Codemasters’ return to the GRID franchise has been eagerly anticipated. The game has launched for Xbox One, PS4 and PC – and we used the PC version to take it for a spin.
When you think Codemasters, you mostly think of their excellent racing simulations like Dirt Rally 2.0 and the F1 series, but they’ve also been responsible for a few lesser-known arcade racers like F1 Race Stars, Toybox Turbos and last year’s Onrush. I’ve always really liked their Grid series for sitting somewhere comfortably in the middle of all those – not too demanding on the sim front, yet not too casual to as to be mistaken for an arcade racer. Needless to say, I was happy to see it return after a 5+ year absence.
The new GRID doesn’t waste much time in showing it’s similar to the previous games in this regard. Acting as a tutorial of sorts, the game immediately throws you right into the middle of the action through a few (mid-race) scenarios. Besides making you comfortable with the basics behind driving your vehicle, these scenarios also teach you how to use the game’s rewind option. This reverses everything that happened in the past five seconds, so you can erase all memory of that foolish overtake maneuver you did or shut the door on that opponent who caught you on the inside. Rewind can only be used a set number of times during a race though, so it’s only sort of a built-in cheat mode. No matter how you look at it, it’s a big part of what makes GRID accessible and fun, especially for those who consider games like Dirt Rally to be too unforgiving.
GRID’s main menu gives you access to its career mode as well as options to play against others online or to engage in single races. The career mode’s a nice collection of everything the game has to offer in terms of car type and race events, though you have to work to unlock everything. I found the grind to be relatively minor though, since finishing in a top spot isn’t required to still earn credits towards your goal – even though it still helps you get there faster. There’s a basic structure where events have multiple races underneath them, and as you unlock and complete those races you gain access to a showdown race that allows you to enter the next series of events. Repeat and follow that pattern, and you’ll eventually end up in the world series – something quite familiar to those who played the older GRID titles.
While the career experience is tiered, you can engage with any car and track type you want when you venture into the free play mode. Unfortunately local multiplayer isn’t supported, but you can face off against other human players when you go online. During the pre-release phase the fine people at Codemasters were friendly enough to host a few sessions so that we could try this out (and be beaten by those a little more experienced than us) and the experience was always smooth and definitely more thrilling than the AI experience – though the challenges of the career mode do add a fair bit of suspense to that as well.
Although the GRID experience is familiar, the AI system did receive a few tweaks to enhance the experience. Where the original game features pre-assigned ‘rivals’ in a race, a new nemesis system can turn any rival racer into your personal nemesis. This can happen when you bump into one of them too many times, and they lose it Sebastian Vettel-style and get extremely upset with you. They’ll take it one step further though, and will try to exact revenge – forcing you to try and stay out of the way of a hot-headed adversary. The AI racers also appear to battle it out for position between themselves more this time around, and will sometimes take risks that result in big crashes that don’t even involve you.
GRID on PC is one of the first Steam games we’ve seen that is exclusive to Windows 10 (something that’s more common with Microsoft’s own Xbox crossover titles of course), which might alienate some of the potential player base (since not everyone’s upgraded from Windows 7 and that might stay that way for a while when Microsoft ceases support for it next year). It’s a decision that pays off with very smooth performance and a ton of visual detail though, most of which you don’t even notice until you watch others playing the game. The rain effects, especially when seen from a first person view, are especially great – both on your windows and in the reflections on the asphalt.
Codemaster’s new version of GRID isn’t a game that radically changes up their existing titles, which is a little disappointing after a long wait. It is, however, a very solid and extremely fun racer that is great to look at and take online for a multiplayer spin. If they manage to squeeze in local multiplayer, I’m sure it’ll become a couch multiplayer favorite as well.