GRID Legends picks up where the 2019 reboot of the series left off but brings new innovations to the table and optimization for the new consoles: the PS5 and Xbox Series X and Series S.
The biggest new feature is the new “Driven to Glory” story mode featuring live-action cut scenes.
Does Codemasters‘ new additions to its latest racer make it a better game than its predecessor? Let’s get into it.
GRID Legends story mode
Just as in Codemasters F1 2021, GRID Legends’ marquee new feature is an in-depth story mode called “Driven to Glory.” However, unlike F1 2021, the story mode in Legends plays out with live-action cut scenes.
The scenes are filmed with real actors in a combination of physical and digital environments. A similar technique was used in The Mandalorian Disney+ show. This production method allowed the crew to easily change locations even though filming mostly occurred during COVID lockdown.
The story in GRID Legends is presented in a documentary style that follows the struggling Seneca team on its quest to graduate from the semi-pro league to the upper echelon. The player takes on the role of the promising rookie driver who has the potential to pull the team from mediocrity to, well, glory.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a cast of characters that were interesting enough to hold my interest. For the most part, the characters avoid obvious archetypes, except for the story’s villain. However, the villain is such an asshat that it is enjoyable to watch.
I won’t go too far into it to avoid spoilers, but I will say that it is certainly worth checking out. Unfortunately, GRID Legend’s story mode runs into the same issue that plagued F1 2021’s story, and that’s its linear nature.
Due to the linear structure of the story, my actions had no effect on the narrative as long as I met the goals in each event. No matter how dominant I was, the story still treated the Seneca team as the plucky underdog.
Knowing that my performance did not change the story made me less invested. However, it was still a mostly enjoyable experience.
Cars and tracks
There are over 100 cars available in GRID Legends, many returning from GRID 2019, but there are quite a few newcomers.
Some of the most noticeable additions are electric cars such as the Lotus Evija and racing trucks.
Hypercars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie make the roster as well. All of the cars are nicely rendered and are pretty accurate to their true-to-life counterparts. I would have liked to see more cars available at launch, but Codemasters has confirmed that more vehicles will become available in future DLC packs.
When it comes to courses, there are 22 total locations, most of them returning from the previous game but also new locations such as London, Suzuka Circuit, and fictional locations like Strada Alpina.
Some locations, such as Silverstone, did not make the cut in this new entry. However, there is always the possibility that other previous tracks could return in DLC.
Each location has several track layouts available for a total of 130 routes.
The locations tend to be bright and vibrant. From the nighttime fireworks in London to the snow-capped mountains in the background of Strada Alpina, each environment is visually impressive.
Route design is satisfyingly varied with high-speed courses which emphasize controlling a car at the limit, to tight point-to-point street courses which demand high levels of technical driving technique.
Like the cars, I would have liked to see more tracks available at launch, but the courses on tap are enough to keep things fresh and interesting, especially when considering the race creator mode, which I’ll get into later.
GRID Legends is the first game in the series designed for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles. That means Codemasters were in the position to push the visuals and frame rates to realms that were previously only attainable on PC.
Playing on an Xbox Series X console, Legends ran at 4k resolution at a smooth 60 frames-per-second. There were few noticeable frame dips during my time with the game, and there is even headroom for more.
If your TV is capable and you’re using the right hardware, you can play GRID Legends at up to 120 frames per second. My display doesn’t have that capability, so I could not test it. However, I assume that the resolution and other visual enhancements will take a hit at the higher frame rate.
Speaking of, GRID Legends looks excellent running on current hardware. While this game doesn’t utilize ray tracing while racing, the lighting effects are still striking. Texture details are sharp, and I didn’t detect any significant pop-in.
Confetti and firework flourishes add a nice touch, but the real eye candy is found in the environments. The courses in new locations such as London have impressive detail and nuance and make GRID Legends feel like an authentic “next gen” experience.
Gameplay and physics
GRID Legends continues targeting that sweet spot between unrealistic arcade racer and hardcore simulator.
Legends’ handling characteristics are much more forgiving than the Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismos of the world but driving with assists off requires a fair amount of skill.
GRID Legends features multiple car types, and each of them has unique handling nuances. Open-wheel cars feel exceptionally grippy, while off-road trucks feel appropriately floaty.
I did find it hard to have smooth steering inputs when using a control pad. It seems that moving even a little bit past the “midpoint” of steering angle immediately puts the car into a full lock, leading to snap oversteer.
That made some corners much trickier than they needed to be. I’m sure some adjustments can be made to mitigate the issue, but it was a bit annoying nonetheless.
It was less of a problem in drift events as the snap handling just felt like part of the difficulty curve of getting the car sideways.
One area in which Legends excels is its AI. The “Nemesis” mode returns in Legends, making racing against the computer nearly as unpredictable as human opponents.
AI drivers race just as hard against each other as they do against you, and they are just as prone to mistakes and mechanical failures. It makes for exciting gameplay as long as the difficulty is turned up.
In easier modes, the AI opponents race each other a little too hard, which allows you to get ahead of the pack pretty easily as the computer-controlled racers fight among themselves.
GRID Legends Race Creator and customization
The Race Creator mode in GRID Legends enables players to smash together several car types on any track available in the game. Those creations can be made available as online sessions allowing a potential wellspring of user-created content.
Among the available game modes, my favorite is “Elimination,” in which back markers get bumped off in timed intervals. The result is frantic racing to make sure you’re not on the bubble when the timer counts down.
Electric racing is one of the other more interesting game modes. Special “boost” gates are placed on the track when racing electric cars. Players will have to drive through them to build a “boost meter.” The trick is that the boost gates are placed off the racing line, so driving through them becomes a risk vs. reward situation.
In addition to the race creator, players can build their team from scratch in the career mode. When creating a team, a set of pre-designed liveries can be chosen for each car. Though, if we’re being honest, most designs are mediocre at best.
As far as GRID games have come, it is kind of weird that in 2022 it doesn’t have a more robust livery editor similar to what is found in games like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo.
I wouldn’t say that GRID needs a livery editor as deep as what you would find in the games mentioned earlier, but it could certainly use something better than what it currently offers.
Hopefully, the next GRID game will remedy this. GRID Legends is also void of body kits modifications and wheel choices. I don’t miss those things as much in a game like this, but they would be nice to have.
It is immediately apparent that beyond the story mode, the developers of GRID Legends wanted multiplayer to be at the heart of this game.
The player limit in online races has been increased to a whopping 22 cars. AI cars fill in the gaps between human players ensuring there is always a full grid (see what I did there?).
Where things really get interesting is GRID Legends’ new “drop-in” system. It allows players to join a race in progress by replacing an existing AI driver.
There is also full cross-play functionality allowing PlayStation, Xbox, and PC users to all race together in the same session.
Between the increased grid, race creator, cross-play, and drop-in functionality, the multiplayer mode offers a lot on paper.
In my experience, there weren’t very many highly populated sessions available. This could be a function of time-zone and region. Either way, I found myself struggling to find play sessions with more than 4 or 5 human players in it.
Beyond that, the wait times between races were long as I found myself at the mercy of the session host, who often would take their sweet, sweet time in getting the next race started. While Codemasters can’t possibly control how indecisive a human player can be, a system to mitigate the downtime between races would be appreciated.
The drop-in function also ended up being somewhat disappointing in practice. Generally speaking, when joining a race in progress, the drop-in feature would have me taking over a back-marker AI car that was as much as 20 seconds behind the next position; Making my odds of a respectable finish virtually impossible.
The virtual race steward is somewhat inconsistent as well. Sometimes, I’d lose control and go way off track with no problems, and other times grabbing just a hair too much kerb on an apex would net me a time penalty.
GRID Legends has great potential for a much better multiplayer experience, but the community needs to grow some more, and Codemasters needs to make a few adjustments.
Conclusion: Should you buy GRID Legends?
At the beginning of this review, I asked if GRID Legends is better than its predecessor. After spending some time with the game, I would say yes.
GRID Legends offers constant racing action and never lets up. Innovative features like Elimination racing, Nemesis mode, and Race Creator keep things fresh and fun.
There is certainly room for improvement, especially in customization and the multiplayer experience, but Codemasters has been good at supporting its games post-launch.
I can confidently recommend GRID Legends to anyone looking for a balanced, fun, and fresh racing experience that doesn’t give in to monotony. If you have any questions about my experience with GRID Legends that I didn’t cover here, ask in the comments below or on Twitter at @MotorworldHype.
Pros and cons
|Nemesis mode is back and better than ever||Multiplayer experience needs improvement|
|Impressive visuals and high frame rates||Missing a proper livery editor|
|Hits the sweet spot between arcade and sim racing||Default handling with a control pad is somewhat twitchy|
|Innovative additions like Elimination racing keep things fresh|