GRID Legends is the first GRID game since EA bought Codemasters and follows up on 2019’s GRID with more variety than ever before in the long-running racing franchise. GRID has excelled at being a team-based series and has done a better job than most at setting up the player as a prominent team member and showcasing how important it is for teams to win instead of just an individual. GRID Legends ups the ante with a story mode that tries to ratchet up the drama while still allowing the player to enjoy a wide variety of racing types. The end result is a game that hits the mark where it counts as a racer, but does fall short from a storytelling perspective.
GRID Legends combines more kinds of racing than we’ve seen in prior entries while simultaneously at least trying new things from a narrative standpoint and making the racing faster-paced than before. In some ways, it winds up being the best entry in the franchise since the original because of how much it does and how streamlined it makes things. The original games were greatly-helped by having a racing team motif, but not overwhelming the player with minutia. GRID Legends takes the same idea of being on a team and adds live action faces to the fold in an effort to increase immersion. It’s a good idea in theory to add some credibility to the plot, and there’s nothing wrong with the acting, but the idea of teammates becoming rivals and then going through various twists and turns can only go so far.
The cinematics look good with real-world casting and are acted well, but the drama never quite works and always feels a bit forced. I do like the attempts at having races intertwine with the plot – so having issues with someone in a cutscene will result in being told to get along with them in the race to win as a team. It’s clear that a lot of effort went into the story and how to integrate it into the gameplay, but it never quite hits on all cylinders. Still, as a framing device for various racing types it’s fine and that’s all it really needs to be. The story is there to be a means to an end and add some spark to all the different races without making the game seem like a series of races, and it succeeds quite well there.
Thankfully, races are the bread and butter of GRID Legends and they’re top-shelf across the board. Whether you’re racing in open-wheel cars, electric cars, trucks, street race-style environments or anything else, GRID Legends does the job wonderfully. The game has a lot more content than prior entries, with over 100 vehicles to enjoy across environments like snow-caked outdoor areas or rainy nights that make the action a bit more daunting. Those wanting a bit of a challenge can find it by turning a lot of sim settings on or mixing things up with a few sim settings like damage retention, while those wanting a tougher game from start to finish can turn it into more of a full-on simulation if they like.
Players just wanting to have fun can keep things as the default and that will allow them to make progress fairly quickly, with the story mode enabling players to learn various racing disciplines and figure out what kind of race type and vehicle type they prefer. Elimination races are especially thrilling thanks to the story mode having the added objective of at least outlasting your racing rivals – and that felt like just the freshening up this kind of mode has needed after many years of being about the same from game to game. Races have a bit more excitement than other sim-style games thanks to small boost pads that help the race keep a quick pace and combines with the soundtrack to drive excitement home at all times.
It’s clear that a lot of effort went into making something that feels like a modern racing movie with the attempt at a larger narrative and dramatic music alongside excellent sound design as a whole. However, in a baffling move, the fast-paced action-style soundtrack is only in place for the story mode. The Split/Second-esque soundtrack keeps you engaged with its tunes at all times there, but can’t be heard in the longer career mode of larger races that could really benefit from the excitement; or any exhibition or online races for that matter. Hopefully this is amended with a patch down the line because the core design for things like the roar of engines around the player from a first-person view is incredible and makes close races so much more exciting than they already are.
Visually, GRID Legends is an impressive looking game – but one that doesn’t fully make use of newer technology. Going back and forth between the PS4 and PS5 versions, the PS5 version is sharper but doesn’t have any jaw-dropping lighting differences. Everything looks a bit nicer, but it doesn’t look more than maybe 10% better on the PS5 than the PS4. It does control a bit better on the PS5 thanks to the DualSense’s improved triggers, but the core racing experience is about the same across the board. It’s a great one no matter what platform it’s played on, and offered up the most fun I’ve had with the series since the first title – which was a game changer in its day.
Like the original, GRID Legends aims to not only offer many kinds of racing, but do them at a fairly high level. That is a lofty goal, but one that is largely achieved albeit with a few odd sacrifices. The exciting on-track action is undercut by only the story mode having a bumping soundtrack, and that’s just a bizarre move that I don’t recall saying in a modern-day racer. Franchise fatigue is a real thing and the GRID reboot was hurt by being a series of races with no framework, while everything in GRID Legends has a sense of purpose to it that helps keep a “one more race” mentality throughout each play session. It’s an outstanding racing game and one that fans of the genre should pick up.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of GRID Legends for the PlayStation 5 provided by Electronic Arts.