Let’s be honest, with the latest releases from Codemasters being possibly some of the best racing games around, the development team behind GRID have quite a bit to live up to. GRID as most will know is a title that was initially released on the last gen of consoles and did spawn a follow up title, GRID 2. It has been one of those titles that a lot of fans wanted to see hit the latest generation of consoles, and I for one will admit to more than just a little excitement when I first heard they were bringing the title back quite a few months ago.
As I said, GRID does have a lot to live up to with Codemasters releasing Dirt 2.0 not so long ago as well as F1 2019; both amazing simulation racers. If you do try to compare GRID to those titles you will end up disappointed with the release. I say that in a good way however, don’t let the initial look of the game fool you. It’s not as polished as both F1 and Dirt, but GRID isn’t a racing sim, it’s much more of an arcade racer. Trust me, I did load the game up and start to compare it to Codemasters recent releases, but the more I played, the more I realised that it is its own game and that I was also pigeonholing Codemasters into sticking to sims.
This game was certainly taken seriously from the start however, Fernando Alonso was brought on board as a race consultant advising on handling and the art of wheel to wheel racing and is also featured in the game as an AI racer set to the highest level you can achieve. It seems that he did find a career after retiring from Formula 1 last year and has actually done a good job with regards to car handling. All of the cars in the game handle differently in the corners depending on their drive train; its harder to initiate a drift in a 4-wheel drive car than a rear-wheeled one, but take that drift in a rear-wheeled car out a little too far on a circuit and watch your rear wheels lose traction on the curbs causing it to spin. The same goes for street circuits; if you hit an inside curb wrong the car will also lose control under loss of traction.
So what can you expect from the game? Well, GRID is a global motorsport event where you will race across Europe, the US and also Asia. 4 cities and 8 circuits across 8 countries. OK, on the face of it, that doesn’t sound like much variation and you’d think that it would start to become very repetitive. That being said, there are variations in all of the tracks within the game. Take Silverstone for instance.. you have the world famous full layout of the track, but you can also race on both the International and National layouts. So that’s 3 tracks to one circuit, but there’s more.. those track layouts are also reversed! This was something I found highly confusing in my first ever race in the game. I have probably logged thousands of laps around Silverstone over the years on various games as well as driving the circuit in a Nissan GT-R myself at a track day yet I have never driven it in reverse that I can remember. I found myself really struggling to find my breaking points on the track and going off quite a lot. With just one track, already you have 6 different races available.. Then factor in that GRID also uses the old Silverstone layout from the 90’s and theres another 2 for ya. There are even more variations used when it comes to street circuits in the game even though some of those tracks have been lifted from the original game making a welcome comeback.
There are various career events in the game which you need to take on in order to eventually take part in the finale of the GRID World Series. Touring, Stock, Tuner, GT and invitational events which you will unlock through beating other race events. Add to that a whole series of races designed by Fernando Alonso which feature racers from his own esports team culminating in facing off against the man himself and you have over 100 sets of races to complete, each race over multiple tracks and will certainly keep you entertained for a long time.
What Codemasters (for me) seem to have done here is stripped back the simulation they have used in previous games and employed the fun that is to be had. I would have liked to have seen the drift mechanics they had used in Dirt titles over the last few years as drifting can sometimes be a little frustrating and everything that you do on track adds to your XP count at the end of the race, however it is nice that when you do push beyond track limits you will lose control of the car whereas I could jump in a car on Dirt and drift all day long no matter what. The game is easily accessible for all levels of player from a complete beginner to some of the more hardcore racers. Whether we will see an E-series come from this game is still to be seen, but it is a good possibility.
In the game you also have a teammate which can help you in races. Using the D-pad of the controller you can ask him to attack to gain a higher position as well as defend to stop people overtaking him; a great technique if you are leading the race with him in second. It gives you a little breathing space as he tries to hold off the chasing pack from attacking you. The higher up the field you both are, the more the financial rewards at the end of the race as it is a team event, not just you against another 15 racers. Those financial rewards are obviously used to buy cars to compete in further races and there are a lot to choose from. Be careful in a series of races however, hit drivers a few too many times and they will become your nemesis on track which continues over following races. Overtaking them then starts to become a problem as they will move more to block you. I also had a few instances where they became that aggressive against you that they actually spun me out on purpose coming from behind and clipping the rear of my car.
Street circuits in the game are tight and lined with tyre barriers, get your cornering slightly wrong and hitting those barriers see the tyres flying into the track. This was something I thought was great at first when I was setting out learning the game and the cars handling in races, however, the further I got into my career and the more skilled I became, the less I was slamming in to the walls, but merely glancing them with the back end of the car I was driving at the time after I had drifted through a corner. No matter how hard or lightly you connect with the walls, the tyres within still act the same and see them flying everywhere. It seems like it’s an all or nothing thing that the developers need to adjust somehow.
There is also an issue that I have with the track graphics in the game. My driving style in the game is to drift round corners as best I can laying down some lovely tyre marks in my wake. Over the course of the race I would expect multiple tyre prints around the corners that I drift around. These weren’t evident in GRID. There is the hint that you are leaving a trail in your wake and the next lap they do seem to be there, but as soon as you drift again your latest tyre marks overwrite the ones you left from the lap before and you can actually see it happening. Also viewing my races back in a nice replay feature, there isn’t very much tyre smoke kicked up when I let the backend of the car step out on me. I would have also liked some sort of a photo option in the game. You can pause the replay and view from set cameras then remove the OSD to get a screenshot as I have for this review, but every game these days seems to come with a photo mode where you can change a lot of aspects about the image you are wanting to grab.
If your racing view for the game prefers to see you sat inside the car then pretend that you don’t have a handbrake. No matter how many times I would use the handbrake to initiate a drift in the game, my drivers hand never left the steering wheel. It was as if the handbrake didnt exist and you somehow did a handbrake turn my some mystical magic.
The damage mechanics in the game do feel like they have been lifted straight from the last gen games and polished for this gen very slightly, in fact I did get that feeling about the cars themselves as well. Also I didn’t really get a sense of speed in the game. Although my speedo was saying that I was driving at over 150 mph, the scenery didn’t feel like it was flying past fast enough, especially when you race the street circuits.
These were the only things that let the game down slightly for me personally. The developers however have announced a service plan for after release content to keep everyone busy which will contain new car classes, tracks including city circuits and brand new career threads which will challenge the player. If you buy the Ultimate Edition of the game, all of the future content will be free, for anyone else apparently it is only going to be new tracks that are free to download. At least it does promise to be a massive game once future updates are released, not that it isn’t already.
Couple with the already large career mode, Online Multiplayer expands on the fun as well as your XP score. Now, at the time of writing this review (day before initial release and day before the embargo on reviews lift) I have only managed to have one online session with someone who quit halfway through the race as they were terrible and didn’t like being last. I was informed that the team at Codemasters were available to stress test the online servers a few days ago, but it seems that that never happened. Everytime I switched over to online there were never any other players waiting in a lobby even if I sat there for half an hour. The short session I did have ran great. The AI drivers that were on track at the same time were quite tough racers and gave me a run for my money and there didn’t seem to be any issues with frame drop or lag. If this remains the same when the game is released is still to be seen as with F1 2019 if there were any racers that had an awful internet signal their cars glitched all over the track making races annoying at the best of times.
Speaking of frame rate issues, no matter how much action was happening on screen at any moment in time I didn’t encounter a single drop throughout my hours of playing in career. I think I was looking out more for these drops, especially in street races as there really is a lot of action happening at once, especially into the first corner, but I’m happy to say I was left disappointed not finding any issues.
The sounds of the game are good, but I was reminded of Need For Speed: Pro Street. Before the race starts there’s annoying Radio DJs chatting rubbish and then during the race you get to hear them over loud speakers track side. For me, it wasn’t needed.
Despite the personal issues I came across in the game, it is brilliant and does promise so much more to come. Thankfully I was supplied with the Ultimate Edition so I can experience the full package when updates are released; it will also give me time to complete races that I hadn’t completed in the career even though I did manage to get through to the GRID world series.
The game easily deserves an 8.5/10. It’s far from polished, but it offers some great fun and runs extremely well and easily beats the previous titles released on last gen. With a plethora of track layouts it avoids a repetitive feel that a lot of racing games can sometimes bring. Try not to approach the game as I first did and you certainly won’t be disappointed in what it has to offer.