After quite some time in the pits, the GRID series makes its way to PS4, Xbox One and PC this month. We had a chat with Chris Smith, the GRID game director at Codemasters, as to what to expect from the reborn racer.
W ith a whole new generation of hardware to play on since the last series entry, GRID Autosport, Chris Smith tells us that possibly the most exciting thing to look forward to is, essentially, randomness.
“Unpredictable motorsport racing is the most impactful addition to GRID that players will feel every moment they are racing. “With 400 AIs, 74 potential teammates, a nemesis system, rivals and the ‘Event Choreographer’ – which affects AI drivers with mechanic failures, mistakes and human traits such as someone being on the top of their game or just having an off day – the variety in cars and tracks means no two races will feel the same.”
A game’s AI can make or break the experience. Considering Smith’s keenness to highlight it, we pressed him for more details.
“We wanted to create the unpredictable nature of motorsport to deliver memorable racing stories for the players,” he elaborates. “In order to achieve this, we needed competitive AI with distinct personalities like rivals, teammates and nemeses for the player to react to, as well as have them react to the player. For example, if you create a nemesis by repeated car contact with an AI, we change their personality, boost their skill and allow them to initiate car-to-car manoeuvres and even start more actively blocking your overtake attempts. In short, when an AI becomes a nemesis, they do all they can to beat you.”
In news that will excite many a race fan, Spanish F1 legend Fernando Alonso has worked with Codemasters on this iteration of GRID.
“It’s been great working with Fernando, who is arguably one of the world’s greatest ever drivers,” Smith gushes, understandably. “Both his experience and knowledge has enabled us to make improvements to both the performance and handling of our cars. From a gameplay perspective, players enter a series of events against some of Alonso’s esports driving team FA Racing, across multiple classes of racing before going head-to-head with the former world champion in his Renault R26 F1, in a face-to-face showdown event.”
What we loved most about GRID Autosport was its superb balance of simulation with enough of an arcade vibe to not scare away more casual drivers. So, where does GRID sit on this spectrum?
“Today there are many different gamer types, each with different gaming habits, skill levels and time available for their gaming sessions,” muses Smith. “GRID is designed for everyone, with choice and accessibility in mind. You choose how you play through the career, how you set up your car, what online experience you want, no matter your skill level or time to play, GRID is for everyone.
“GRID is designed for everyone, with choice and accessibility in mind.”
“This approach to accessibility and choice is also reflected in GRID’s newly-created handling model. Turn off assists like stability control and ABS, and players who prefer a more challenging and realistic handling model will feel at home. If you’re a more casual player, leave the assists on and the level of skill required to drive the car lowers. This allows us to have a handling model that feels great for each car class, and enjoyable for all players. After all, it’s your game and we want you to have fun!”
We can’t hold out any longer. The cars! Tell us more about the cars and what we can do with them!
“GRID is about variety and choice, and the career offers 104 events over seven career threads covering a variety of disciplines including GT, touring, stock, muscle, super-modified, FA Racing and invitational races (not to mention Ravenwest waiting for you in the championship thread),” teases Smith. “Within each discipline there are multiple car classes to keep racing fans engaged. Players can also take any of the car classes and create their own events both off and online, adding even more motorsport stories.”
OK, so no great detail on marques there, but Smith does have a favourite, at least for this week.
“My favourite car changes week to week as we have so many truly classic cars in our line-up, so right now I’d have to say it’s the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.”
Nice choice! What about tracks?
“I’m a big fan of the Okutama point-to-point track and the new Shanghai city track, as well as the classic Brands Hatch GP circuit.”
In a roundabout way, the latter track reminds him of one of the coolest additions that we should expect in the presentation department – speed of access.
“We’re trying to get the player through the menus and into the racing as fast as possible, because the racing itself is so detailed, reactive and beautiful. Play Brands Hatch at sunset and you’ll see what I mean!”
GRID releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 11.
Track by track
GRID will take us all over the world from Cuba to China, the UK to Spain, the USA to Japan, and beyond. But what about Australia? Did our legendary Bathurst circuit make it into this one?
“Australia is represented in the game by the beautiful Sydney Motorsport Park, which hosts multiple touring car events including ‘World Time Attack’,” says Smith. “I’m a big fan of the grand prix circuit configuration with the amazingly fast sweeping corner out of the Brabham straight. It’s a great addition to GRID’s variety and choice of locations. We do love Bathurst however, and it’s on our list.”