You open your eyes and you’re in the cockpit of a Subaru WRX. The engine gives off an exciting rumble, as the crowd roars to your left. The light goes green and suddenly the entire world fades into darkness, and all that matters are the flickering tail lights in front of you. GRID has come out of hiding and threw its gloves into the ring. But does it still have what it takes?
The GRID games of the past never really knew what they wanted to be. The series was much-loved, and we can never forget the energy Codemasters were able to get out of mechanical objects. At the same time, it felt like a jack of all trades, master of none. Almost five years later and we see the GRID name make a return. But what exactly is it? Is it a continuation of Autosport? A reboot? Well, it’s more of a streamlined return to arcade racing that this generation seemed to have gone without. A deeper focus on motorsport, from a studio that seems to have found their flair and knack for delivering fun in their racing games. To put it simply, GRID is an old-school take on a genre filled to the brim with simulators and essentially, less exciting racing games.
Going into GRID, the game focuses less on a story and more on an objective. You’re simply meant to prove you’re the best by constantly taking on different styles of motorsport and dominating your opponents. Once you have completed a certain amount of races, you unlock a special race that can vary depending on which tier you’re racing in.
GRID is an old-school take on a genre filled to the brim with simulators and essentially, less exciting racing games.
That being said, there’s one, big caveat that you would have to overcome in order to decide whether or not this is the game for you. In streamlining the game, it feels less meaty than its predecessors. There are fewer locations, and it really can make itself known. Once you have completed half of the game, it really feels like you have raced the tracks to death. The game does a good job of making the locations feel less repetitive by use of weather mechanics and changing the starting points on the track. This does alleviate the fatigue created by the lack of variety, but I was still left wishing there was more on offer.
GRID gives off a sense of purpose and feel that is almost intoxicating.
Once you’re on a track, however, that all fades away and GRID really starts to shine. The game is filled with flair and charisma, while still reminding you that it’s all about the racing at the end of the day. GRID pioneered the rewind feature that we see present in many other racing games, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it made a return in the latest game. All this aside, GRID gives off a sense of purpose and feel that is almost intoxicating. This is predominantly an arcade racer and this is where I believe GRID has the advantage. Being an arcade game, GRID takes an action-filled experience and removes any intricacies so that we can experience its very essence.
You don’t need a degree in mechanical engineering to figure out when you should brake at a corner, nor do you need to have an understanding of downforce or any other racing jargon. This is even present in the barebones tuning menu. It’s very simple to understand, with a clear description as to what sliding the dials mean. This doesn’t mean that the handling is too easy. You’re not going to be drifting around each corner, or go unpunished for bad driving. The handling is fine-tuned to make sure that it’s accessible, without feeling like the game is driving you. There’s still a focus on motorsport, so the cars require some skill to drive. The arcade gameplay allows you to focus on taking more risks.
Having a Nemesis means the racer will wait for the perfect opportunity to take you off track.
The AI mechanics really bring some life into the game. Races feel a bit more lively, as the AI is consistently taking on their own agendas. Hit another racer enough times, and they will become your Nemesis. Having a Nemesis means the racer will wait for the perfect opportunity to take you off track. At the same time, your teammate can decide whether or not it will listen to you, based on your actions within the race. This really adds a level of aggression to the game. You can try and get clean racing lines, just for a jealous rival to nudge you off track and put you on a warpath for revenge. Each race feels somewhat different, thanks to the diverse AI. However, you will start to notice the similarities after a few hours into the game. As for your teammate, you can ask them to help you during the course of the race. They can block other racers from passing you, or push forward to hold a pole position. This will depend on their loyalty, with your teammates becoming a possible Nemesis if you bully them around too much on track.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there. While the game may be an arcade-racer, GRID manages to focus on the details where they count. If you crash too hard, you can have a terminal accident and the race ends entirely. Crashing into a wall, for example, will cause the crowd models to disperse and run in fear. They didn’t need to add that feature, but they did. That’s what really matters. You can see Codemasters had just as much fun developing the game, as I did playing it. Yes, you can kill your car and driver.
Graphically, the game looks beautiful. You notice visual issues with the rearview mirrors, but the overall track and car models look really good. Codemasters even went as far as making the cars look like they’ve come out of hundreds of races. The slight scuffs and dents in the car make it feel like it has lived its life on the track, instead of looking like it just came out of the factory. It really is the little things.
Codemasters have taken the GRID franchise and excelled in almost every way with the latest iteration. While the game suffers from a lack of locations, the racing feels great, action-packed, and filled to the brim with drama. GRID removes the focus from simulator racers and proves that motorsport is still fun at its core. All this is perfectly balanced with a sense of realism and intensity, that keeps you waiting on the start line for more.
GRID is a remarkable return of the once beloved racing series, bolstered by brilliant AI and a stern focus on high-octane arcade/sim gameplay.