‘Grid Legends’ review – great racing, struggling story

Looks and plays great, but the story struggles

M

any racing games have tried and arguably failed to deliver a coherent story that isn’t rife for ridicule. I’m not sure Grid Legends, despite its best efforts, achieves it either. Interjecting full motion cut-scenes featuring actors in between enjoyable races that have you competing on tracks from brilliantly-realised high profile locations all over the world is an interesting idea, but it just comes across like a Ricky Gervais-style mockumentary, and I don’t think it means to.

The story is high on emotion, and full of cliché. The manager of Seneca Racing is a nice guy. He believes in people, and values them over their talents, and after a litany of failures with the fledgling Seneca Team, he discovers you, “Driver 22”. There’s the veteran competition who doesn’t take kindly to newbies but warms to you eventually; the charming yet scruffy mechanic who can fix anything with an engine; the utter asshole from a different company who only cares about winning at all costs… I could go on, but you get the picture.

Grid Legends London
Grid Legends. Credit: Codemasters

It never veers all the way into full-on Need for Speed territory, only instead of that dreadful “too cool for school” attitude, it just ticks along, taking itself pretty seriously. It’s never outright bad, and I should say the actors do a decent enough job. It’s a commendable effort to include so much story in a racer like Grid Legends, but after an initially decent opening, it just peters out into something that exists between races. You’ll climb the ranks and there will be drama and emotion, and again, it’s a nice attempt, but it won’t end up the thing that pulls you back to the game over and over.

With the story dealt with, the racing can actually take centre stage, and there are lots of cars and modes that are genuinely great fun. On medium difficulty, some of the assists are a little overbearing, and can even create an experience where it feels as though the frame pacing is off. I don’t think that’s the case; rather, it’s the in-game brake assistance fighting with the player input, so I’d recommend choosing your pre-sets but still tweaking the level of help Grid Legends offers.

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Grid Legends. Credit: Codemasters

Elimination is a riot, with a timer ticking down until the back two racers are kicked out. Online and on higher difficulties these become veritable stress-fests, as you desperately try to keep a lead, or stay in the chase so as not to be booted out of the race. There’s open wheeled racing, high-speed content galore, but also some nice options to take tight corners in vehicles where you rarely get about 80-90MPH, which is enjoyable in its own way. Few games ever focus on the slower cars, so it’s an enjoyable thing to try out.

Sticking to a racing line will net you extra points, as will making jumps and generally doing well. You’ll level up not only your racer level, but also the discipline you’re taking part in as well, which genuinely feels like an enjoyable experience throughout.

You’ll go from London to Paris, and it looks superb. Open world experiences like Forza Horizon 5 prove that massive maps can look wonderful, but with 4K visuals and a smooth 60 frames per second, Grid Legends looks the business on PlayStation 5. The HDR lighting sings as it breaches through the Eiffel Tower, or any of the numerous landmarks you’ll be racing near, while the weather makes cockpit-cam a lesson in focus. The DualSense triggers offer some nice resistance, but it’s not best-in-class in that respect.

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Grid Legends. Credit: Codemasters

There are plenty of modes and options within Grid Legends, and the fact you can build your team and take it online is excellent. It’s great to see more developers realising people like to play with their friends and represent their own “team”. In fact, the online overall is excellent, and even the story mode allows for drop-in/out multiplayer if you turn it on, meaning your pals can jump into your story and race with you. This works especially well if you want to rack up the money in your career with a 1-2 podium placement.

There are rivalries here, too. If you smash into someone (or they do it to you) they will become your rival for the rest of the race. This essentially manifests itself as their AI becoming super-charged. Where they might have finished fourth or fifth, and even on medium settings you could easily get plenty of space between you and second place, a rival will be up in your business for the full race, making you have to pay attention all the time. Sure, like almost every racer now, you can rewind if you mess up, but hey, that’s to be expected. I’m not a fan, but if you’re a purist like me, you can just not use it.

grid-legends-paris-screenshot
Grid Legends. Credit: Codemasters

I feel for Grid Legends. Any other month in any other year, it would be lauded as one of the best new racers out there. But in terms of competition, it doesn’t come much more stiff than Gran Turismo 7 and Assetto Corsa (which is hitting new-gen consoles at the same time). Legends isn’t a sim, though, not really. It’s more arcade-adjacent. It has the workings under the hood that could let you go in deep if you wanted, but I’m not sure you will.

It looks great, sounds terrific, and you can feel the years of experience that have been used to build the game. But it just lacks the killer feature. The story is almost certainly an attempt at being the pull here, but after years of TV shows mocking the style of documentary-story here, it’s just too hard to take it seriously.

Grid Legends is available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S | X, and PC. We reviewed it on PS5.

The Verdict

While the story is harmless, it’s hard to take it seriously. Thankfully the on-track action is thrilling and varied, offering a robust online setup and everything you’d want from a new Grid game, even if some of the smaller details fall a little flat.

Pros

  • Thrilling racing
  • Nice progression ideas
  • Online modes

Cons

  • Story just doesn’t land
  • Rivals system feels underdone
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