‘Grid Legends’ Is All about the Drama

Two hours into my first play-through of Grid Legends, and I’m stringing bad words together like a drunken seamstress. None of it follows any particular pattern; it’s just raw swearing woven with desperation. Tea *redacted* you *redacted* dumb *redacted* milk-drinking *redacted* sweet mama *redacted*. I’ve lost control. Even my dog’s had enough, retreating from the couch to her blanketed kennel, where peace and quiet retired to four lapses ago.

I’m yelling at Saheed Bakheet. A computer-created competitor, he’s all software, no brain or bones, but he’s still a *redacted*. Bakheet blocks my passing attempts in every corner, trail-braking outside the racing line just to hold me back. As the leaders continue to expand their gap ahead of us, butthead Bakheet wants to battle for eighth place. What is this guy even doing?! I yell. I decide to use Bakheet’s Audi RS3 touring car as a brake pedal and quickly spin out of control, dropping down to 10th place. I pause and restart the race, just to crash into Bakheet again.

grid legends gameplay

Codemasters

Intensity is what Codemasters and EA have squeezed into their new narrative-driven motorsports racing game. It’s competitive entertainment that feeds off our innate love of drama and motorsport, instead of striving for the most accurate tire-to-tarmac behavior like the Gran Turismo gold Forza Motorsports titles. Even when battling fender to fender against the game’s own computer players, it can get very personal.

A Drive to Survive

Rather than start the game behind the wheel of a low-horsepower commuter car, Grid Legends puts you at the helm of a budding race team. Objectives are presented in the form of finishing positions. Finish fifth or higher in this race to move on to the next. It’s how the career mode progresses.

grid legends gameplay

Codemasters

The story is illustrated by cut scenes with actors on a set that was filmed using a virtual background, similar to how Disney made The Mandalorian. It plays like a parody of Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive. There’s a similar rivalry between an extremely well funded and successful race team versus one that’s desperate to prove they have what it takes to earn a championship. Team principals, drivers, and engineers are interviewed throughout from a comfy lounge chair. Sound familiar?

Tea Grid Legends script won’t win Best Picture, but watching actors tell a story instead of simply reading a slide show of subtitles is always better. We think Codemasters has something good here, enough that users will want more of it in later Grid titles. EA used a similar approach in 2015 with Need for Speed starring rally driver Ken Block and Formula D champion Vaughn Gittin, Jr. Thankfully there’s less fist bumping and bromancing this time around.

There were a few lines that err on the side of cheesery, begging for us to point them out: the engineer telling a driver during practice, “Run it again, but with less throttle,” or, in a different scene, explaining to the camera, “Most of the weight is down here in the chassis,” while pointing to the front splitter.

Perhaps the biggest blooper is that many of the scenes take place in the paddock or pit lane, but during actual game play, you can’t change tires or refuel your race car. Ever. Like in other Codemasters games such as Grid (2019) and Project Cars 3, the pit lane is inaccessible. In real life, the pit crew plays a major role in any race, and ignoring them feels like a huge miss. Why leave out the potentially heartbreaking drama of a bad pit stop from your Hollywood video game?

How’s My Driving?

We reviewed an advance copy of Grid Legends on PC using a Sony PlayStation 5 controller. In our first race, we passed about three-quarters of the field at the first corner. After that, we changed the difficulty from Medium to Expert. We’d suggest Expert difficulty for people who are experienced and want a marginal level of challenge.

The driving physics are forgiving. There’s no tire wear to conserve or sacrifice, so brake as late as possible—or don’t. In most cars, lifting the throttle scrubs enough speed for most situations to forgo braking. Simply pull to the outside and pass the heavy-braking computer cars. You can rewind time and start over from a spot of your choice if you mess up. We spent most of the game-play time using the cockpit camera. The engine sounds and blasts of sharp exhaust backfire are best heard from inside the cabin. The walled street circuits are narrow, and the cockpit camera enhances the feeling of speeding through buildings, cars, and tirewalls.

Grid Legends – PlayStation 5 Standard Edition

Electronic Arts
amazon.com

$59.99

Raindrops splash and spread across the windshield in different directions. The resulting beauty is especially highlighted on rainy evening races just before sunset. Storms are powerful enough to make it sometimes difficult to find corner markers and apexes. Even with the graphics set to their highest settings, the detail in the rearview mirror is comically low. While blasting down the wet straightaway at Mount Panorama, a storm made the windshield nearly opaque, but in the rearview mirror, it was a beautiful, dry Australian afternoon. Crikey, mate.

TOCA party

Grid Legends has over 100 different cars to choose from, including many greats from racing history. There are enough cars, for now, from various series to make us want to race in that class just to unlock them. Among them are the British Touring Car Championship Volvo 850 wagon, the Group 5 Porsche 935/78, Cadillac’s Mustang Sampling Daytona Prototype, and even a Lotus Evija. That said, we’ll always want more.

grid legends gameplay

Codemasters

There are drift cars, F1000-spec open-wheelers, an imitation Formula E car, and even Stadium trucks. It’s one of the first games we’ve played with Stadium trucks that duck, lean, and roll like the real stuff. Crank the wheel into a corner while giving it the beans, and watch the apex disappear behind the truck’s lifted nose.

Vehicle customization is very limited. Players are free to choose from a wide selection of preset designs and then change the coloring. That’s about the extent of configurability, and tuning is even more simplified. There are sliders with five different levels of soft and firm for three suspension components, and five levels of gear ratio length, with another slider to adjust front or rear brake bias.

Players can unlock performance upgrades to each car by driving them for a specific number of miles.

Comfortable Pace

It’s clear Codemasters wants us to enjoy Grid Legends on the track—not in the research and development lab or farting around in menus. They make it easy to maximize your gameplay time racing, which we love. We just wonder if, after hours and hours of track time, players might need that pit stop that Grid Legends doesn’t offer. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to experience any online play, but this game does feel like a less time-consuming iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizionegold RaceRoom alternative. Sure, it’s not as serious, but that might make it easier for folks to create and maintain an online racing league.

Grid Legends is out now and supports cross-platform online gameplay among PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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