GameNow WP Theme

Dark Light
Race Driver: GRID Review
Review Score:

Colin McRae Dirt was largely based around the Rally scene, including cars designed to take corners at the sharpest of angles and risk life and limb in. Due to the unfortunate death of the legendary Colin McRae, Codemasters have decided to take a different approach to the franchise. No longer will you rip up the dirt in your Suzuki Swift and Citroen C4, you’ll produce scorching tyre marks in the tarmac as you exceed speeds of 200mph in the breathtaking Lamborghini GTR or the Audi R10. Although the racing philosophy has changed since Dirt, the similarities are obvious to see with GRID; the “don’t change a winning formula” theory has certainly been put into practice here. This could also explain how Codemasters have managed to produce a stellar racing game within only a year of its predecessor. The menus are the most noticeable similarity, with the music, sounds, damage system and even achievements all only seeing slight changes.

One new change however, and a positive change at that, is when you are asked to enter your profile details. A list of names and nicknames appear which you can choose from to represent your in-game name. The commentator throughout the game will regularly use this chosen name, whether it be welcoming you back when you next reload the game or congratulating you for taking over your main rival. The list is quite an extensive one, including a large percentage of commonly heard names. If your name unfortunately doesn’t make the list, you can then choose from one of the humorous nicknames Codemasters have included for you; with STUD being my personal favourite. Hearing “Welcome back Alan, your car is ready and waiting for you” didn’t fail in bringing a banana shaped smile to my face. The personalisation included here can also help motivate you during races. An example of this would be “Your rival is only one place ahead Alan”. Knowing you’re close to achieving your goals can help give you that extra push forward and added motivation. Bizarre Creations and other game developers must be kicking themselves right now for not implementing this idea first; expect this to be a commonly used feature in future games.

Codemasters have expanded from Dirt’s “win all these races and earn lots of money” single player mode, with GRID having more of a story driven single player portion. No, you won’t see 20 minute long cut-scenes and become emotionally attached to the characters, but it’s far more indulging than just racing for money. Your goal in GRID is to earn a reputation throughout Europe, America and Japan, gaining your Global racing licence at the same time and proving you’re the greatest driver in the world. This can be accomplished in GRID’s main game mode, GRID World Tour. When you first select World Tour mode, you’re thrust in the deep end of things as you find yourself on a starting grid, lining up against 11 other roaring machines, all with one similar goal in mind; to win their Rookie licence. Wipe the floor with these average competitors and the Rookie licence is yours. This prized possession allows you to enter the first set races in each region around the world.

GRID’s World Tour mode is similar to Dirt’s pyramid set-up, with each region consisting of 3 tiers. During World Tour mode, you will battle your foes throughout Europe, America and Japan, aiming to create a fierce and feared reputation in each region. Each tier consists of 9 events, with each event lasting for an average of 2 races; and therefore each tier consisting of 18 races. With 9 tiers overall, with each tier consisting 9 events, you will compete in 162 races throughout World Tour mode. Luckily for you, the 162 races won’t become a chore instead of a joy due to varied race modes being included. The usual circuit races are of course seen, along with the ever popular drift races, and a new introduction called Pro Togue. The Pro Togue events see you frantically race an opponent 1 on 1 to the finishing line, over 2 separate tracks. You will start ahead of your opponent on the first track, with him starting ahead of you in the second race. Fair enough you might be thinking, but there’s a stipulation which cranks up the tension this event produces. Whilst overtaking your opponent, you’re not allowed to make contact with his car; and if you do, a time penalty will be infracted. The winner is the driver who finished the 2 tracks in the quickest time. This allows you to still lose a race and actually win the event, aslong as you produced an overall quicker time than your opponent. Being behind your opponent in the second race can produce some tense moments as you eagerly try to overtake him as he rapidly approaches the finishing line.

Drifting events challenge you to score more points than your rivals as you either complete a lap of a winding track, or frantically drift around one of the free roaming areas put together. For those who aren’t aware, drifting is using the handbrake to propel your car to a 45 degree angle or more as you turn around corners with style. In GRID, red and white flags will be located on the corners of the drift tracks. The closer you get to these flags whilst drifting, the higher your score will be. However, if you hit the flag, collide with a wall or drive on to the nearby grass, your score will be not count and your combo will be lost. If you’re quick enough, huge drift combos can be made via quickly linking together different drifts. The more drifts you link together, the higher score you will be awarded, and therefore you’ll have a better chance at outscoring the other drift kings. The concept is an excellent one and without doubt a good addition to the game. However, beginners in the racing genre may have some difficulty at first whilst performing drifts. There is such a fine line between performing a perfect drift and spinning your car out of control. The practice will be worth it though, as completing high scoring drifts in GRID can be provide a very rewarding feeling.

Each “season” in GRID lasts for 4 events, and a special race occurs at the end of each season. You have the opportunity to participate in the famous Le Mans 24 hour race in France where the world’s best compete in an endurance race lasting throughout the night. Fortunately in GRID, the race only lasts 24 minutes instead of 24 hours. During the race, daylight slowly turns into darkness and the cars headlights turn on. Racing at high speeds in the pitch black, barely being able to see ahead is a huge rush and something definitely worth experiencing. If you manage to last the full race without driving off the course, then you’re a better driver than me!

For every race you win in World Tour mode, you are awarded reputation points. These reputation points are then used to upgrade your licence. The higher the driving licence you have, the more events you unlock, with these events also being harder and having higher prize money and reputation points available for winning. Not only will you be awarded reputation points and money when you win races, you will also receive sponsorship offers. You have complete control on how your car looks throughout World Tour mode, including what sponsors place on your car. 8 sponsor slots will be available, with 1 being a major spot and the other 7 being known as minor slots. The sponsor you place in the major slot will pay you double the amount, so choosing what sponsor to place where can be vital in earning the most amount of money possible. Choosing what sponsors to use and when acts as a whole game itself. In order to receive the money from the sponsors, you have to meet certain stipulations which differ for each sponsor. For example, the company Blisten might award you £3000 for winning the race, whereas another company award you £1500 for just finishing the race. This is where the intelligent aspect comes in. Do you take a risk and go for the full £3000 or play the safe card and bag a guaranteed £1500?

As you progress through World Tour mode, you will pick another driver to represent your team and race with you. The sponsorship offers will also apply to your team-mates car, and this could sway your decision when choosing what sponsors to choose. It might not be wise choosing a sponsor who stipulates you win the race, due to it being impossible for both you and your team-mate to be victorious, and therefore one of you failing to receive the money. A wiser option might be choosing a sponsor that stipulates you have to finish 3rd or above, which could be achieved by both of you.

If the name recognition feature, impressively deep story mode and a wide variety of events have failed to intrigue you, the following feature might help. If you are like me and usually crash multiple times throughout the race, falling behind the leaders and end up at an uncatchable distance, fear not; Codemasters have thought of us less skilled gamers during their development of GRID. A new feature called Flashback has been implemented. If you wreck your car, spin out, or simply don’t take a corner correctly during a race, you can hit the back button which brings up the replay screen and rewind the race to a position you are happy with. By pressing the X button, you will find yourself starting again from that preferred position, and therefore avoiding that massive pile-up that occurred or having another attempt at that tricky corner. The Flashback feature can help keep you in the race and vying for the all important first place even in the final lap, and therefore this helps add and maintain intense racing situations. There is a catch however. Only 5 Flashbacks can be used per race, and this is on the easiest difficulty level. As the difficulty increases, the amount of Flashbacks available reduces, resulting in a cleaner race having to occur. The Flashback feature is a terrific addition to the game and will attract new gamers to the genre, whilst also making the game more enjoyable for those who lack racing skills. This feature or something similar will no doubt be stolen and used by other developers for future racing games. Congratulations Codemasters for inventing a brilliant idea.

There are 15 different locations around the world to race bumper to bumper in, whether it be in the World Tour mode or the “Race Day” option where you can set up your own event to practice and have fun with. A large percentage of the 15 locations in the game have at least 3 separate tracks to enjoy and experiment with, resulting in a healthy amount of tracks to help avoid boredom whilst playing GRID. Each location looks different to the next, all looking staggeringly beautiful. Whether it is the light shining through the trees or the detail on the road, each track is presented with an amazing amount of realism. Not only do the environments look great, but so does every one of the 42 cars available for you to wreck to your hearts content. There are 13 different disciplines that the cars belong to. Whether the car was built for freestyle drifting, Pro or Midnight Togue events or the 24 Le Mans race, they all handle differently, with the faster cars noticeably being harder to control. A car built for a Demolition Derby race will also be harder to wreck than a brand new Lamborghini; thank goodness!

Real life sponsors are having a bigger impact in video games these days, but possibly none bigger than Ebay. During the World Tour mode, when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle, you have two options; either buy the car brand new or slightly cheaper second hand from Ebay Motors. Each car you attempt to buy will have 3 second hand models on Ebay, stating how many cars the race has won, how many miles the car has been drive, and also, most importantly, how many times the vehicle has been wrecked. It is important to choose a car with few wreckages to ensure the handling is near perfect. A car with a high amount of victories in races is also worth considering, as it proves the car has the potential to be successful. The best option is to obviously purchase the car in brand new condition, but if you are short of cash or like to save your money for more expensive cars later in the game, Ebay Motors is a great option to have.

The way a car handles is arguably the most important factor in a racing game; afterall, if a game looks and sounds beautiful but the gameplay mechanics are faulty, the overall experience will suffer. Many gamers have already judged GRID from the demo released by Codemasters a month before release date, and for those who have and took a negative view away, I beg you to give the game another try. The demo’s handling was erratic to say the least, with a slight push of the analogue stick making the car drift at ridiculous angles and regularly spin out of control. Fortunately, the handling has vastly been improved since the demo with the final product seeming harder to lose control. For those talented drivers among you, there is also the option of switching off driving aids such as Traction Control and ABS Braking System. With these driving aids turned off, the car will be much more of a challenge to handle as it attempts to live its own life. There is certainly a high learning curve that comes with the game, but the feeling when you have mastered the handling is a very rewarding one.

If you don’t however manage to perfect the handling in GRID, you will still experience positives from the game in the shape of a fantastic damage system. Codemasters previous racing game Dirt was one of the first titles to include damage modelling to vehicles, and this has further been improved in GRID. If you scrape against the side of a track, expect to see your beautiful paint job ruined in an instance. You’ll have to be careful whilst overtaking other vehicles aswell, because even a slight collision whilst travelling at high speeds will result in your bumper flying off the car. Not only does damage to the cars look undeniably good, it also affects the cars handling. An example of this would be if you crumple the front end of the machine in to a wall. Expect one of the wheels to be damaged, which would result in your car swaying to one side. Having to steer in the opposite direction just to drive in a straight line will make taking corners inch-perfect an even harder task. The damage system adds intensity to races due to making the gamer undertake a more hesitant racing style.

Gone are the days where you could predict the A.I’s every move and therefore win with ease. The Artificial Intelligence in GRID is unprecedented, with other drivers intelligently cutting you up or blocking your racing line. I lost count of the times I tried to overtake an A.I car, only to be barged out of the way and spin off the track; resulting in yet another Flashback being used. Luckily I was playing on one of the easier difficulties, due to the harder difficulty levels only allowing one or two Flashbacks being used. The incredible Artificial Intelligent really helps add a terrific amount of realism to the game, along with a huge rush as you now have to intelligently make your way around the tracks.

Online multiplayer is a standard feature in a large percentage of next generation games, with GRID being no exception. Most other racing games on the market only allow 8 players to go head to head at the same time, whereas GRID allows 12 players in each race. Having more gamers in the race obviously provides a sterner challenge to win, and also makes the likelihood of being taken out by another driver increased. From the 5 races I participated in over Xbox Live, other gamers purposely crashed in to and eliminated me from the race before I had a chance to stamp my authority on the event. Being 10 seconds behind the leaders as you slowly crawl back on the track after having your wheels taken away really does dishearten you and take away all motivation you had of winning the race. On a positive note, the fantastic graphics and damage system are still present on Xbox Live, allowing you to battle all night long with your friends in gorgeous high definition graphics. The same adrenaline fuelled, intense racing found during the World Tour mode is also available via Xbox Live, and something I’d recommend you experiencing at least once during your time with GRID.

Whilst taking achievements into account, you’ll neither think “wow what an amazing achievement list”, nor will you be cursing Codemasters for producing an Avatar-esque performance. The majority of achievements can be unlocked via playing through and completing the highly enjoyable World Tour mode, with only 5 achievements falling into the online category. 2 of these 5 will take up a considerable amount of your time though, as you will have to achieve the ranks of Elite and Legend on Xbox Live; not an easy or quick task. For those of you chasing a reasonably quick 700 plus achievement points, this could be the game for you; but if you’re a completionist, you’ll have to rack up the hours before you can be a proud owner of the 100 percent completion status.

AUDIO – 90

The car engines sound great, the menu music is pleasantly done, and who can forget the groundbreaking name recognition feature? A solid display all round.

VISUALS – 95

In my opinion, GRID is the best graphical game in the racing genre so far. So much detail has gone into every car, track and other feature the game beholds. The damage system is also very well done and adds a sense of realism to the game.

PLAYABILITY – 90

After you pass the high learning curve and master the games handling, I’d be willing to bet you become addicted to the game. You’ll find yourself saying I’m just going to have 1 more race; 10 races later, you’ll still be hooked to the TV as you try to beat your rivals high score in that challenging drift event or conquer the online world one last time.

DELIVERY – 80

Although the menus and whole look of the game has an obvious similarity to Codemasters last title, Dirt, they still undeniably look good and are easily navigated.

ACHIEVEMENTS – 80

You will have fun achieving the majority of achievements in GRID, but may struggle finding the motivation to hunt down the long winded multiplayer achievements.

SUMMARY

Codemasters have built on an already successful game in Dirt by adding improved graphics, tuning up a terrific damage system, making online racing available to 12 players simultaneously, and most importantly, including a deeper and more enjoyable single player experience. Congratulations Codemasters, I’m sure Mr McRae would have been proud of the finished product.

VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
Race Driver: GRID Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
blog comments powered by Disqus
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Digg button Youtube button