GRID Autosport comes just a year after GRID 2’s release, aiming to get the series back on track and to reclaim the hearts of those fans that were disappointed by the second game’s change of direction.
The presentation is obviously a step away from that of the second game, with a more streamlined and spartan approach to the menu system. It’s all black backgrounds with an analytical woman’s voice and slowly rotating cars as you delve in and pick your championships. It’s almost gone from one polar extreme to the other, but this is not something that is true of the rest of the game.
While others have scurried to work on projects and bring their games to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, GRID Autosport is firmly entrenched on the last generation of console. It’s not surprising that this is the case, considering the rather brief development period. It belies the game’s origins as a direct follow up to GRID 2, taking the same engine, many of the same tracks and assets and forging ahead with fresh additions across the board.
However, I must admit to being quite impressed by the graphics on show. The cars look good and feature a high level of dynamic destruction, that will see body panels horribly beaten out of shape and doors falling off, but it’s the detail of the tracks and the crowd volume that really stands out. Grassy runoffs are stuffed with enough little sprites to look like actual thick grass, the tree density is quite impressive in other places, and the grandstands and track edges are always packed.
Then there’s the incidental detail, like helicopters and biplanes flying overhead, flocks of birds taking flight and the release of hundreds of balloons as the race gets underway. You can hear the man on the tannoy announcing when there’s been a bit of argy-bargy on track.
It’s practically guaranteed that there will be contact when you’re racing. The AI is more than happy to give its competitors a bit of a shove, in order to try and get by, and I occasionally got the sense that they would often get a little revenge when they could. There’s also a degree of variation depending on the discipline, with the AI in open wheel races less contact happy, the struggles that they face with worsening tyres in Endurance races and so on.
With the game spread across five disciplines of racing – Touring Car, Endurance, Open Wheel, Tuner and Street – there’s a lot of breadth to the events on offer. Each does truthfully offer up a different challenge, whether it’s the tyre management and night time racing of the Endurance races or the drifting events in Tuner class. However, I sometimes found that this wide selection detracted from the game.
The career charts each of the five disciplines individually, allocating experience appropriately and unlocking new events in each avenue as you go. However, I’m not a big fan of the Tuner events as a whole and struggled with the drifting within this section, forcing me to turn the difficulty down to get by – reducing the XP multiplier that I was getting in the process. Yet, to unlock the cross-discipline GRID championships I had to grind my way through this and get all five sections up to level 3.
There’s also a case for the game being too much a jack of all trades and not truly having the depth that the most ardent fans might demand. Though I enjoy the reversed grid implemented for the multi-race events in Touring Cars, Endurance races miss the mark for me, lacking the strategy of pit stops and the game engine not featuring a day-night cycle. Each category sees you working through three classes, but these only feature two or three cars that can race against one another in each class, and then a host of more individual cars for cup events. Then again, I never really invested myself in what car I was driving, as I flitted between categories.
Yet, despite the nitpicking, there’s plenty to like here: the cockpit view returns, you can prompt your race engineer to give you hints – though he still ends up being fairly useless – you can even tell your teammate when to push or hold position. While the purist might want simulation races that last tens of laps, pit stops and so on, GRID Autosport straddles the divide between Sim and Arcade racing, with the trappings of authentic racing and a semblance of the real championship rules, but tying this to action packed races that last 5-10 minutes and a handling model that’s better described as fun and accessible than realistic.
Taking it online and you’re faced with a similar choices of racing category alongside fresh experience bars to fill up through racing or taking part in the RaceNet Challenges. Diving into a match made lobby is all well and good, but the wealth of options in creating custom events fascinate me. Practically everything can be changed, from the class of car to the myriad of track variations and whether it’s night or day. Most impressive is the ability to alter the grid order per round, based on qualifying, results or championship position. It’s this which will really help the game cater to the community going forward.
GRID Autosport is certainly much more in line with what fans of the first game wanted to see in GRID 2, but it manages to arrive on the scene just a year later. The common blood and certain compromises are clear to see, but there have been additions to the cars on offer, the tracks and the readmission of things like the cockpit camera. Yet, in the end, it feels like a stop gap while Codemasters as a whole get ready to jump aboard the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Seeing as there are currently so few racing games on those consoles, this could be a stop gap for racing fans too.
Version tested: PS3