The GRID series has been somewhat in the wasteland of racers for a little while now, and trying to get a foothold in the racing genre has seen it flit from arcade to realistic and throw in a couple of gimmicks along the way. It’s with a smile on my face that I can say that GRID Autosport has really returned to its roots and delivers something that motorsport fans can really get behind.
One of the most important elements of any racer is the handling it offers. GRID Autosport is much more my cup of tea, and a good leap away from the slightly gimmicky handling of the previous iteration. This requires you to take a much more measured approach to driving than ever before, meaning that winning races is all about keeping concentration and having a good idea how you’re going to approach a corner. This is wonderful once you get the hang of it, as this kind of focus really draws you in, but early on it can be a troublesome task for the uninitiated.
Everything about GRID Autosport lives and breathes cars, which makes this a real engine-head’s dream. What adds to the appeal is the progression through the game. Unafraid to allow players to progress through the game in the direction they want, Codemasters has created a singularly enjoyable progression experience. Rather than simply trudging from race to race, you can tackle the various different autosports in any order you fancy. There are a number of disciplines available for you to tackle right from the start, namely Touring, Endurance, Open Wheel, Street and Tuner. While there are a few failings here, which we’ll come onto later, for the most part, these are very much different types of race, adding significant longevity to the game.
What’s more, progression through the game is based on your performance in relation to challenges you accept from the various different teams. So, doing particularly well will see you receive a number of offers from rival teams. Doing less well will see your decisions dwindle. One of the odd mechanics in the game means that the lower rank of challenge you choose, the less tuning you get to do on the car. This seems like a strange decision to me, as the tuning, for many, will be the greater joy.
My favourite, the Touring category, is where the game really shines. With over a dozen circuits, there’s plenty to explore, and the real thrill of racing comes through perfectly, as you leap, slide, bump and rumble through the countryside. If there were a problem with this bracket of the game, it could be that the races can feel a little short, and once you really get into them, you’re running out of track. Still, this isn’t a huge problem, as there are ways to extend them, should you want a longer tournament.
By contrast, the Endurance category is probably the weakest. It really does feel like a tacked on piece of nonsense that shouldn’t really be there. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some gamers (myself for one), love the idea of endurance races, but this has been dialled down so much that it barely feels worth the effort. The one glaring omission is pit stops. Should something go wrong seven and a half minutes into your eight minute race, and your flashback doesn’t work (quite often the case for me it seems), you’re stuck with no option but to slowly drift further and further back. I understand that this mode had to be made somewhat less arduous for those gamers that want to unlock the final mode, the Grand Slam, but really? This is a real stain on what is otherwise an excellently created single player mode.
The other modes, such as Tuner have their strengths and weaknesses, but rather than berate them for any issues they might have, I prefer to see them as a nice variation on a theme that helps you enjoy more game for your money. And that longevity is extended even further by a multiplayer mode that really goes the extra mile. Rather than being an extension of the single player campaign, you get to create your very own stable of cars, each with a huge array of stats and options. This is a really enjoyable element of the game, and allows up to 12 players to enter what are usually excellent races. They’re made all the more thrilling by the ever-present threat of a tiny miss-step causing grief for the front-runners. Indeed, I have had numerous wonderful races that have seen the first place change hands dozens of times and in dramatic fashion.
What you’re buying with GRID Autosport is a genuinely solid take on the racing genre, with a host of features that hark back to the good old days of TOCA. A great multiplayer, a very cleverly thought out progression system and some really stand-out game modes more than make up for its failings. I can highly recommend GRID Autosport for racing fans, especially those that wanted a bit more bang for their buck with GRID 2. Top work, Codemasters.
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