You will grit your teeth.
Your hands will sweat, your eyes will narrow, and sounds uncontrollable, guttural sounds will begin to emanate from your chest and throat. You will peer at the television screen with a mixture of sheer determination and pure hate. You will want nothing more than to not just win, but utterly humiliate your opponents.
This is what Grid 2 (Xbox 360; Rated E; $59.99) does to you.
Grid 2 is a racing game, falling somewhere in-between the sheer realism of the Forza and Gran Turismo series and the pure arcade fun of the Burnout games. Theres something of a plot to it, but if youre hoping for a plot that goes beyond unknown racer progresses through the ranks and becomes famous for unexpectedly winning lots of races, youre going to be sorely disappointed. In Grid 2, you race because thats the type of game this is, and who needs more motivation than that?
The racing, then, is brutal. Even if you consider yourself something of a connoisseur of the racing game, you might be taken off guard by the sheer difficulty of Grid 2. Even in the first race, even on the test track, you have to follow your line carefully, brake going into the turn, and accelerate coming out of it. These are racing basics, but its almost shocking the first time you play just how closely you have to hew to the rules of racing.
And thats before you account for your opponents.
The AI is brutal in Grid 2. One-on-one races arent too bad because, well, theres only one opponent, and theres only so much that one opponent can do. Get into a race with seven or eleven other racers, however, and watch out. These racers will not think twice about ramming you, throwing you off your line, or cutting you off at a particularly sharp turn. You can employ the same tactics, sure, but then youre putting yourself at risk of spinning out, or worse, of flying right off the track.
Finding the right balance of aggression and clean driving is key to Grid 2, and its a difficult line to identify. Playing on the Normal difficulty level will be an exercise in frustration for all but the most experienced racers, and even the Easy difficulty level can be pretty nasty in certain races. If you can swallow your pride, there is a Very Easy difficulty level, but keeping your car on the road never really stops being difficult. The increase in tension from race to race is palpable; its clear that Grid 2 is not a game for the easily stressed.
That said, its nice to find AI opponents aggressive and devious enough to make the transition to online multiplayer feel a little less disconcerting. Even the nastiest AI has nothing on a motivated human. Unfortunately, the online multiplayer experience can still feel a little impenetrable thanks to newbies getting lumped in with experienced racers with fancy cars, but there are ways to grind through the early going and get to the point where youre not just competitive, but winning on a regular basis.
Grid 2 is not a game that will make racers forget their favorite games in the genre. Even so, it is a well-designed and utterly intense change of pace. Maybe thats exactly what we need as we wait for the next console generation and the beautiful racers destined to come along with it.