I spent an absurd amount of time playing Race Driver: Grid and its sequels over the years. For a time, there was nothing more exciting to me than sitting down and racing some of the most beautiful cars across a variety of world locations while trying to beat my lap times. Introduced a decade ago and kicking off the TOCA series of video games, the original series came onto the podium as being one of the premium racer titles around. Ten years later, the fourth entry serves as a reboot, getting back to basics and balancing arcade-racing with more realistic driving.
Codemasters excels at what they do, be it the F1 series or DiRT or Grid. As I loaded up the first race and began my racing career, I was introduced to several cars available as well as the new Nemesis system. These races are meant to reel you in and teach you the basics while doing your best to end the race in 1st place. This is a wonderful way for newcomers and veterans of the series to ease themselves into things and learn how the rewind mechanic will make their lives much easier.
As someone who prefers the arcade gameplay found in games like Forza Horizon and Need for Speed, Grid toes the line carefully between sim and arcade. For me, drifting across the city in insane scenarios appeals to me far more than following the pack and keeping my pace with the other drivers. And, thanks to not sticking to one racing genre, the difficulty curve isn’t too steep but still requires a decent amount of concentration to win.
In each race main goal is to come in first place with a teammate serving as support. With drifts, overtakes and closely following the racing line, you earn points; these points are in turn used to purchase more vehicles.
Grid offers Career, Multiplayer, and Free Play from the menu. In Career, you as the driver pick from six different championships to master. You’re able to freely choose which you want to partake in (however you’ll need to have the right car) across Touring, Stock, Tuner, GT and Invitational races. What I liked is the freedom to pick with what you liked while leaving what you didn’t behind for another day. There’s also the Fernando Alonso career path which allows you to take on his team FA Racing Logitech G, leading to a showdown with the man himself.
A big feature for Grid and one thing Codemasters pushes is the Nemesis system. If you hit another driver enough times, they quickly have it out for you as your rival. Knowing who to watch out for can be fun because if you let them get too close, your car may find itself spinning out of the race thanks to those love taps from behind. Sadly, while your Nemesis is smart, team drivers aren’t nearly as reactive to the races. Don’t rely on them to do much other than as another obstacle to overtake in races.
Speaking of teammates, each member you hire has various stats like Attack, Defence, Loyalty, and Skill. You’ll be doing some hiring throughout the game and assigning orders to them but in some cases, I couldn’t get them to follow them or they’d do their own thing when it works though, it’s a ton of fun. Which is weird because Codemasters says there are over 400 AI personalities across Teammates, Rivals, and Nemesis.
Grid looks good on console and visually it looks like a pretty stellar game, but compared to others in the genre, there’s still something missing that games like Forza Horizon excel at. It’s not ugly by any means though, and depending on the camera angle, you won’t need to worry about these things. Some of the in-game cinematics stuttered and I noticed some minor lighting issues during races, with no issues on the audio front to be noticed.
Tracks, for the most part, are fine, I enjoyed the dozen available at launch. Locations like China, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, San Francisco, and Barcelona offer their own slice of pavement to race on, many with reverse setups and weather effects. More tracks are expected to arrive as part of a series of planned downloadable content.
Grid is a fine racer that is a wonderful combination of both sim and arcade gameplay. Full of fun, as well as being fast and furious, this is a great rewind for the series. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the Grid series, as a fan of the series, it’s a shame we went so long without a new game, but small steps in the right direction offer us a competent, exciting racer.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]