GRID: A reason to return to the racing genre

September 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

GRID doesn’t do anything new with the racing genre, nor does it have any amazing features that one could point to in order to justify a purchase. Instead it polishes everything it does do to a mirror sheen, and adds a few small enhancements to the core racing mechanic to ensure this isn’t just another racer.

At the core of the game is a career mode which immediately manages to distinguish itself from the competition. You spend the majority of the game entering races in whichever order you please. Whilst this may not seem so different from other racers, crucially you enter events as part of a team and as such you’ll have team members racing alongside you during the race. There’s a tonne of different drivers to choose from, each with their own set of stats as well as salaries and preferred racing disciplines, which adds a nice strategic element to the game – even if you’re likely just to pick a driver and stay with him for your entire career.
Speaking of racing disciplines, GRID provides you with a huge range of events to choose from. Events are sorted into three regions, North America, Europe and Japan, each with their own types of events. For example you’re likely to find a destruction derby in America but not in Japan, whilst drift events are non existent in the US. Surprisingly each of the event types are fun in their own respect, and each different car type that the races require feels subtly different from each other, whilst still remaining consistent enough to allow you to transition easily between them. The muscle car events in America for example provide you with a car filled to the brim with power and acceleration, but with a distinctly floating feeling around corners, whilst open wheeled cars used predominantly in some European races have much tighter handling, but make up for this with less speed. 
When I said that there wasn’t one feature that could be described as revolutionary, I perhaps hadn’t reckons with the awesome power of the replay. In essence it’s completely removes the most frustrating aspect of any racing game, the single crash in a race that’ll lose you the lead, as well as another five places. If such a crash occurs in GRID, all you need to do is enter the replay and rewind the “tape” to when you feel is a suitable moment to retake control. You can use this feature at any time, so even if you simply drop a place coming around a corner, the replay is just a second away to whip you back into first place. On harder difficulty levels the number of times you can use this feature is significantly reduced so it never makes the game too easy.
With fully licenced vehicles you might expect GRID to be absent of any form of damage system, however if you were to think this you’d be entirely wrong. In fact, GRID has the best damage system of any racing game I’ve ever come across, straddling perfectly both realism and enjoyment. A wrecked car never feels too far away, and yet it never impacts your enjoyment of the game. Indeed after a few races the game manages to convey an accurate feeling of connection between you and your vehicle, and soon you just know when your car’s about to give up the ghost. 
Overall though GRID is an extremely polished and well put together game with perhaps the only downside being that the core racing mechanic isn’t as intuitive as you might have initially liked. Once you get over this small hiccup thogh you’ll discover a racing game with more personality than all of the Gran Turismo games combined, presented in a way which is hard not to be in awe of. If you’ve been shying away from the genre until now, this might be a good place to start, meanwhile if you’re an established racing fan looking for a break of the monotony of Gran Turismo, then this game might just provide that for you to.

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