We heard a lot about GRIP: Combat Racing during its development, and now it’s finally here. Out on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 – we got behind the wheel of one of GRIP’s superpowered race machines on a Playstation 4 Pro.
Our review sessions weren’t the first times we had a go with GRIP, but we hadn’t had the pleasure of sampling the entire range of tracks, vehicles and gameplay modes yet. Although it’s a spiritual successor to the Playstation 1 classic Rollcage, GRIP: Combat Racing is far more diverse in its gameplay modes, takes cues from other recent racing games instead of just recreating Rollcage with modern technology.
Speaking of technology though, GRIP’s (graphics) engine is great at rendering smooth visuals at excellent framerates, and it keeps that up even in a 4-way split screen scenario. With 4-way split screen racing usually reserved for kart racers or even 2D racers, I was very impressed with this – it felt like playing Wipeout in VR for the first time did, adding a layer of excitement to something otherwise familiar.
Because yes, GRIP does feel familiar – and not just because of the Rollcage inspiration and the fact that there are quite a few high speed futuristic racers out there (besides Wipeout, Redout and Radial-G come to mind, as does Antigraviator). What makes GRIP feel familiar is also that it’s accessible, and you can instantly start playing – especially if you choose to start off with regular (non-combat) racing.
There’s a tutorial that explains the basics, but you can get through it in a matter of minutes and everything else just kind of falls into place after that. Besides the obvious accelerate and brake controls, you have the option to use powerups with L1 and R1. During straight up racing these are just extra speed boosts, but there’s a variety of weapons to pick up and use during combat modes as well. Seeing someone fly by you at 700 kilometers per hour and then hitting him with a rocket is a great way of saying “I don’t think so”, and never gets old.
Controlling GRIP’s vehicles (which can be customized/personalized if you enjoy doing such a thing – and making then colorful helps set them apart against the gray-ish backdrops of most tracks) is easy enough, but quickly becomes challenging because of the track design. Driving at these insanely high speeds allows for driving on walls and even ceilings, which looks insane but it’s actually quite intuitive when playing. The challenge, however, comes from obstacles that stand in your way and can be hard to spot. I had quite a few instances where I just rammed into a wall and had to back up, just because I didn’t see what was coming. Better signposting or on-screen signals could help improve the experience here, because until you learn a track by heart these moments can really kill the momentum.
The same obviously happens when you get hit in the rear by a rocket, but that’s par for the course in combat modes and a lot easier to accept – and expected during a combat arena event. When you want something completely different, you can also take your vehicle and engage and carkour-like antics in challenge levels, which felt a little like Trackmania or Trials on steroids.
GRIP’s campaign mode is broken up into tiers, where you complete several events before you can advance. This way, you gradually unlock more and more vehicles and tracks in the campaign, slowly introducing you to all the gameplay dynamics that GRIP has to offer. It can be a bit of a grind to get through everything compared to the instant gratification that comes with the multiplayer action, but as the action diversifies the campaign gets more interesting as well. This is actually when vehicle types start to matter, as some have higher acceleration rates than others – which fits better with tracks that are riddled with obstacles that force you to slow down.
GRIP – Combat Evolved is a game of many faces. With its plethora of game modes there’s bound to be something for everyone who enjoys high speed futuristic racing. This means that there are also a few modes you’re not likely to touch much, but it also means GRIP’s a title that’s easy to come back to – jumping into a race is easy, and welcoming newcomers and playing split-screen never gets old, especially because they can immediately be competitive. You’ll want to select an easy track with newcomers though, since harder tracks will lead to plenty of frustration until they’re somewhat memorized – and at that point the race is usually lost already.
Although I still prefer Redout as a single player experience, GRIP: Combat Racing captures that high octane arcade-like racing experience very well, has tons of modes, and it’s great as a multiplayer racer. Getting a visual cue when you need to switch back from a wall/ceiling to the floor would be a great improvement to keep the action flowing, but there’s plenty of fun to be had without that as well.