Codemasters’ storied GRID series returns this month with the arrival of GRID Legends. We went for a spin with the game’s associate creative director Steven Brand to find out a bit more about it.
This is the fifth GRID game, and the continuation of a lineage dating back to 1997’s TOCA Touring Car Championship. What pressures apply during development when keeping this history in mind?
The heritage of the GRID and TOCA games is very close to our hearts. The challenge for us is to retain what made them great – the intense pack racing, characterful story and AI, variety of modes and events, but also evolve and innovate. Whether that’s the addition of electric vehicles and a boost mode, or making sure that you can quickly hop into multiplayer, it’s about keeping the great bits and adding to them – and, in answer to your question, it’s the tension between those things, getting the balance right that creates the most pressure from a development perspective.
GRID Legends boasts the largest number of circuits and vehicles yet in a GRID game. What are the biggest new highlights?
The inclusion of London and Moscow have brought great new city routes to the GRID franchise. We’re also really excited for players to test their skills around our new alpine themed, fictional location Strada Alpina. This location boasts a very fast and long mountain road route as well as some shorter GP tracks that have a great flow to them. There are some returning favourites as well, such as ‘Yokohama Docks’ that we know will be welcomed by GRID fans old and new.
Variety is a key pillar of any GRID game, and with GRID Legends our roster of vehicles further underlines this. For the first time we’re including electric and hybrid vehicles that, coupled with a boost racing mode, bring something completely new to the franchise. Alongside these, we also have cool new additions to the vehicle roster, from the classic British racing brand Ginetta, to the awesome Aston Martin Valkyrie. In all, there are over 120 vehicles and 143 routes available at launch.
Where would you say the balance lies between arcade racer and sim racer this time out? (Keeping in mind, of course, that assists will be a factor.)
Accessibility has been a key focus for us when developing GRID Legends. This means building a handling and physics model that allows people to get into racing straight away, but has that extra depth for the more experienced racers to experiment with and get more involved. As you mention, assists are included and will be applied in line with the difficulty level a player chooses or can be removed completely, and the design team has done an amazing job with the updated handling model. We refer to GRID Legends as an ‘action racer’, as we feel it describes the game well.
We’re really looking forward to the story mode, Driven to Glory. Can you please tell us more about it, and what inspired it?
The story is told in a modern documentary-style, using interviews, live footage, on-track captures and choreographed in-game events all inspired by Drive to Survive. The story follows the player’s journey as Driver 22, from unknown Rookie to GRID champion where old rivalries with Ravenwest & Nathan McKane are reignited. We made the decision to present the story using a mixed reality technique, as seen in The Mandalorian, including real actors and some amazing backdrops. One of the lead cast actors is the award-winning Ncuti Gatwa who made a name for himself on the series Sex Education.
Please can you give us an overview of the new race creation tool?
If you want a hardcore 99 lap GT race around Suzuka, or a ramp-filled race around London in classic Minis, the choice is yours! The Race Creator allows players to use any of the modes and features we’ve created in their own events, of which up to four can be saved into the available slots in the Race Creator itself. These events can then be played offline or hosted as online events for other racers to ‘Hop In’ to. We’ve also added a random button if you’re spoilt for choice and want the game to spin up an event for you.
“In all, there are over 120 vehicles and 143 routes available at launch.”
What other features are you introducing to the franchise via GRID Legends?
Another feature we are excited about that I’ve mentioned briefly above is ‘Hop In Multiplayer’. This is essentially the ability to join an online event (no matter which stage it’s at) via a few button presses on the front end. Using our smart UI surfacing, you may see that a friend is live and playing a specific event online within the core career structure. Highlighting the event and hitting ‘Join Online’ will see you transported directly into the event, if the race is in progress and there is enough distance remaining, you will ‘Hop In’ to an AI car via a countdown and directly join the action! If your friend is waiting for you in the pre-race vehicle select, you will join them there. We’re excited to see how players engage with this feature and the speed to play that it delivers.
What’s your personal favourite vehicle to get out and about in within the game – and what do you drive in real life?
As a touring car fan I always feel drawn to our ‘Classic Touring’ class and you’ll normally find me online in the Volvo 850 Estate. I love the rough and tumble of a Touring Car event.
Another car/track combo that I’m playing is the Ferrari 430 Challenge around London, specifically a route we call ‘Parliament Run’. This has some great high speed corners and hearing a grid of 22 Ferraris racing through these streets is a great experience.
In real life I drive a Golf GT, which is both good for taking the dog out and having some fun on the country lanes on my commute to the office, which is one thing I miss when working at home. I normally take myself out for a drive most weekends just to get my fix.
GRID Legends is available now on PS5, Xbox and PS4.