GRID Legends makes video game racing real with a vivid story and challenging AI – Review

Armed with XR and current-gen technology, GRID Legends is a truly modern racing game.

Image via Codemasters

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Three years after its previous installment, the GRID franchise is back and it comes with new twists and turns. GRID Legends, the first title in the franchise since EA purchased developer Codemasters in 2020, was first announced this past summer, and it came with a lot of hype. Namely, Codemasters promised an entirely new Story mode, one that would incorporate modern, augmented reality technology in an innovative way and would reinvent the wheel (yes, pun intended).

But, did Codemasters and the franchise’s new publisher do that? It might not have reinvented the wheel, but it did certainly put a new spin on it.

Related: Looking at accessibility in the GRID Legends trial – Hands-on impressions

GRID Legends goes Hollywood in Story mode

Image via Codemasters

In the buildup to GRID Legends, EA and Codemasters hyped the new title’s Story mode with a unique feature: extended reality, or XR. The development team incorporated XR and techniques used in various theatrical shows and movies, into its campaign mode. How so? Cutscenes in the story mode feature actors that play the roles of major characters, and the use of XR puts all of this together by making it look like these individuals are actually at the racetrack.

The narrative-driven story line, which features prominent actor Ncuti Gatwa as GRID World Series driver Valentin Manzi, is a major shakeup to the formula that’s been featured in many sports games in recent years. Rather than going through a predictable storyline that mainly follows your athlete’s – which, by the way, has been given the generic-sounding name of Driver 22 –  journey to greatness, this one differs in a number of ways. 

Besides the use of extended reality, the story focuses not just on your character, but also a number of other major players. These include your teammate Yume Tanaka, Seneca Racing owner Marcus Ado, and the main antagonist of the story, cocky star driver Nathan McKane. 

The sheer depth and detail is quite impressive. Not only do the XR scenes add visual cues that can easily resonate with both casual and hardcore racing fans, but it also gives a unique look at the trials and tribulations that everyone in the racing industry face, from the driver to the owners and everyone in between.

Fast-paced and wild mayhem on the road

Image via Codemasters

GRID Legends features a number of different race types. Yes, there are the usual suspects: the circuit races and the time trials. There are also some unique events that break up the monotony, as well. Time Attack forces players to watch the clock, as the goal is not to be the first to hit the finish line, but to have the best time in the event.. Elimination knocks out two drivers at a time, until the last two. Eventually, one driver stands tall. Then, there’s the Electric event, in which users vie for boosts that can be used at pivotal moments to pass competing drivers.

The different kinds of races make for a fun experience in both Story and Career modes. But what might be even more is a standout is the gameplay, and specifically the AI. GRID Legends’ AI is far from straightforward, and in some cases, unpredictable. While AI drivers will hold their lines most of the time, CPU-controlled cars will crash, either with opposing cars or barriers around the track. This can make for a wild and intense racing, in which players need to constantly be on their toes and watch the tracks at all times.

Outside of the Story and into the cockpit

Image via Codemasters

In addition to the Story mode, GRID Legends also features a Career mode that tasks players to compete in many of the events mentioned previously. Career mode, to note, will be a grind as users will need to go through four different tiers of events: Rookie, Semi-Pro, Pro, and The Gauntlet. The higher the tier, the more events need to be completed, and the harder the races will become. If you’re up for a challenge, Career mode should be a nice, racing heavy change of pace from the cinematic-focused Story mode.

GRID Legends also includes a vibrant number of online racing opportunities. Players will be able to either join a quick online race or create a custom session. Users will have the option to join in with friends mid-race.If you have acquaintances who own the title on other platforms, don’t fret. GRID Legends is crossplatform, and it also comes with EA Friends integration.

The verdict

Image via Codemasters

GRID Legends is certainly an ambitious title, to say the least. EA and Codemasters went above and beyond with its Story mode, in terms of presentation. The narrative story not only feels fluid, but it’s easy to understand, regardless of whether you’re an avid racing fan or not. One knock on this mode, though, is that the story sheds very little light on your personal character, outside of the fact that Driver 22 is a rookie in the World Series.

As far as gameplay goes, Codemasters did a solid job, by and large. GRID Legends’ engine makes the play fast-paced and intense, thanks to hard-charging vehicles and an AI that’s not afraid to get aggressive sometimes. The AI is not perfect, though, and in some cases, the pile-ups of cars can get quite odd. For example, I had one instance where two vehicles were standing up on two wheels right next to each other during a race.

Despite some of Legends’ flaws, it does bring a lot to the table. The pace and depth of this title is quite impressive. Racing fans will have fun checking GRID Legends out.

Final Score:

8 / 10

+Story mode provides a captivating and detailed experience
+A challenging AI that brings the heat out on the track
+Numerous game modes and events outside of the Story to choose from
Story campaign puts a little too much emphasis on characters outside of protagonist
AI can be a bit too funky and glitchy at times 

Gamepur team received a PlayStation code for the purpose of this review.