It’s been a while between drinks (imbibed from shoe or otherwise), but Codemasters’ GRID series, itself an evolution of the TOCA games, finally makes it to now-gen consoles. So, has it been worth the wait for GRID, or does it stall on the starting line?
Let’s be honest, it’s entered a crowded field, as there’s no shortage of good race game competition nowadays. But Codies are old hands at this car racing caper, and haven’t re-entered the fray blindly.
Basics-wise, they bring 12 core tracks (some new, some familiar) with assorted layout variations and reverse runnings that in all total some 80-plus. More are promised. The same goes for cars, although there’s a healthy choice to begin with, ranging from JDM specials to classic muscle cars, stock, trucks, high-spec Euro-motors and a couple of Aussie classics in the Falcon and Commodore. If you’re feeling saucy, you can even purchase a Volvo Estate wagon. Boxy, but nice.
All the tracks scrub up a treat, with settings for various times of day. GRID supports HDR if your telly does, too, which brings an added level of visual flair to proceedings. However, it also highlights visual flare – as in the programmers said something along the lines of, “We’ve got a sun glare routine and we’re bloody well going to use it.” They forgot to add that this will usually be where you’re heading into a corner, so if you’re not staring at the track map or don’t know the circuit intimately then, well, have fun playing with the marbles.
That being whined, the graphics really are pretty special, with welcome little touches like damage gradually eroding nice shiny metal into hunks of twisted four-wheeled garbage, working wipers for in-car view when it’s bucketing down and such.
As you would hope, the sounds vary between cars, from the little pops and farts of the Ford Focus through to the downright grunty V8 behemoths. There’s no music in-game – yay – but even if there was you’d likely be able to switch it off, as options abound. Speaking of, mercifully you can silence the dipstick of an engineer’s patronising input. We suggest doing that before you hit any track, otherwise you may set about hunting down the voice actor in question armed with a very big stick.
Several racing disciplines are included, and the neatest way to hit these is via the ‘Career’ mode. Eventually complete four championships and you’ll open the big money/big glory GRID World Series. While the shortage of different core tracks can be a drag at times, the variations between types of races help to pep up proceedings, as you grind away for big points, nabbing speed, technique and bravery notches along your way to help that all important XP grow. You’ll also tick off a bunch of career objectives and milestones while you’re at it, earn badges (“steenking” or otherwise) and horde other decorative bric-a-brac.
Codemasters have also managed to spin something new into the mix, with a nemesis system. Basically, ram, nudge or otherwise irritate another racer too much and they’ll both see red in their heads and show red on the race map, indicating that they’re going to be out to get you any chance that they get. This is assuming that they can actually catch you, of course. [Insert Muttley laugh here].
WEE-WAW! WEE-WAW! What’s that? Oh yeah, the fun police. Sadly they’ve had their wizened hand in proceedings, for no matter how much you casualise your gameplay style to optimise the fun factor, they’ll still hassle you most times that you dare stick one wheel off the track and slap you with a time penalty. Mercifully there is a rewind function in-game, which can counteract it, but it really is a complete buzz kill when you’re otherwise in the zone (erm, even if you’re also off the track). Yeah, yeah, recorded times, but there still should be an option to turn this off, even if it negates times being recorded.
“GRID really is a slick racing entry, and one that doesn’t make you waste too much time getting in and out of races – big ticks.”
For those who wish to go multiplayer, sadly there’s nothing in the way of local splitscreen. You can arrange to hook up with friends online, but it isn’t nearly the same as being able to trash talk to mates’ faces… or hurl Twisties at them.
Our only other whinge is one that will hopefully be patched out any minute now, whereby when you go back from a menu, the cursor returns to ground zero, rather than where you left off. It’s annoying enough on the ‘Career’ screen, but will drive you bonkers once you start tuning cars and have to drill through the menu from go every single time.
GRID really is a slick racing entry, and one that doesn’t make you waste too much time getting in and out of races – big ticks. It ultimately nails the most critical requirement for a good racer, in that no matter whether you dial the assists up to stun, or down to insanity, cars handle like a dream. Well, maybe not the Falcodores, but otherwise… It’s also little touches, like when physics dictates that you’ve hit that corner a tad too hard and has you gradually arcing out towards a barrier, a rapid tap of the handbrake can be enough to pull you into line just right. It’s playable like crazy.
With the promise of heaps more cars and tracks – Bathurst next, please – all for the bargain basement price of free, there’s much for racing fans to look forward to with GRID at launch and in the future.