GRID is the latest racing game from developer Codemasters. Their previous game, DiRT, was an off-road adrenaline rush that was certainly different than other racers out at the time. About a year has passed since, and while not a direct sequel, GRID takes the traditional racing game and kicks it up a notch. Offering a new Flashback feature, amazing graphics, and arcade style gameplay, this is one excellent game. GRID is easily one of the top racers this generation.
Racing games have come a long way in the past few years and GRID certainly shows off some of the best graphics for any racer and is even comparable to other mainstream games. The texture work is beautiful. Every scene looks fantastic. Great attention to detail has been made in everything from paint jobs on the cars to the gloves that the racers themselves are wearing. Backgrounds look realistic and have just a slight occurrence of pop-in, but only if you're really looking for it. Several camera views are offered including an in-helmet cam that shows you a realistic point of view from the driver.
When the cars take on damage, everything is taken into account. The speed of the collision, angle, and where on the car the damage shows up, all seem very accurate. After taking so much damage, the car will behave like how it should. Front hood and wing severely damaged? You get loss of control and speed. Rear Axel is about to fall off? Good luck trying to stay on the road! Normally with this much detail to damage you would often need to restart the race from scratch. But not with GRID.
Introducing a new “Flashback” feature, you are now able to pause the game and rewind back a couple seconds at any given time. This helps prevent the annoyance of restarting a race from scratch after spending five minutes fighting your way to the front only to take the last corner too fast and spin out. Based on the difficulty level you choose, you are able to have 5 rewinds per race on basic mode and increasing the difficulty will bring the rewinds all the way down to zero if you so desire. For most people this added feature is a miracle but to others it can be a bit frustrating. After playing for quite some time, I began using my Flashbacks whenever I would make the slightest mistake and in turn caused the game to slow down some in its pacing. If you can avoid overusing this feature, you'll want it in every game after.
Single player career is divided up into different sections based upon location and the race type associated with it. USA has more muscle cars, Europe offers touring cars, and Japan has street racers. Each of these three sections have race types mixed together somewhat, but the overall feel to each race coincides with its region. There are plenty of tracks to select from but you'll end up repeating the same ones just with higher-end cars. GRID seems to lack somewhat in the variety department. After spending many hours with the game the tracks get repetitive and only appeal for so long. There are just over 40 cars to choose from in GRID, which seems a bit short compared to other racers out there and the customization comes up a bit short as well. You won't find any fine tuning, hand drawn paint jobs, or car upgrades in this game.
The cars themselves handle strangely in that they are able to accelerate and break at incredible speeds but cornering seems to be very technical. When selecting a car to race in, you are presented with some stats like top speed, acceleration, cornering, etc. But in-game the stats don't seem to add up. You'll often notice other drivers passing you on strait stretches of open road in cars you didn't pick because the stats were less than the car you selected. This doesn't mean much though because in GRID, mastering the corners on each track is the important thing. If you are passed by another driver you can usually take the next couple corners aggressively and be able to catch up to your old spot. Just don't take them at high speed and expect the walls to “assist” you in the turn.
Enemy drivers and partner A.I are different compared to most other games. Rather than having the other drivers follow a strict path, GRID gives them human judgment and error. Don't be surprised if all of a sudden the car you are trying to pass suddenly spins out or takes a corner sharply and hits you. In fact, the drivers seem like they will do anything to get ahead of you. This creates some intense races and makes you feel like you really earned the finishing spot you got. A little ways into the career mode, you are given a selection of other racers you can hire to be on your team. After the initial selection, you can fire and hire a new driver. Each one has a specific type of race they excel in and they have stats like awareness, aggressiveness, and driving consistency only to name a few. You can search for drivers who have better stats in each field but be prepared to shell out some cash to buy them and keep them on your team.
Not much to say about the sound except that it is great. All the cars sound unique and detailed. Muscles cars have a low roaring engine sound and each car class sounds different. In-game music is what you would expect and thankfully you can play your own music through the Xbox 360 dashboard. The main problem is with the voices in the game giving you information about what is going on. Most of the time, it is completely irrelevant or late in getting it to you. Often times you'll hear: “Hey, it looks like (insert name) has spun out!” only you already passed (insert name) 30 seconds ago. It can get annoying at times but you can just turn it down in the options menu.
Multiplayer suffers from the same reasons the single player career does. The tracks just get boring and repetitive. Another factor is also included when racing on-line and that is you're playing against other people, not A.I. Though the A.I in GRID seems life-like, it is nothing compared to real people who really want to win. Almost every on-line race I entered, my car was either destroyed within the first major turn or was damaged to the point that it reacted like a drunken fool, slowly meandering down the street weaving back and forth. Thankfully there is an option to turn off damage but doing so ruins the feel of the game. Being able to take corners going over double the recommended speed is fine since there is no damage and the game quickly becomes a high speed version of bumper cars. There is a ranking system available but it is nothing more than bragging rights and achievement points.
Final Recommendation: 9/10
GRID has some flaws and offers up a fairly short gaming experience, but more importantly the game is just fun to play. By introducing the new Flashback feature, it takes the stress off of the player and allows them to really push their skills to the limit. The graphics are some of the best ever seen on modern consoles. Some people may complain about the lack of customization offered compared to other racers, but having all the customization in the world won't make a game good if it isn't fun to play in the first place. If you're put off by the need to constantly tweak with your car before every race or if you are just looking for something a little different, GRID is your best bet.