The rebooted Grid racing game franchise returns on Friday following a five-year absence - and The Week has put the new title to the test.
Codemasters launched the original Race Driver: Grid in 2008 to rave reviews. However, the Birmingham-based studio put the series on hold following the release of Grid Autosport in 2014, in order to focus on building its F1 and Dirt rally games for the then new generation of consoles.
But now Grid fans only have a few more days to wait until they can get their hands on the long-awaited next entry in the racing series.
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Here’s what you need to know - and what we have to say after taking the new game for a drive:
Since the 2008 launch of the original title on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, the Grid series has been the go-to game for motorsport fans looking for a more straightforward racing experience than those offered by simulation-focused titles such as Gran Turismo and Project Cars.
With Codemasters now reviving the franchise for the latest generation of consoles, we’ve put the part-arcade, part-simulation racer through its paces to see whether the new title is as strong as Codemasters’ stellar F1 2019 or Dirt Rally 2.0.
The key to a solid arcade racing game is an accessible and intuitive handling model. The studio has made significant tweaks in a bid to deliver exactly that for the rebooted racer - and their efforts seem to have paid off.
Cars feel nimble and powerful when chucked around a circuit. Casual racing fans won’t have to worry too much about feathering the throttle or locking their brakes, but there’s enough nuance in the handling model to give more experienced players a real challenge.
Each car has its own characteristics, too. Cars in the Tuner category are easier to slide around corners, while Fernando Alonso’s championship-winning Renault R26 F1 machine requires far more precision.
Players have the opportunity to try out every car in the revamped career model. There are 91 events in which to take part, ranging from circuit races to time attack events. There’s also a new nemesis mode, where rivals hunt you down and try to crash into your vehicle if you crashed into them earlier in the race. It’s a brilliant addition that will make players think twice about barging their way through the field.
However, the track list is a disappointment, with only 13 core locations on offer. Codemasters touts more than 80 different layouts across the circuits and point-to-point sprints, but in reality there are about 40 unique layouts - with the other 40 available in reverse. This can make the career mode feel somewhat repetitive, as most gamers will have driven every circuit within a couple of hours.
That said, the developer has taken some liberties with its approach to the track layouts. For instance, the company has included the old 2009-spec layout of the Silverstone grand prix circuit, which is no longer used for racing in the real world. In the virtual realm, however, you can take a sharp left at the end of the main pit straight - instead of driving off to the right - to follow the old layout.
Although the 69-strong car list pales in comparison to the near 300 vehicles on offer in Gran Turismo Sport, there’s still something here for every racing fan. Players start their career in front-wheel drive touring cars, before moving up to monstrous GT machines and high-downforce prototypes. There’s a strong mix of classic cars to play with as well, notably the charming Volvo 850 Estate touring car and brutish Porsche 717-30 Can-Am racer.
Codemasters has confirmed that there will be at least three seasons of new, paid content coming to the game, so expect the track and car roster to increase over the next few months.
So is Grid a worthy reboot of the popular racing franchise? Yes - just. The handling is the best ever in a Grid game, while the stunning visual effects and bustling circuits add a layer of life that remains largely unmatched by other racing titles.
However, the revamped Grid feels a little bare bones in its current state, particularly as older entries in the series featured more tracks and cars.
Overall, Grid is a solid base to relaunch the series, but it doesn’t quite live up to the highs of Codemasters’ superb F1 and Dirt Rally series.
When does it come out?
Those who pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition of the game can start playing today. The regular version, however, won’t arrive until Friday.
Where can you pre-order?
Players can pre-order Grid on Amazon for the PS4 and Xbox One for £49.99, while PC copies start at £39.99.
How is it different to the original Grid games?
According to IGN, Codemasters is looking to recapture the spirit of the original Grid from 2008, as the series lost its way with the lacklustre Grid 2 in 2013 and the improved, yet still old-fashioned, Grid Autosport in 2014.
With this in mind, the company has put an emphasis on car handling that is nuanced enough for experienced players, but is more accessible than the likes of Gran Turismo Sport and Project Cars 2 for casual gamers, the website reports.
The artificial intelligence-powered drivers are also impressive.
Speaking to IGN, Grid director Chris Smith explained that a player’s team-mates may dislike them at first and be classed as a “nemesis”. This means they’ll be more aggressive on track to begin with, though they can change their approach depending on how the player reacts to their moves.
“They may absolutely hate you but you pick them. You can have a guy that hates your guts but is a great driver and helps your team score, or a guy who’s not a very good driver but does everything you tell him to,” he said.
Smith stressed, however, that AI drivers won’t be looking to crash into the player “every five seconds”.
“What we want is this game to be as fun for you to finish first as it is to finish in 13th place and go, ‘Well, I didn’t finish first but my god was that a fun race!’”
So how is Fernando Alonso involved?
Fernando Alonso may have retired from F1 last year, after a career in which he won two world championships, but the Spaniard is still putting his driving talents to good use.
Codemasters has brought Alonso on board in an advisory role, but players will also be able to race against the drivers from his racing team - FA Racing eSports - “across multiple classes of racing”, says Motorsport.com.
At the very end of the player’s career, they’ll be tasked with going head-to-head with Alonso as part of the game’s “final showdown”, the website says.
What multiplayer modes does Grid have?
There are two multiplayer modes to choose from in Grid.
The first option is “quick play”, which lets gamers jump straight into a multiplayer race against other players of a similar skill, says Metro. There’s also a rotating track list that’s “based on community feedback.”
The other mode gives players “full control” over their own multiplayer event, the news site says. Here, players can select the track list, the cars that can race in the championship and even what time of day the events are held.
At launch, players can get behind the wheel of 69 vehicles spanning different categories, from front-wheel drive touring cars to supercar-based GTs. The full list can be found on Codemasters’ website.
And the tracks
Like its eclectic car list, Grid will come with a mix of dedicated race tracks and city circuits for players to drive on, notes gaming news site GTPlanet. There will be a total of 13 locations, which are as follows:
- Australia - Sydney Motorsport Park
- China - Shanghai
- China - Zhejiang Circuit
- Cuba - Havana
- Japan - Okutama GP
- Japan - Okutama Sprint
- Malaysia – Sepang International
- Spain - Barcelona
- UK - Brands Hatch
- UK - Silverstone Circuit
- US - San Francisco
- US - Indianapolis
- US - Crescent Valley
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