If there's one thing that Codemasters has truly dialed down, it's driving/racing games.  Whether it's the kick-back-and-have-fun stylings of the DiRT games (including DiRT 3 and this year's DiRT Showdown) or getting into a no-nonsense groove with its captivating F1 simulations, they really know their stuff.  However, it's been ages since we've heard anything on the GRID franchise.

First introduced a few years ago, GRID created an overwhelmingly good fast-speed racing experience throughout various city circuits, while also introducing competitive AI traits, real-time car damage systems that blew away other racing games', and a time-rewind feature that lets you make up mistakes – in limited capacity – in order to get the best run possible.  (A lot of other games, including the upcoming Forza Horizon from Microsoft, have adopted this system.)

But earlier this year, Codemasters put fans' minds at ease when they announced that GRID 2, spending about two years in pre-production, was finally making its way towards the finish line.  Though we've still got a few months to go before we get to truly see it in action, the game is coming along at a rather brisk pace, and fans everywhere will welcome the return of the intense racing action that they were introduced to so long go.  Codemasters hasn't changed a bit at all in this regard.

Case in point – we recently caught glimpses of a recent event, where a race in Chicago was being held.  We sat behind the wheel of an SL65 AMG and sat in amazement as it cornered like a pro around several tight turns, while keeping up with the rest of the aggressive pack of cars.  At the same time, Codemasters had gone all out on the visual front, recreating the city to almost perfect detail (no sign of Wrigley Field, but we were going awfully fast – maybe we missed it?) while at the same time providing a wild frame rate that never lost a step.  Not even with collisions and the smoke effects coming from the competitor's cars.

Codemasters' team is all about making GRID 2 as visceral as possible, while also making it accessible to fans.  Most of the systems are set to make their return here, including that helpful time rewind feature, as well as the mounting AI that takes a little while to figure out (it can be adjusted if you're not looking for a true challenge – go ahead, we won't make fun of you) and the vehicular handling.  And yep, you can still take damage and turn your smooth race car into a dented thrill ride in a matter of turns, though that could take an effect on your performance if you go too far with it.  In this sense, practice makes perfect.

That said, you will need to get used to the handling of the car, as there are some things you won't be able to shut off, as Codemasters wants to assure that the pacing of each race is kept up to a certain level.  That said, you probably won't have much in the way of assists, meaning that you'll have to master cornering to the best of your ability, while still maintaining enough speed and grip so that you don't go flying into a wall or, worse yet, another vehicle.  That's not to say the system is impossible to figure out – but like any tried and true racing game, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Chicago's just one of the areas where you'll be racing throughout the world.  Glimpses of Paris were also caught in the game's debut trailer a few months back, and though other locations haven't been revealed yet, we wouldn't be surprised if a few infamous racing events made their debut, as part of the GRID experience.  What we do know, however, is that it'll all be wrapped around the EGO Game Technology Platform, which make the graphics pop out so much to life, as well as a Total Race Day set-up that will have you feeling like a vital part of the team.  And since you're behind the wheel, well, obviously this is important.

Finally, the game will fully support Codemasters' online RaceNet service, allowing you to log your best times with others, or challenge them directly, to see who's the ruler of the road.  Though we haven't seen the entire aspect of how it'll all play out, knowing the developers, they'll be quite serious about how to reflect it on this much-anticipated sequel.

We really can't wait to see more from GRID 2.  The graphics have really stepped up between the first game and this one; the handling seems to play a genuine part in how you perform; the challenge is definitely there, for those who can take it; and the online portion should be, ahem, up to speed.  We'll get some hands-on soon and follow up with a full report, right here at Prima.

Look for GRID 2 in mid-2013 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.