I have been a fan of racing games for a long time, it started with Outrun, The original Gran Turismo and Race Driver Grid, Gaming has come along way since then, better hardware, more complex games and as much as I love racing games, I feel frustrated at times.
The arcade genre has felt stale for a while, and the Sims are now so hardcore and competitive it feels like more of a profession than a leisurely hobby I used to love.
I was dubious about the reboot of GRID, the first two in the series are up there with my all-time favourites, but GRID Autosport felt like it had really lost it way, put that with the ultra-realistic game coming from Codemasters like F1 2019 and Dirt 2, was this going to be another hardcore title? Or would it revive the playground where arcade racers and sim fan could come together, me hitting the apex hard battling with another drifting on the outside of the corner?
I am So happy to announce that this really is a reboot and GRID is back. So for those of you who missed the GRIDs of old, and lead developer Chris Smith in my interview with him earlier this year said it perfectly “ it’s a game were arcade fan can come for fun and sim fans can come for serious fun” and I can’t help but agree with him. After a few days with the game, I’m hooked.
The balance is simply spot-on, yes your punished for mistakes but unlike GT Sport and other sims you are not out, tapping a wall isn’t the end of your race, clipping the grass doesn’t send you of in an uncontrollable spin you’re slowed down you need to make corrections but it is controllable and has a minor impact on your hard-gained place in the race.
The simple yet well-described tuning options will give the hardcore players the ability to adjust the car to chase the perfect lap and even the most inexperienced players the basics to improve without making it overly complex, for example, gear ratio? What the hell is that some might ask, short/long I don’t know? Grid explains this quite simply shorter gear ratio allows for faster acceleration at the cost of top speed and acceleration out of corners. A longer ratio means more top speed at the expense of acceleration Simples. No final drive, no adjusting each individual gear a simple slider.
The same goes for the limited number of driving assists, well-described and easy to manage. The AI has to be the greatest out there, Honestly say goodbye to the cars that follow each other, perfect lines, unfazed by there surroundings, GRID take it to a whole new level, each AI driver has base traits they are better in stock cars, for example, their aggression level, their skill but Codemasters throws in random adjustments, so the AI are individuals, they will go on the attack, some will happily let you past if you have a better line some will slam the door and cut you off, defending their position as much as they can.
Add this to the rival whose goal is to beat you and the Nemesis system, you can gain a nemesis by bumping and rubbing against the AI, some drivers will instantly take a disliking to you on the first tap, some require you to aggravate them more, but once they become your nemesis the only thing that matters to them is that they beat you, their aggression level spikes, they will intentionally make contact and even give up places in the race to hinder your progress.
Anyone who has watched motorsport will have seen the random mechanical failures, the crashes. Codemasters has coded this into the game as well. Random motorsport events, the AI is affected by these only they can succumb to pressure and make mistakes, they can spin-off, some times in spectacular fashion and even cause multiple car pileups.
In your second race, this is highlighted with a scripted incident but this will continue throughout the entire game and brings a level of fun and excitement that other racing games cannot. That unexpected moment, you frantically trying to avoid it or looking on in awe.
GRIDs development teams “your game your way mentality” really has translated to the game from a novice getting to grips with a racer (I had my wife do a few events) to myself pushing as far as I can go (fair warning with no assist and the AI on hard mode I found this a winnable but hard challenge). On very hard AI setting they really are next level and I found myself struggling to make up places needing to do several hot laps to get a good grid position for the race. If you don’t want to qualify you don’t need to reduce the AI difficulty and race from the back of the pack fighting your way to the front. It’s as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.
Now on to the cars, most classes have 3 cars, your drifter, the sim line hugger, and a balanced car, the assist can make them all as wild or as timid as you want them to be and each class feels very different and progressively more challenging, for example, the TC-2 class introduces you with very controllable cars each with different characteristics but all manageable even with the assists of completely.
Move up into the historic touring car invitational where you are greeted with the likes Serria Cosworth RS 500 Group A, What a handful as the original was, with no assist the throttle control needed to drive in a straight line is a challenge never mind cornering then you have the prototypes and Renault R26 of Fernando Alonso as you would expect, ridiculously fast with massive levels of grip and stability and the older classic cars are wild and they overpower themselves Codemasters have always made great vehicles and GRID is no different.
Again with the “your game your way” if you don’t want to race Stock Cars and oval racers you don’t have to the game allows you to complete 4 out of the 6 championships to enter the Grid World Series to compete for the title against the old rivals Ravenswest Motorsport (yes the competition from the original are back).
The game progression is really good, you never have an abundance of excess cash, and are never short to progress, although you may find yourself doing a few invitational events to buy the more expensive cars for the next class. There is no need at all to repeat events I have finished the base game and won the grid world series with 2.5 million in the bank, not quite enough to by the Renault R26 at 3 million but enough to go back and easily finish the races I have missed out on.
In addition, the TeamMate section can be used to advance your cashflow by hiring and firing drivers, much like the AI your teammates will have specialist class and some base attributes like skill, attack defend and loyalty along with there signing fee and percentage of winnings, do you go for the cheapest, the most expensive? Do you want a loyal teammate or one that happy to fight you for positions?
As your drive level increases more options for teammates will unlock, it’s a balancing act that can be ignored or utilized to the fullest for maximum profit.
My final thoughts and scoring. The gameplay is fantastic, a fun sim or a challenging arcade racer, however you look at it is great. The graphics are good, they are not setting any new benchmarks here but also not trailing behind the pack either.
The AI is best in class without a shadow of a doubt and the random motorsport moments just take it to the next level. I’m scoring harshly here because I think I might have some nostalgic bias but this game is just so much fun to play and has really had me struggling to put the controller down since the postman put the disc through my door.