemesis and try to take you out. At the extent of their own race to be clear, as hitting a car with your car is always bad for you too. In the Campaign, it’s fine enough. Can be annoying, but considering its level of drama, racers sacrificing their lives over a grudge is par for the course. Everywhere else though? It’s just downright annoying and another sign of this game’s dysfunctional identity. Because it doesn’t just trigger when you hit an enemy, it triggers when they hit you too. So you have the poor AI nudging you in a corner, activating as a Nemesis, and then spending the rest of the race ramming and pushing you off the track. It’s like Codemasters forgot it’s a GRID game, not Burnout

GRID Legends open wheel

Considering Codemasters is also behind the fantastic F1 series, it’s no shock that open wheel races were my favorite by far.

I was ultimately disappointed, but not surprised by GRID Legends. After all, with the level of quality the last game set I couldn’t imagine this one being that much different. And while I did really really enjoy the story mode, it was very short and not the kind of thing people buy racing games for. The rest of the single-player was generic and barebones, while the multiplayer is already circling the drain. The Nemesis system feels totally out of place, and the game’s inability to decide what kind of racing game it even is are the final nails in the coffin. Like I’ve said so many times at this point, there’s too many great racing games out there to waste your time and money on. And as far as the GRID franchise goes, Switch still wins with that fantastic port of GRID Autosport

Graphics: 8.0

It may look great, but it’s far from the best looking racing game you can play right now.

Gameplay: 6.0

Basic driving is fine enough, but drifting, the new rival mechanic, and the general confusion the game has over what kind of racer it is bring it down.

Sound: 9.0

Voice-acting is pretty great, sound effects adequate, and the soundtrack is decent overall. 

Fun Factor: 6.0

While the fun and very short story mode is fine, GRID: Legends‘ inability to figure out what it wants to be just doesn’t cut it.

Final Verdict: 7.0

GRID Legends is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of GRID Legends was provided by the publisher.