The just released Grid Legends combines the familiar with the new in the hopes of capturing the attention of the casual – simcade virtual racing driver community. With a broad selection of tracks and a large variety of vehicles, whether the Codemasters developed title does enough to stand out from some exceptional rivals in virtual racers' digital libraries remains to be seen.
Have We Met Somewhere Before?
Codemasters are no strangers to developing high quality racing games. The Grid series sits with the developers’ Dirt franchise of games, and their long-held F1 license in their arsenal of wheeled titles. Now with the added marketing benefits of the Electronic Arts behemoth behind them, Codemasters are ensured a large audience for this, the fifth title to carry the GRID series brand.
(I know it is officially GRID Legends, but I refuse to type Grid in uppercase every time, just like I refuse to type DiRT in the weird way they do. Sue me.)
Grid Legends brings back much of the same style, content, and gameplay from the previous iteration of the series, 2019s Grid. Many of the circuits and cars that were in Grid can be found in Legends. As can many of the game modes and race types. Even the menus and on-screen displays seem familiar. And that’s okay. It gives series regulars a “welcome back” vibe, but still retains enough of a difference to ensure they don’t think they’ve loaded up the wrong game. Or see Legends as simply as remake of Grid.
At the same time, the interface is not so convoluted and confusing that players entirely new to the series will feel lost or overwhelmed. And getting overwhelmed is something that could easily occur - there is a lot going on in the game, and a lot of content of diverse types to get through.
Content is King
There are a total of 21 in-game race locations ranging from well-known real world racing circuits (Brands Hatch, the Red Bull Ring, Mount Panorama, Indianapolis, and others) and fictional city-based street circuits (London, Moscow, Havana, Dubai, and more). Each of the venues have multiple layouts – generally a short, medium, and long layout, and then reversed layouts – for a total of over 135 different circuits to get your race on. And then there’s the cars and their classes.
The Legends roster may be significantly smaller than that seen in Forza Horizon 5. But, with over 120 vehicles available to drive at launch, the vehicle selection is not tiny by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the marques that you would expect to find represented in a racing game are here: Audi, Aston, BMW, Chev, Ferrari, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche, Renault, Volkswagen, and others. But there’s also a handful of fictional motors for you to go racing with. Look for Beltra, Dumont, and Jupiter in your garage and try something different every now and then.
The nine vehicle categories are equally as varied, ranging from Track Day and Touring cars to Trucks and Tuner models.
(See here for the complete list of cars available.)
So, What’s New with You?
The standout features that are new to Legends are the dedicated Story Mode, multi-class races, and the Race Creator tool. These features enhance and improve on the overall value of a game that has lost its Regional Pricing benefits for South Africans after the EA acquisition of Codemasters.
An identical full purchase price across all platforms is also something that’s new to the franchise as far as we’re concerned, I guess. Purchasing the Standard Edition on Steam, PlayStation or Xbox will cost you R1,000. The Deluxe Edition Upgrade for the game adds an additional R160-R350 to the price, depending on how you buy it.
Four post-launch DLC packs featuring “new Story experiences and Career events, new game modes, new locations, more cars, sponsors, liveries, logos, and exclusive Weekly/Monthly Challenges” are promised. These are included in the Deluxe Edition or will be purchasable separately when they release.
Racers with EA Play subscriptions (through Steam, Game Pass, or EA/Origin direct) can try the game for up to 10 hours without cost and also qualify for a 10% discount if they’d like to purchase the game. EA Play Pro subscribers get full and unlimited access to the complete Deluxe Edition of the game for however long they keep their subscription active.
There are a handful of other changes too, but I will let you discover them on your own.
Driven to Glory, That’s the Story
Codies introduced scripted story modes in the most recent F1 games with varying levels of success and support from fans. I think they’ll get the same mixed reactions to Driven to Glory, the live-action mockumentary story mode in Legends.
The story of an underdog racing team, Seneca Racing, trying to break into the Grid World Series is presented as a fly-on-wall documentary style programme. Using passably acted and voiced but incredibly cheesy scripted FMV cut-scene interviews, we learn of good guy team boss Marcus Ado and his struggles to find a second driver to join his team. That’s you, the automatically named “Driver 22”.
The story is completed over 36 “episodes” which take the player to a variety of race locations and through a number of vehicles and game types. I see it as a sampler for the core of the game – the Career Mode.
Driven to Glory is frivolous and not entirely necessary in a driving and racing game. But it is cheesy fun to pretend you are a legendary driver helping to take an underdog team to the top. And if you are not having fun playing a game, you’re not doing it right. Right?
Race Creator – Every Race Community’s Dream
In the past, if Grid players wanted to set up a community championship, or even run a simple once-off race, they would have to depend on the extremely limited options available to them through Codemasters’ RaceNet system. It was a cumbersome, awkward system to use, and you were never certain whether the race or event that you had set up would actually work or not. Dirt Rally uses the same back-end system, and it continues to be a challenge to create events and championships in that game too.
Fortunately, Codemasters, recognising the popularity of online leagues and club type events, started introducing a much more integrated and user-friendly system into their F1 series of games. Grid Legends’ Race Creator is an in-game extension of that system, with a lot of flexibility and options available to creators.
Race Creator allows you to create pretty much any type of event you want, using any combination of options – event type, car class, location, time of day with a variety of weather options, etc. Once your options are selected, you can choose to make the event available in public lobbies, or make it only open to your gaming friends. You can also make it entirely private and keep it offline to enjoy.
What Else Can You Tell Us?
There is a lot more to the game than just what I’ve touched on here. Here is a broad overview direct from the GRID folk themselves:
The Scrutineers’ Overall Evaluation
It may not meet the loftiness of the Legend in its title, but Grid Legends is a very passable racing game, with a decent amount of content, and a high level of replayability. Add in future content expansions, the Race Creator, and some regular online racing with friends or randoms, and you have a solid title. Codemasters have stuck to their tried and tested formula, boosting the familiar with a few new and interesting additions, and have produced another safe and competent game.
GRID Legends scores a racy 7½ cylinders on the Reddometer but drops ½ a cylinder due to the steep price point and lack of Regional Pricing options.