Welcome David, your car is ready in your garage. This is what I was treated to every single time I loaded up Codemasters’ latest racing title, GRID. Whether your vehicle is one of the new Audis fresh off the lot or just a low-end Lacetti, GRID will welcome you into its world and prepare you for what it has in store – the race.
One of the first things you’ll immediately take notice of within GRID is the beautiful presentation style that it has to offer. The menu navigation is very user-friendly and actually helps pull you into the hype of racing. With a crisp and sleek menu, you’ll have the opportunity to enter the GRID World, take on Race Events and hop into a lag-free multiplayer experience.
I decided to jump right into the GRID World and in doing so, was thrown directly behind the wheel of a Viper with no warning beforehand. Once in the driver’s seat, my crew chief informed me that this race was how I would earn my Rookie License, and that all I had to do was finish the event without totaling my vehicle. It sounded easy enough and I revved my engine and peeled out into the start of my racing career.
Throughout your career, your crew chief will act as your spotter. He’ll let you know who is upfront, what’s going on behind you and if there has been a wreck somewhere on the track. Unfortunately, you can’t always trust your spotter to be 100% reliable and you’ll sometimes notice he spots things a little too late as you’re barrel rolling down the stretch after colliding into a spun out vehicle in front of you. While the dialogue does become repetitive, you’ll still enjoy the way it brings the atmosphere around you to life.
Your Rookie License will give you passage into the three regions of the global series which include Japan, Europe and North America. Each region has three tiers of licenses and comes with predetermined respect amounts you must earn before graduating to the next license. Before doing so, you’ll be given the chance to create your own racing team. GRID will allow you to customize your team name and up to three different team colors. Codemasters has also included the option of picking out a pattern design for your team’s vehicles, thought admittedly the options are limited.
Each region has six Championship events that will not only give you the opportunity to make some cash for new team vehicles, but to snag some paid sponsorships along the way as well. Getting the larger sponsors are pertinent if you’re planning on one day purchasing a multimillion dollar car. The direction in which you take your career from this point is entirely up to you.
The events that you’ll be able to partake in range from touring to drifting, Le Mans 24-hour series to demolition derbies and so on. There are several different styles of racing you can choose to be a part of and there is definitely a little something for everyone. Unfortunately, while there may be a variety of styles to take part in, Codemasters didn’t provide vehicular variety in order to enjoy these events to their fullest. GRID features less than 50 total cars and each event style is limited to roughly two to five different vehicles. This may sound like it wouldn’t truly affect the gameplay itself, but that’s only partially true. After a while of racing in the same car, a sense of repetitiveness begins to sink in.
I’m sure you’re all ready to hear about the filet of the title, the racing. For the last couple of months, Codemasters has fed gamers the ideal belief that GRID is not about collecting cars, completing objectives or being ranked #1 – it’s about the race. Truth be told, GRID delivers on that ideology 110%. The racing elements that you’ll find while enjoying the game are hard to compare to games before it. While the game offers the ability to take semi-simulation corners and both impart and receive highly-realistic damage, it also offers up the opportunity to go blazing speeds and drift around corners in an unrealistic fashion as well. GRID is truly the perfect hybrid title between a Gran Turismo and a Need for Speed.
While driving, you’ll notice that each car handles a bit differently than the last. Some may feel as though they under-steer a bit, while others will feel like they over-steer. Crash into the walls enough and you’ll notice all cars start to handle terribly due to your poor driving skills. One of the cooler in-race elements is the brake notifier (for lack of a better term). When you’re coming into a corner at a high speed, there is a small circular area in the bottom left of your screen that will fade range from yellow to red indicating if you’re going to need to break soft or hard whilst entering the turn. This isn’t something the hardcore enthusiast will appreciate, but it will definitely appeal to the casual gamer, thus making the overall experience of the title that much fresher.
On top of the braking assistant, Codemasters has thrown in a “Flashback” mode that will aid drivers in learning how to take certain corners and drive more effectively. The flashback works just like it sounds, allowing you to flashback to an earlier time in the race to prevent a crash that’s about to take place or a spin-out that is coming up. This feature can be triggered manually via the select button, but it’s most helpful after its automatic trigger — totaling your car.
While this sounds like a rubbish idea to some, the ability to take a deadly corner several times to perfect it without having to reload the race each time is a concept everyone should appreciate. A couple of things that do need to be pointed out regarding this is that you’ll have a very limited number of flashbacks per race and you’ll also have the ability removed entirely if you opt to drive on Pro difficulty or play online. Otherwise, the option to play with it on is always available.
As for the online aspect of GRID, what I’ve come to expect each time I’ve entered a lobby is lag free gameplay. Though you will notice sometimes it’s hard to find a game due to GRID intermittently believing races are full (even when they may not be), you’ll be treated to a very lag free experience once you start a session. Online, you’ll have the opportunity to jump into a quick match, custom match or to create your own session. There are both ranked and unranked races and leaderboards for lap times and experience. One of the cooler online features is the ability to race as your racing team from your career and this will enable your online vehicle to sport your team colors and sponsorships.
Outside of great gameplay, stellar presentation, a decent soundtrack and above average audio effects, GRID offers one of the most stylish and graphically impressive racing titles thus far in next-generation racing. While they may not be on par with the pristine models of Gran Turismo, they’re not that far off and, we mustn’t forget, they’re entirely destructible. Not only will the car models impress, but so will the surrounding environment as you race your way onto the #1 spot of the worldwide leaderboards.
Overall, GRID is a perfect mix and match of simulation and arcade racing. If the Toyota Prius is the pinnacle hybrid vehicle, then GRID is the undisputed champion of hybrid racing. Codemasters has done every race fan a favor by releasing a title that manages to overcome most others in a genre overflowing with competition.