Narratives and racing games historically haven’t mixed too well, though that’s slowly changing. You can thank Netflix for that. F1 2021's Braking Point story mode pulls more than a few plot beats from Drive To Survive, but it’s still ultimately a squeaky-clean Formula 1 tale. The team at Codemasters’ Southam studio has an even more dramatic racing story in the making, and it’s called Grid Legends.
Grid Legends was revealed during Thursday’s EA Play livestream, and is scheduled to release sometime in 2022 for last- and new-gen hardware, as well as PC. It’ll be the first new Grid since 2019's franchise reboot, a game that somewhat recaptured the series’ visceral yet not-too-realistic brand of motorsport action, but ultimately fell a little thin on content and ambition.
The trailer shown for Grid Legends certainly isn’t lacking in the latter respect. Whether you believe narrative belongs in the racing or sports genres at large, Codemasters has clearly invested in producing this story. Ncuti Gatwa, known for playing Eric in Sex Education, stars as one of the many drivers vying to win the Grid World Series. Among his rivals is a name longtime Grid players will certainly know: Nathan McKane.
McKane was the dude you were supposed to hate in the first two Grid games, racing for Ravenwest, the perennial champions your rag-tag, underdog squad was faced with toppling. The full-motion video cutscenes in Legends will comprise both real live actors and computer-generated backgrounds, akin to what you see in modern sci-fi shows like The Mandalorian. It’s a strange effect for a racing game, but hopefully it’ll make the story feel a bit more consequential than F1's Braking Point.
As for gameplay and campaign structure, Codies admittedly didn’t reveal a ton of information in this first look, and most of the trailer was spent setting up the narrative. That said, we can glean some details from quick cuts of in-engine footage.
Tracks look to run the gamut of city-based locales familiar to Grid, including London and Moscow, in addition to some purpose-built circuits like the fictional Strada Alpina. We see the usual range of modern GT cars, but there are also ’90s BTCC touring cars; drifting Lancers; stadium trucks; generic open-wheel and Formula E-type machines and competition-spec semis like the kind they race in the European Truck Racing Championship.
Multi-class events figure to be a big part of this one. In one clip we even see those aforementioned semis sharing the asphalt with some Formula Ford-looking metal.
It’s absolutely ridiculous, but I think that’s part of the charm. F1's Braking Point came across a little confused to me, like it was caught halfway in conveying a boilerplate, predictable racing story and total Netflix cheese. The result was unsatisfying from either perspective. But Grid Legends looks unapologetically over-the-top at first glance, and that will hopefully make it at least entertaining, if nothing else. Expect many scenes of competitors doing their talking with their fists in the paddock.