I am always in when in comes to racing games, especially when they come from Codemasters. For this year, the Warwickshire developer has decided to give GRID a reboot. GRID is synonymous with real wheel-to-wheel racing and try to stay as close to racing as possible, while at the same time keeping it accessible. For this year they managed to catch none other than Fernando Alonso as a consultant and also to nicely abuse his name, but above all to race him at the end of the cup. Did Codemasters manage to get a great racing game on pole position after F1 2019? Here is my review of GRID!
RACING, RACING, AND RACING AGAIN
If you want to race, then there is no finer developer than Codemasters. They are the emperors among the developers, who are able to pump out excellent racing games at a constant level, where the games have turned racing into an art. GRID is again such a game. With over a hundred Cups that are subdivided with different races and class cars, where you fight for the victory. The gameplay is therefore as straightforward as possible. You race either for the highest position or the fastest time. Before the races start, you get the opportunity to get pole position in one round – a hot lap. If this does not work, you can try again, which somewhat reduces the race pressure. A pity, but an understandable choice because the frustration is greater if you fail to do this, especially if you don’t know the job.
Pole position provides you with a much better starting position, but yes I don’t have to explain that to you. If you do not opt for the hot lap, you just start at the end as the 16th. You have 15 opponents, each with their own driving style. You notice this quite well: one is constantly approaching you and the other is reasonably avoiding and therefore a careful driver, which is more useful in rain races for example. You also have races focused on setting the fastest lap while everyone is on the track. This is a completely different approach, especially if you are hindered. But what they can do, you can do better. Or should I say louder?
Codemasters has introduced the Nemesis system for GRID. Nemesis means enemy. Although GRID really does race wheel-to-wheel and allows the ticking here and there, the artificial intelligence of the game responds to your actions. So if you run into an opponent too often, he or she will become your Nemesis and this will make them behave more aggressively against you. In other words, the chances are very high that you will be pounded off the road. Fortunately, there is another handy help in the form of your teammate. You can easily give a command to attack or defend using the four-point push button. This allows you to determine a simple tactic, but very effectively. Are you in front and want to expand your lead and is your teammate behind you? Let him defend you. Or, is he a few positions behind you, then you can have him attack, so that the pressure on your bumper decreases.
This also works vice versa, so that you can climb positions. This mechanism fits and works very well in the game and makes this especially nice to race. I really used it a lot. There are different classes such as the GTs, JDM, Invitational and the Cup of Fernando Alonso (yes, including Formula 1 with that delicious screaming V8). Here you race with Aston Martins, Ferraris and Porsche’s, but also with simpler Hondas, Volkswagens and Minis. Every car and its class is therefore significantly different. You have to change your driving style every time and I had a hard time with the Australian V8 monsters. Nonetheless, it was really cool and I never got the feeling of being thrown in at the deep end by the excellent structure in the class and difficulty.
GAMEPLAY IN THE FIRST POSITION
So GRID is really all about racing, but is it really good driving? Well sure. When the game starts, you are immediately put in a fat and strong Corvette. This is not a problem, because the game takes you by the hand with all driving aids activated. In this way you get a reasonable idea of how the different classes drive and in different circumstances. These kinds of aids are great for beginners, but I soon deactivated them. What remained was a responsive game. The controls leave some room for the occasional throw-and-throw with your car, but punishes you if you go too far.
I especially noticed that edges, tires and crash barriers reacted differently every time. The curb throws you up, where a tire stack makes you turn in a different direction. The cars each have their own grip, weight and respond significantly different to the gas or brake pedal. So the physics are really in order, with the balance between realism and arcade tending somewhat more towards arcade.
Each class starts with a relatively simple race with low objectives. This way you can easily earn money to provide you with a suitable car for each cup. This setup is great and gives you the chance to master every type of car. For each cup you can achieve the (increasingly difficult to achieve) golden cup, to eventually unlock the GRID World Series.
This works really well, although of course it is not original at all. If you achieve your goals such as winning races or switching X a number of times, this will not only save you money, but also new liveries, banners and braces to give your car a unique appearance. Some cars are real, some fictional, but you will at least find real brands and sponsors. This contributes to the somewhat realistic feeling of the game. The liveries were not always my taste and although you can adjust it, I often left the car for what it is. Your progression is constantly rewarded and therefore reminded me of Call of Duty.
BEAUTIFUL AS A FERRARI AND DELIGHTFUL AS A V8
If there is something that immediately catches the eye, it is the visuals. The EGO engine is ready for its third version and this is very nice. The first eye-catcher is the opening race that will be held in the evening. All the bright lights, light effects and reflections show the graphic power of this engine, which already showed how beautiful it can be with F1 2019. Shadows are also displayed in an exceptionally beautiful way. At one point I just saw the shadow of the fence on my car in real time, while I was driving over two hundred. The sunset provides beautifully warm but insidious light. The rain makes everything gray, but in times I have not seen such realistic rain, not even at WRC8.
The cars are beautiful, but not as detailed as in Forza Horizon or Forza Motorsport. Some textures are slightly flatter than the others, although this is not strange for the game to perform optimally. Especially in the faster formula cars you want to experience the sensation of speed. This works very well, especially if you race with rain in the narrow streets of China with a Formula 1 car. The cars and all interaction is well designed and at no time could I really catch the game on static models when it comes to the cars. With sixteen cars on the screen simultaneously, the game on the Xbox One X does not shrink. In that regard, the engine is widely praised for its power.
Sound-wise it really sounds excellent. Every engine can be distinguished, and each car sounds unique. Whether you hear a four-cylinder, a twelve-cylinder or high-revving V8; all one by one eargasm. The commentary is also well done. Before the race starts, you will receive a short introduction film. If you cut it off, the commentator reacts to this promotion with varying degrees. Always along the lines of ‘oh, it looks like we’re already starting’. And you can also hear the commentator respond to your actions during the race. Plus, if you drive farther from the stands and with it the announcer, you will hear the voice get softer. Bold detail if you ask me. During the races you have no music which is just fine for the real racing fan. Given the setting of the game, it fits just a little better. As a result, the focus remains on racing and it will not become a Need for Speed. There are, however, a number of bugs.
If you skip the clips quickly, the music can sometimes lag behind a bit, making it sound rather strange at the start. Graphically there are also some vague things. If you have to select a car, it can sometimes get stuck. If you have selected a Golf GTI, you may look at a model of a Honda S2000. Or crashes that appear to be scripted, sometimes miss a number of frames if you are further removed from the action. Plus, what I found to be a major annoyance is that the game sometimes started again, while I had paused the game in a race and switched to the Xbox dashboard. This is a pity, but I hope this gets addressed soon.
GRID is a game made by and is for racing enthusiasts. The game may be a bit straightforward in design, but why should you change such a working formula at all. The racing is really nice, and the game gives the room to do a little more crude which really increases the fun. This makes the game really plum for both the purists and more the casual racers. The Nemesis system works great and providing instructions to your teammate is as simple as it is effective and therefore enjoyable. You can adjust the steering and camera work very extensively to your own wishes, which is certainly interesting for people who race with a steering wheel. The visuals are bizarre sharp and beautiful, and the sound is great. The game does have a few small bugs here and there, but that can still be patched. GRID may be the best multiplayer racing game since Forza Horizon 4.