As an arcade racing game, GRIP delivers a white-knuckle ride into the jaw-breaking, rip-roaring, catastrophically dangerous and gravity defying speedways. The developer, Caged Element, is vehement with its ambition to deliver a title that promises to take racing to the next level.
Originally advertised as a Kickstarter title, GRIP struggled to cross the finish-line and secure the $657,000 Canadian dollars it so desired, instead raising a less than comparable $154,000. Regardless, the developers have released the game as an early access product and is currently available on Steam at £11.99 for Windows on PC, although the whispers around the track have suggested a possible Playstation 4 release too, stay tuned for that.
From the visuals, you’d be forgiven for drawing similarities with other cult classics such as the Rollcage franchise, this is no coincidence. Caged Element, although a new team, is comprised with members of the original Psygnosis team who brought you the original Rollcage series, which, if you’re a fan like me, will have you chomping-at-the-bit to see how they can sculpt and tweak this game. So far, I’ve been impressed with what is on offer.
For those new to this world, GRIP is a futuristic racer where you must test your skills against other, slightly mad and potentially psychotic racers. The race tracks are fast and furious, jumps, steep drops, close corridors will have you attempting to control your beast of a machine with a frenzied reserve, one wrong move, one over-steer and you’ll hurtle into a wall with neck-breaking speed.
GRIP, as did it’s predecessor, toys with the idea of gravity, traction and propulsion If you can acquire sufficient speed, should your vehicle flip unexpectedly, then the wheels will grip onto the surrounding surfaces at blistering speeds and continue traveling on your desired route. Of course, should you wish, you can use this mechanic to execute a masterclass in racing brilliance with a ceiling gripping ‘Top Gun’ style overhead overtake, flipping the bird at your astonished competitors as you gracefully maneuver into 1st place using the ceiling of the tunnel as your newly adapted road. Splendid.
To help you on your way, or indeed hinder your very existence; each race track comes with it’s own collection of power-ups which will ultimately be your salvation or equally so, your demise. The power-ups are accessed by driving over the top of them, you can have access to 2 at any one time. For example, you may find yourself the proud owner of a speed boost, a homing missile or a shield, always handy. Although heartbreaking as it is, so can your racing competitors who will likely drive that missile right inside your mechanical behind just yards before the finish-line…
Graphically the game is gorgeous, the landscapes sprawl into the distance, light shafts are blinding and beautiful. Each track has been designed with purpose to challenge the player and test their limits. The vehicles have a gratifying sense of weight, yet are nimble enough to satisfy the more speed-hungry of racers. GRIP feels polished and crafted with care by a team who are clearly invested emotionally in the title. It’s easy to see that the game remains loyal to the grass-roots of Rollcage however, they’ve taken what was great about the original title and made it so much better. Although I despise this terminology, GRIP has taken the series to a ‘Next Generation’ status, cringe; however there is no better way to describe it. If you liked the look and feel of the original title, then you will be overwhelmed by the improvements that have been made.
The soundtrack for GRIP is immense, with new talent such as Full Kontact, Kevin Greenlee and Xtigma all providing their thumping tracks, it’s a mix of drum and bass, dance and electro. I’m always impressed when a developer decides to weave distinctive music into the heart of the game. I recall Wipeout doing the same thing, with artists like The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers adorning the title and giving the game a distinct identity. The fusion between gaming and music is harmoniously executed in GRIP, you may even find yourself continually completing time trials just to listen to the fantastic music. Not only that, there are more artists to be added as the game develops further.
As it stands, GRIP provides a single player and co-op mode, although multiplayer is also on the horizon. With a selection of tracks to choose from and varying levels of difficulty, should you wish to invest in the early release title, then I would suggest there is enough in the current title to give you value for money. Clearly, this is an unfinished title and it isn’t without it’s minor bugs, but, these are minor such as the odd glitch or game crash here or there. I would expect that these issues are ironed out as the game progresses and I’ll be keeping a close eye on this game, I am impressed and I can’t wait for more.
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