Home Game Reviews Grid Legends: Racing Beyond the Finish Line

Grid Legends: Racing Beyond the Finish Line

Grid Legends Review

Grid Legends Feature Picture
Grid Legends

Title: GRID Legends
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: February 25, 2022
Platforms Available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC Game
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 5
Level of Maturity: Everyone
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Breaking the Mold

The formula that racing is all about circling the track and the narrative is all about the numbers is something that Grid Legends arcade racing is trying to change. A story-driven campaign proves that racing around a circuit doesn’t have to be about the most precise corner entry angle or the most enticing fleet of cars. In thirty-six races, you’ll drive the cars of the underdog Seneca stable and take the wheel as the mysterious driver with serial number 22 in a classic tale of supposed “losers” who ultimately prevail despite adversity.

A Riveting Story Unfolds

My initial expectations for the story were modest, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and intrigue it added to the game. The narrative unfolds between races, guided by engaging featurettes that give your racing efforts a meaningful context beyond mere competition. The scenes are dominated by your arch-rival, the formidable Nate McKane of the Ravenwest Motorsport stable. His cunning and arrogance make him a worthy adversary in your quest for the championship.

The game brilliantly translates the relationships established in the cutscenes to the racing track. Every time you pass Nate’s vehicle, your disdain for the villainous ace of the Ravenwest Motorsport stable becomes palpable. You’ll find it hard to forgive a vicious knock or a push into the tire barrier. And when the five-time champ emerges from the wreckage in last place, it’s a moment that truly warms the cockles of your heart. Suppose you think of the story as a TV series from behind the scenes of motorsport and forgive the pathetic dialogue and horribly stereotyped characters (the clown, the villain, the hero). In that case, it’s really entertaining and even hides some twists and turns and some tugging at the emotions.

Immersion and Frustration

What I do fault the filmmakers a bit for, however, is that the script has no respect for your placement in the championship race. Everyone treats you like some amateur who’s happy to race off the start line without dying an engine. Yet even on the hardest difficulty, I won the vast majority of races by a huge margin. The immersion in the story is fundamentally broken when your stablemate brags about how swift she is and, most importantly, to get out of her way and not get in her way too much when she overtakes you. But she can only say this to the maximum of your rear spoiler because you’re giving her (and everyone else) an incredible amount of misery in every race. The atmosphere of motorsport is nicely rounded out by the communication of the announcers and the stable engineer. It’s great to play races where the only sound isn’t the roar of the engines. But there’s one crucial thing missing from the complete experience: Making the information valuable. The main mechanic is telling you the obvious information, like which position you’re in or that someone just passed you. If you go off the track and the radio says, “Looks like you’ve gone off the track!” you just want to pull into the pits and help your stablemate set new communication rules. How much better would it be to tell them that someone is catching up with you from the right, that a chicane is coming, or some general trivia about the car to add to the atmosphere…

Post-Campaign Pursuits

After the main campaign and the documentary about the success of the Seneca stable, the story then continues, albeit not as strongly, in career mode. There, you lead your own team to your dream trophy, and finally, it’s time to spend the money you’ve saved so far. Traditionally, this money can be used to buy not only cars but also upgrades, perks for co-drivers, and skills for the stable mechanic. You can then have, for example, cheaper car repairs, more experience, and similar benefits. However, to be able to upgrade cars, you need to drive them for a certain number of kilometers. And I don’t find this design element very intuitive because, logically, you will unlock and buy better and newer cars as you win more races and earn more money. With those, you must drive dozens of kilometers again to buy better brakes or a more powerful engine. For example, it would make more sense if each upgrade level was unlocked within the same performance class. Limiting it to each individual car smacks of a grind.

Arcade Thrills

Grid Legends is a pure arcade game that in no way attempts to faithfully simulate the driving of racing machines as its 2019 predecessor did – which unfortunately means the challenge isn’t much of one. Even on the highest difficulty with all assists at zero, most of the challenge is decided on the first lap and ends with you triumphantly crossing the finish line in the lead. The differences in machine handling start and end with weight. Yes, you can tell if you’re sitting in a couple hundred-pound formula or a multi-ton truck, but cars in the same class handle very similarly. Whether you’re in a rear-wheel-drive Lotus or a four-wheel-drive Audi A4 Quattro doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if the road is dry or you can’t see a meter ahead in a downpour. The cars hold the road like nails, and it takes an almost purposeful effort to lose control.

When driving, let go of all the lessons you might have been taught in virtual driving school, such as Gran Turismo. In Grid Legends, corners are selected by controlled drift as in any proper arcade. With your foot struggling to push the accelerator through the floor of the car, you rush towards the corner, stomp on the brake just before the entry, jerk the steering wheel to send the car into a skid, and by lightly fiddling with the throttle and spinning the steering wheel into a counter-rotation, you beautifully skid through even the dirtiest turn. And it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it in a Volkswagen Beetle or a Ford Mustang. That’s what an arcade is supposed to be about, and Grid Legends does it brilliantly – letting the player do wild stunts at speeds and in situations where the driver would actually end up like Ayrton Senna in San Marino. If you manage to get off the track, you have at least three opportunities to turn back the clock in each race. While this simplification can be turned off in the settings, I’d like to see it in every racing game from now on. It would take away those annoying moments when you get clocked on the last lap or the car in front of you unexpectedly loses control and shoots you down at 300km/h. The flashback mechanism allows you to simply delete these mistakes.

Underwhelming Next-Gen Features

I was expecting to see what kind of tweaks the DualSense controller races would bring to the PlayStation 5, and unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. Vibration and adaptive triggers are unnoticeable, and you must be extra focused to notice them. When racing, surely any lover of these gadgets would like to feel as much feedback as possible, to have the controller wrestle with you and make the person in question feel like they have to tame wild animals when driving a 500-horsepower car. This was handled excellently in, for example, the next-gen update of Dirt 5, where the controller vibrated so much that you were in danger of running out of teeth. In Grid Legends, however, it just comes across as a sleeping kitten.

Modes and Variety

There was already a nemesis system in the previous Grid racing title from 2019, which returns in the latest game. This means that if you drive like the average BMW owner, you’ll antagonize the other participants in the race. This infuriated driver then puts caution behind him, and his main goal is to sand as much paint off your car as possible. They will actively prevent you from overtaking, crash into you, and otherwise make your life miserable. As I wrote above, however, if you’re a more experienced racer, the red-eyed enemies won’t give you a hard time. The vast majority of your time on the track is spent alone at the front of the race, so you may not care about any rivals. But Grid Legends isn’t just about chasing your nemesis around the track. There are several game modes on offer. I had the most fun with Elimination mode, where the race isn’t limited to laps, but the last two drivers drop out every few dozen seconds. It can set up thrilling situations where things get tough, you’re seconds away from being eliminated, and at the last moment, you’re flying into a corner at top speed just to overtake and squeeze your opponent out of the game for a moment.

Aside from the obligatory drifting and point A to point B racing, a fresh addition is the Electro mode. There, you get a boost by driving through gates in your electro cars, which is handy to have on hand when your opponent happens to get away, and you can’t overtake them. Multiclass mode is also interesting, where American muscle cars and sports trucks, for example, face off in a single race. The pretentiously titled “Race Creator” is a bit of a laugh, but don’t expect any sophisticated track editor: you simply choose where, for how many laps, in what weather, and with what cars. Nothing more. And what really hurts is the need for more single-screen multiplayer.

Visuals and Presentation

At first glance, it’s clear that Grid Legends is an intergenerational title. The car models look pretty cool, but the same can’t be said for the sterile environments that lack detail. The built-up circuits are still watchable, but any vegetation looks downright repulsive. The visibly bouncing shadows are also unforgivable. The tracks are also sterile. Forget about any advanced effects, dynamic weather, or changes in time of day. The only exception is the night, where (as with its 2019 predecessor) it’s quite a spectacle. Neon lights, lamps, fireworks, and anything else you can think of are there for the taking. Unfortunately, you can only talk about the night events on the track, which is a shame.

There could have been much more of them in the other circuits. The effects of weather conditions and time change could have brought about much-needed variety and even pushed the relatively ugly environment a bit higher.

Conclusion of Grid Legends

Grid Legends doesn’t rewrite the story of arcade racing, but it does make a brilliant effort to prove that racing games can have an engaging storyline. The campaign is compelling, the character dynamics are well-translated onto the track, and the game offers a fun, accessible racing experience. However, its arcade nature and lack of challenge for seasoned racers might limit its appeal. The visuals are hit-or-miss, and the next-gen features feel could be more impressive. Despite these shortcomings, Grid Legends remains a noteworthy entry in the racing genre, worth exploring for its unique narrative approach and engaging gameplay.

Where to Buy GRID Legends

Steam (PC): Available for $5.99. You can purchase it directly from Steam.

Xbox Store (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S): Available for $59.99. Check it out on the Xbox Store.

PlayStation Store (PS4, PS5): The game costs $59.99. You can find it on the PlayStation Store.

Or find Grid Legends on Amazon


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